White House on the defensive: Can Obama administration move beyond scandals?

(CBS News) The White House has been in an a "defensive crouch" all week in an effort to contain three big scandals, according to CBS News chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett.

So can the White House move beyond the controversies -- or has the damage already been done?

WH releases e-mails showing changes to Benghazi talking points
Benghazi timeline: How the probe unfolded
Inside the AP phone records subpoena investigation

"(The White House has) hunkered down and trying to get its message out over the din of scandal-related questions," Garrett said. "The White House feels today that they have succeeded in putting some distance between the president and the IRS scandal, a great distance between the president and the scandal involving the Justice Department search of phone logs from the Associated Press, and they are still dealing with Benghazi, but they believe that wound has largely been cauterized by the release of more than 100 pages of emails about all the conversation there. So in balance the White House feels like it's in stronger position today than it was on Monday when it felt like it was a bit under siege."

A danger for Republicans now is overreaching on claims made about the president in relation to the scandals. Garrett said, "Republicans don't want rank-and-file members to lob charges that can't be substantiated by the facts."

Special Section: IRS Targeting Controversy
Special Section: U.S. Consulate Attack in Benghazi

"Every investigation has a fact pattern and when you stick with facts you can win a political argument," he said. "The White House believes its greatest ally in all these scandals are Republicans that overreach and they will try to exploit that to the maximum whenever they can."

So will other at-hand issues in Washington be affected -- or even stalled -- by these controversies?

Immigration, Garrett noted, seems to be untouched by this week's events. "I've talked to a significant number of Republicans and people at the White House and Democrats who are allies of the White House on the immigration bill," he said. "(The immigration bill) is moving on its own momentum, a momentum that Republicans and Democrats largely share. ... That doesn't appear to be in any way slowed by this scandal or controversy.

He added, "I will tell you this though, because of [the] IRS issue significant Republicans I've talked to don't believe a grand bargain on budget issues is possible with this White House because their base will not accept, not tolerate a deal with a president who either willingly or unwillingly oversaw an IRS that dealt with their base group, their constituent Republican groups as aggressively as the IRS did."

Going forward, those potentially tainted by the scandal working in the IRS may now be political fodder, including Sarah Hall Ingram who directed the IRS unit that deals with tax exempt organizations and now faces allegations that it targeted conservative groups. Hall Ingram reportedly is now in charge of enforcing Obamacare, "CTM" co-host Norah O'Donnell noted.

Referring to her, Garrett said, "I've asked several White House officials this morning, is that a position that she's going to retain going forward because that has policy implications and it has political implications.

"Republicans are really going to shift this IRS question. Not from just past practices which the president called unforgivable and unpardonable, but also what the IRS will do in the implementation of the president's health care law. This woman, Sarah Hall Ingram, who was there at the tax exempt office, when these questionable practices were undertaken is now at the very position of implementing that IRS supervision and gathering of fees or taxes under Obamacare is there, she will be a political target for Republicans and a juicy one at that and the White House knows it."

Watch Major Garrett's full analysis in the video above.

  • Amanda Cochran

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.