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Obama agenda: Threatening the agenda

AP: “President Barack Obama seemed to lose control of his second-term agenda even before he was sworn in, when a school massacre led him to lift gun control to the fore. Now, as he tries to pivot from a stinging defeat on that issue and push forward on others, the president finds himself rocked by multiple controversies that are demoralizing his allies, emboldening his political foes and posing huge distractions for all.”

The Hill: “President Obama’s former press secretary Robert Gibbs on Tuesday criticized his former boss for what he called a late and ‘exceedingly passive’ response to the controversy surrounding the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of conservative groups.”

Gibbs said on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports: “The problem is this - the tenor of this briefing would be different if the president had spoken about this on Saturday or Sunday and not on Monday. And if the president had spoken on Monday, less about losing patience on this, which is what I do with my 9-year-old, and used far more vivid language.”

To that point, Dana Milbank labels Obama the “uninterested president.”

USA Today reports that no Tea Party group was approved for 27 months, while dozens of progressive-leaning groups were approved.

It also writes: “An inspector general report into the Internal Revenue Service's heightened scrutiny of Tea Party groups blames ‘ineffective management’ at the agency, but does not address whether the policy was politically motivated.”

But it did say this: “We asked the Acting Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division; the Director, EO; and Determinations Unit personnel if the criteria were influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. All of these officials stated that the criteria were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. Instead, the Determinations Unit developed and implemented inappropriate criteria in part due to insufficient oversight provided by management. Specifically, only first-line management approved references to the Tea Party in the BOLO [‘be on the lookout’] listing criteria before it was implemented. As a result, inappropriate criteria remained in place for more than 18 months. Determinations Unit employees also did not consider the public perception of using politically sensitive criteria when identifying these cases. Lastly, the criteria developed showed a lack of knowledge in the Determinations Unit of what activities are allowed by I.R.C. § 501(c)(3) and I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) organizations.”

AP: “Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday defended the Justice Department’s secret examination of Associated Press phone records though he declared he had played no role in it, saying it was justified as part of an investigation into a grave national security leak.”

USA Today: “Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Holder said he made the decision to recuse himself in the Justice Department's investigation involving a leak of classified information to the AP, because he was interviewed by the FBI in connection with the probe and had ‘frequent contact with the media.’”

National Journal explores the case for the Justice Department’s investigation.

AP: “The Justice Department is investigating the Internal Revenue Service for targeting tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax exempt status, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday, widening a probe that includes investigations by three committees in Congress.”

“President Obama is looking (hoping) to get things back to normal,” USA Today writes. “With his administration buffeted by allegations over the IRS, Benghazi, and the seizure of journalists' phone records, Obama on Wednesday performs a more traditional presidential duty: Speaking to police officers. Obama delivers remarks at the annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service, which the White House describes as ‘an annual ceremony honoring law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty in the previous year.’”

USA Today: “The Pentagon announced Tuesday that most of its civilian workforce will be required to take 11 unpaid leave days this year as part of an effort to save money in the face of mandatory budget cuts.”

Charles Krauthammer warns Republicans not to overplay their hand and “exaggerate.” Don’t compare it to Nixon and other scandals. Let the facts speak for themselves, he said.