BOB SCHIEFFER: David, you've seen a lot of controversies in your time in Washington. We had this IRS thing. We got the leaks investigation, all of the stuff going on. How do you think the White House has been handling it?
DAVID GERGEN (Harvard University): Not well, but I-- I do think it has to be put in context, Bob. Give them credit on one point and that is overall when you look back over the five years, this has been-- administration has been remarkably clean and-- and free of scandals and I think they do deserve credit for that. Having said that now that these events have come up, I-- I must say it's been a real surprise. We all think that the-- the Obama people do a superb job running a campaign but when it comes to running the government they can be so ham-fisted. It really sort of boggles the mind sometime. On these-- on these recent controversies, as you call them--and you know I have seen a lot of them--and they don't amount-- amount to Watergate, they don't amount to Iran-Contra. But they are important. They-- the government I think mishandled it in allowing these things to take place on the IRS front and allowing the things to take place with going after reporters. Then we came to the White House and how you communicate about this, I think-- you know, it's-- it's been a little stunning. I mean there's no-- they had to paraphrase in our world of journalism, what you need to do in the government when you got a bad set of facts on your hands you need to get them out-- you need to get the story out fast. But first you need to get it straight. And that's exactly what they haven't done. You know, they've had all these different conflicting stories and now we're into a third phase of this where we're not getting the answers. We don't know. I think right now the biggest thing they have to do: come clean. Tell us complete facts.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Michael Gerson:
MICHAEL GERSON (Washington Post): Well, I'd start by-- by reminding people that these are not second-term scandals, they're actually first-term scandals where the information on them was delayed until after the election for variety of reasons. So I don't know if that's successful or not successful in that-- in that political context. Clearly, they missed some classes in crisis management one-o-one. You're supposed to get information out before people even ask for it. You should have consistent explanations. But we need to remember two things: one of them is the Obama agenda was pretty much in trouble before the three scandals, if you look at what was going on at the time in budget negotiations, failure to pass gun control, or really overplaying their hand on-- on, you know, some other issues. So that's one thing. You know, this didn't create the problems. The second one is that messaging has limits here. You know communication-- sometimes you don't have a communications problem, sometimes you have a reality problem, okay. And we have an IRS that engaged in abuses and is stonewalling right now. And we have an attorney general that's deeply compromised and may have misled a congressional committee. I mean that's a serious set of accusations. These things are not going to be determined by what the White House--how it explains it. The facts are going to determine how this moves forward.
DAVID GERGEN: I agree with that. You know-- and my sense is-- Michael, I'll be curious about yours. My sense is that this White House is so politicized that when it comes to sort of a controversy like this what they want to do is to get out a good story instead of getting out the real story. And that that causes them problems. But if they just come with-- if they'd told us all the facts in the beginning on the IRS thing, I think they'd be in a lot less trouble right now.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think the President has hurt himself? Have these things hurt the President?
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, we're going to see how much they hurt politically. We can't really judge right now. We-- we don't know. I think that they've hurt the President philosophically. He has a certain view of the role of government. It's a benevolent government to help the middle-class and to help people rise in-- on the ladder of opportunity. Right now-- you know I'll point out two figures. One of them, according to Pew, the reputation or trust in government is at historically low levels and the scandals contribute to that. The second one is by a recent number more than twenty-two percent-- twenty-two percent of people more than that want to keep the law want to repeal Obamacare. That's a huge gap.
DAVID GERGEN: Summing up, it's widened.
MICHAEL GERSON: Right. It has widened in-- in recent months. Now-- so I think the President-- that's a tough message to bring into a midterm election when your philosophy of government is really under question and it's just a tough thing for American liberalism. At-- at the same time the President has expanded the role and reach of government that-- that we've had a declining reputation of government in America. I think those things are at odds.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You heard Senator Coburn say he thinks that the attorney general should not be in charge of this review of the leaks and so forth. I-- I actually agree with him on that. What-- what do you think?
DAVID GERGEN: I-- I think an outside group I'm not-- I'm not sure why a special counsel is needed on-- on the question of-- of the leaks. I'm not sure that there are any criminal laws that have been violated here. It's simply been a failure to observe the guidelines that were already in place and some-- and I think an outside group to do that. Question of special counsel arises more in the IRS situation and who is actually going to get to the bottom of this? Because right now we don't-- I think-- I think Michael's right. There is this-- it's in effect a crude form of stonewalling is going on.
May 26, 2013
"This White House is so politicized that when it comes to a sort of a controversy like this, what they want to do is to get out a good story instead of getting out the real story."
David Gergen on "Face the Nation" today. (I've added italics that I hear in the audio.) Context (with my boldfacing):