Martin Bashir | May 17, 2013
>> afternoon, it's friday, may the 17th. and a civil servant faces the guillotine. republicans are grandstanding. and the president, well, he just wants to get on with the job.
>> i want to apologize on behalf of the internal revenue service .
>> people are losing confidence in our government.
>> foolish mistakes were made. not an act of partisanship.
>> this is a problem for the irs being too large, too powerful.
>> who knows who they'll target next.
>> the last week of scandals has been like christmas morning .
>> why did you mislead the congress and the american people ?
>> how can we not conclude you misled this committee?
>> why are all the presents wrapped? what are they trying to hide?
>> i did mislead congress nor the american people .
>> someone needs to ? be imprisoned.
>> who is the commissioner at that time?
>> mr. shulman.
>> who appointed mr. shulman?
>> mr. bush.
>> who i'm trying to basically debunk is the notion or idea to link these scandals to the white house .
>> there isn't a weekend that hasn't gone by that someone says to me, why aren't you impeaching the president?
>> why question is, who's going to jail over this scandal? everybody's working for the weekend
>> good afternoon. we begin with the president back on the road and fighting to keep his agenda on track. even as washington swirls with scandals that may complicate his second term. the president traveled to baltimore, maryland, this afternoon perhaps seeking a little cheer with a visit to an elementary school . he also toured a dredging equipment company where he vowed to remain committed to jobs, education, and economic growth. despite the many distractions of washington , d.c.
>> i know it can seem frustrating sometimes when it seems like washington 's priorities aren't the same as your priorities. i know it often seems like folks down there are more concerned with their jobs than with yours. others may get distracted by chasing every fleeting issue that passes by, but the middle class will always be my number one focus. ? period.
>> but as the president returns to the white house , he does face continued challenges for one of the roughest weeks of his presidency. the house today convened its first hearings into the targeting of conservative groups by the internal revenue service , and republicans , well, they brought their best umbrage.
>> this is offensive. this is offensive. it's the irs targeting gate. i'll put it right out there.
>> i'm sad and i'm sick to my stomach.
>> is this still america? is this government so drunk on power?
>> you're arguing today that the irs is not corrupt, but the subtext of that is saying, look, we're just incompetent.
>> that last remark, a response to the outgoing irs head steven miller , who told lawmakers in his opening testimony that the lists made of conservative groups were made to cut corners, not to punish tea partyers.
>> i think that what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people trying to be more efficient in their workload selection. the listing described in the report, while intolerable, was a mistake and not an act of partisanship.
>> but some lawmakers were scarcely satisfied with that response.
>> you didn't mention targeting based on ideology. you didn't mention targeting based on buzzwords like tea party or patriots or ? 9/12. you knew that but didn't mention that to the committee. do you not think that's a very incomplete answer?
>> i answered the question truthfully.
>> why did you say you have notes if you don't think you have notes?
>> sir, please. please.
>> do you have notes or don't you have notes?
>> i don't know.
>> where you're sitting, you should be outraged, but you're not. the american people should be outraged, and they are.
>> so with lots of outrage and indignation to go around, question is, how much of it can republicans heap on the white house ? let's get right to our panel. with us from washington , dana milbank , political columnist for the " washington post ," and msnbc political analyst , professor michael eric dyson of georgetown university . dana, i've been following every one of your columns this week. you began by blaming the president for lacking leadership. you then scolded the attorney general for recusing himself. but you finally landed on what you describe as, and i'm quoting you, republicans turning legitimate areas of inquiry into more partisan food fights . what took you so long?
>> well, it did take them a few days to really go over the top . i mean, let's face it, martin. these are serious issues. i've never argued the benghazi thing is anything scandalous, but it's not a good thing when the government is pawing through the phone records of reporters, and it's not a good thing, whatever is behind it, if the irs is singling out conservative groups. this press conference yesterday and it's not just the crazy tea party back benchers. mitch mcconnell was there talking about impeachment.
>> how is mitch mcconnell any different to what you describe as crazy back bench republicans ?
>> he's actually in charge.
>> that is the only distinction.
