On a Thursday, it's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Good morning. There are some weeks when a White House controls the agenda, and there are weeks like this one, when the White House is forced largely to react. President Obama has been juggling multiple controversies, and last night his White House tried to take two of them head-on.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand greets panel members from the military and the Defense Department testifying on Capitol Hill on March 13 before the subcommittee's hearing on sexual assault in the military.
Credit Carolyn Kaster / AP
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand holds her son Henry, 4, after greeting supporters at New York State Democratic Headquarters on Nov. 6. The 2009 appointee won her first six-year term with 72 percent of the vote.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is introducing legislation with other lawmakers Thursday that would change how the military handles sexual assault cases. The proposal would let military prosecutors — rather than commanders — decide whether to bring serious military crimes to trial.
It's the latest high-publicity move for a senator who was virtually unknown four years ago when she was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's senate seat. Now, she's on some lists for possible candidates for vice president — even president.
After President Obama overturned Bush-era policy restricting federal funding of embryonic stem cell research in 2009, Nebraska Right to Life led a protest of the research outside the University of Nebraska regents' meeting.
President Obama announced late Wednesday that the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Steve Miller, has resigned in the wake of a report that employees at the agency engaged in partisan scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
The president, appearing for a brief statement at the White House, said he had directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew "to accept the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS."
Revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted some conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny have put a spotlight on a part of the tax code increasingly popular with political groups: section 501(c)(4).
But what's the benefit for organizations to get approved for 501(c)(4) status?
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. The IRS targets the Tea Party; the Justice Department picks on the press; but the president waves off Benghazi as a distraction. It's Wednesday and time for a...
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: A sideshow...
CONAN: ...edition of the Political Junkie.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDINGS)
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.
VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?
Update at 6:42 p.m. ET: Reaction From Boehner's Office
In a statement, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said the emails "contradict statements made by the White House that it and the State Department only changed one word in the talking points."
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Later in the program we'll talk about a story that another U.S. service member is being investigated for sexually abusing subordinates. This after a survey showed that service members reported tens of thousands of sexual assaults last year alone. We'll speak with three women in the Beauty Shop who know a lot about this subject to talk about why this problem persists and what can be done about it.
This is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, after a disaster, naturally, grown-ups are worried about things like food and shelter, but kids still need to have fun. We'll speak with a man who's trying to help kids in distress do just that by making sure they can still play baseball. We'll hear more about that in just a few minutes.
But, first, it's time for our Beauty Shop conversation. That's where we get a fresh cut on hot topics with a panel of women journalists, commentators, bloggers and activists.
Finally today, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford just won back his old congressional seat in the same week that unsavory facts about Cleveland rescuer Charles Ramsey came to light. Ramsey, of course, is the man who helped rescue three women who had been held hostage for a decade. It turns out that he had done time in prison a decade ago for beating up his former wife. And the reason he happened to be home that fateful day is that he had been suspended from his job.
We know how the president feels about it. "We don't have time to be playing these kinds of political games in Washington," Barack Obama said on Monday, in what many took to be a full attack on ScuttleButton, America's favorite political game.
The language is not dramatic, but the message is clear: A much-anticipated report from the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration is straightforward about how Internal Revenue Service personnel unfairly singled out some conservative groups for unnecessary scrutiny during the 2012 campaign cycle.
Senators on the Judiciary Committee spent their second full day slogging through proposed amendments to the bipartisan immigration overhaul. Tuesday's subject was the method of awarding visas for those wanting to come here to study and work.
A Treasury Department Inspector General's report criticizes the IRS for inappropriately flagging some conservative groups for additional scrutiny on their applications for tax-exempt status. President Obama says those responsible must be held accountable.
On a Wednesday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Renee Montagne is in Afghanistan this week. I'm Steve Inskeep.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Good morning. When we think about the controversies swirling around Washington this week, there's a common denominator. They fall on the shoulders of Attorney General Eric Holder.
INSKEEP: First, news broke that the Justice Department secretly obtained phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors. This has ignited a First Amendment uproar.
Tea Party activists are calling for a full investigation, and possibly lawsuits, following revelations that the Internal Revenue Service flagged so-called patriot groups for extra scrutiny in applications for federal tax-exempt status.
Among those claiming unjust and unconstitutional targeting by the IRS is a group called TheTeaParty.net, which bills itself as the largest grass-roots conservative Tea Party organization in the country.
The sudden eruption of second-term scandals in his administration will have many costs for President Obama, but surely the most grievous will be the lost opportunity to transcend the partisan wars of Washington. That aspiration was his fondest dream for his second term, much as it was for his first. Now it seems destined to be dashed once again.
The Senate Judiciary held its second round of debate on changes to the bipartisan immigration bill. Tuesday's focus was visas for workers, including visas for skilled technical work. David Welna talks to Melissa Block.
This was the critical moment, the brief time between his inaugural and when the nation's collective focus turns to whom his successor will be, when President Obama had to make real progress on his second-term agenda and thus forge his legacy.
Instead, the president finds his administration, the public, Congress and the news media distracted by controversies over Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups and a leak investigation in which the Justice Department secretly obtained months of phone records of Associated Press journalists.
President Ulysses S. Grant gets the credit — or blame? — for helping make "mistakes were made" a phrase that politicians can't seem to avoid using.
Credit Spencer Arnold / Getty Images
White House press secretary Ron Ziegler was famous for mounting a strong defense of President Nixon during the Watergate scandal. In 1973, he famously apologized to <em>The Washington Post</em> and reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, saying "mistakes were made in terms of comments" that the White House made about them.
In December 1986 and again during his State of the Union address a month later, President Reagan conceded that "mistakes were made" by his administration when it sold arms to Iran and shipped the proceeds to Contras in Nicaragua.
Credit Terry Ashe / Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
Steven Miller, now the acting commissioner at the Internal Revenue Service, grabbed the "mistakes were made" lifering in an op-ed published by <em>USA Today</em> on Tuesday.
Credit Alex Wong / Getty Images
Democrats play the "mistakes were made" card as well. In January 1998, President Clinton was asked about a fundraising scandal. "Mistakes were made here by people who did it either deliberately or inadvertently," he replied.
Credit Doug Mills / AP
President Ulysses S. Grant gets the credit — or blame? — for helping turn "mistakes were made" into a phrase that American politicians can't seem to avoid using.
When it comes to approving new medical treatments, the Food and Drug Administration is balancing the need for patient safety against the urgency of making important new treatments available as quickly as possible.
Some argue the FDA sets the bar too high, requiring a process that takes too much time and money to carry out. They say that can leave patients waiting longer than necessary for promising treatments or lead to drugs not being developed at all.
This IRS scandal has given Republicans an unexpected opportunity to chide the Obama administration. And it comes as the GOP was resurrecting questions about how top Washington officials, including the president, handled the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya last year.
NPR's David Welna has more on the latest political firestorm.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
We're going to spend some time this morning, examining tax examiners at the IRS. The Internal Revenue Service is under fire for paying extra attention to conservative groups that were seeking tax exempt status. The groups had names suggesting they were linked with the Tea Party.
GREENE: Now, social welfare organizations can claim tax exemptions, political groups are treated differently.
Lanny J. Davis, a former special counsel for President Clinton, is a man who knows something about managing a White House crisis. And he isn't exactly impressed by how President Obama's aides have handled the fallout from numerous crises, from Solyndra to Benghazi and now with the Internal Revenue Service controversy.