As odd as McDonough’s choice of words were – “I’ve got the scars to prove it” – in Sunday’s interview with CBS News’ Major Garrett, that wasn’t even the first time he used it. He used the same talking points in an interview with CNN, last Thursday.
Via the Hill on 5/15:
“The fact of these deaths is an outrage to the president. He’s made that clear,” McDonough told CNN. “And you heard what General [Eric] Shinseki had to say today. He’s mad as hell about this. Nobody is more mad than the president. And I have the scars to show it, given his reaction to it as he and I have talked about it.”
Nothing this administration puts out there is by accident.
The image being projected here is of a Commander in Chief so righteously outraged about the scandal – he’s lashing out furiously at his White House staff. McDonough “has the scars to prove it.”
It’s very unlikely that Obama’s close friend and “basketball- buddy,” Denis McDonough has any scars – physical or otherwise – from his discussions with the president on the VA scandal.
More likely, they’ve been war-gaming a political response – including but not limited to using talking points like – “nobody’s as mad as the president – and I’ve got the scars to prove it.”
If there seems to be a deja-vu quality to all of this, it’s because they are following the same crisis management strategies, they’ve used in the past.
In May 2013, President Obama said “Americans are right to be angry about [IRS targeting], and I am angry about it.” In the same speech the president announced the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller. It turned out, though, that Miller was planning to leave his post the next month anyway. Now, the administration is talking tough about the “resignation” of Dr. Robert Petzel as the VA’s second in command was announced. Guess what? Petzel was already slated to retire. It took only nine months for the president to go from surprised anger to laughing assurances that there wasn’t “even a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS.
While the president’s rage was abating over the abuse of his political detractors, his team was working hard to knock down and muddy the story. This time, good luck with that. When the victims are veterans rather than conservative activists, it will be much harder to convince Democrats to blow off evidence of corruption.
The strategy the Obama White House will likely use to muddy the story on the VA scandal, will involve blaming Bush. You can bank on it.