>> well, he was elected by his peers, but now we know who the peers are. so it's not entirely surprising. spinning out all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories. it's not -- it's just dumb politics for the republicans here because they have the president back on his heels. there's been a lot of criticism from both sides of the aisle. but what they're going to do now is they're going over the top with this and it's going to become just another partisan issue. and that, in a way, from their point of view, is going to let the president off the hook.
>> professor dyson, it struck us that all roads in the current controversy lead back to the election in november. republicans say the truth of benghazi was intentionally withheld so the president would get to november unimpeded. they say the targeting of the tea party groups by the irs was not disclosed because, again, it would have obstructed his re- election campaign . given none of these scandals evidently think themselves to the president and he won an absolute majority , why are they incapable of selecting he is, in fact, the president and won the election fair and square?
>> ? martin, you know, i don't want to cast compliments at your cucumber, or aspersions at your asparagus. the reality is this, that the fundamental truth of the reality of the republican world view right now is that it cannot accept barack obama as the legitimate president of the united states of america . it hardly accepts him as a legitimate citizen of these united states of america . and it certainly doesn't want him to be in control of the bully pulpit or the megaphone to amplify american interests. now, you would think that since he's won two elections they would move forward, and as dana milbank is saying, there might be some legitimate arenas here for them to talk about. areas for them to engage in. you say considered discussion and conversation about different viewpoints. but they are not about that. they are about using anything they can as a litmus test to certify to them their -- as republicans . dana milbank is right here. even though i disagree, i think the irs scandal is much adieu about nothing. even if it's a legitimate concern, the reality is they're so over the top they're incapable of having any kind of nuance of this discussion. what it ends up being, again, is a referendum on their inability to accept barack obama as president and their consternation and their clogging the government with all kind of extraneous things that ? don't make a difference about the every swrn day lives of american citizens here. that's what they're sworn to uphold and do.
>> i'm afraid i agree with you. dana, you've also been rather harsh on attorney general eric holder this week accusing him of abdication. i'm quoting mr. gohmert, casting aspersions s on my asparagus, is mr. holder being treated with a level of contempt that perhaps prior attorney generals would not have been subjected to sm.
>> i was in the room when mr. gohmert made that remark and turned to the guy next to me and said, did he actually say that? in fact, he has. the committee he was before has held holder in contempt of congress and clearly the feeling is mutual. and many lawmakers on that panel have given holder reason to be contemptuous of him. here we have that exact same dynamic going on here. holder did not acquit himself entirely well. he said, i recused myself from the case. it doesn't mean you recused yourself if your department of justice is violating the first amendment by pawing through reporters' phone records. they were throwing everything in the kitchen sink at him there. that's continued to go on from there. so i think that just as the republican overreaching, lets resident off the hook, it thp lets the attorney general off the hook then it just becomes another washington food fight .
>> indeed it has. it's interesting you refer to food. professor dyson, there he was referring to casting aspersions on his asparagus. but they also seem like a bunch of turn nips to me. what are your thoughts?
>> yeah. kale. kale. the fact that attorney general holder said he recused himself, and dana milbank says, look, you can't recuse yourself from engaging in practices we ultimately find illegal or nefarious or problematic. let that come out in the wash, so to speak. the attorney general said i recused myself from this situation so i'm stepping back. i wish many republicans would do the same. have enough integrity. have enough wherewithal to say, look, i'm going to be involved in this in a volatile manner and, therefore, withdraw my participation so as not to sully the proceedings here. we know what the bottom line is. casting aspersions at asparagus, no, but we know that eric holder is a stand-in, a proxy for barack obama . can't get to that guy, get to this guy. assault on him has been relentless. it's been unjustified. and so as a result of that, i think there's some resentment from the election as well because eric holder 's office, the department of justice , dually upheld the right of many citizens of this country to vote, and they were watchdogs over the process as they should be. and there's a lot of kind of delayed resistance to what he did and2kind of a lot of resentment about his protection of the rights of all americans.
>> all roads go back to november, sir. all roads go back to november. professor michael eric dyson . the great dana milbank . thank you, both, gentlemen.