The main thrust of all of President Obama's press conferences for the last two years has been to dare Congress to pass laws, and that held true on Thursday, when he answered questions at the White House about the administration's scandal trio by repeatedly saying he was looking forward to "fixing a problem" by working with Congress to pass laws he's wanted all along. On Benghazi? Obama said he wanted to increase intelligence to alert diplomatic posts of possible threats and make sure "our military can respond lightning quick in times of crisis." But, he warned, "We can't do this alone — we're gonna need Congress as a partner." On the IRS? Obama said he was "looking forward to working with Congress to fully investigate what happened... and also look at some of the laws that create a bunch of ambiguity in which the IRS might not have enough guidance." On the Justice Department's obtaining Associated Press phone records? Obama said of a reporter shield law that it might be time to "revisit that legislation."
Obama asked that Congress "support and fully fund our budget request" for diplomatic security and increase the number of Marines guarding embassies. "That's how we learn the lessons of Benghazi," Obama said, after saying for months — most recently on Monday — that the Republican obsession with Benghazi was just about scoring political points. And as The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler has explained, both Democratic and Republican congresses have given the State Department less money for security than it requested. The gap was only "a bit higher" in the recent Republican congresses.
In the face of Republican opposition, Obama has increasingly used executive order to get things done — on guns, immigration, government data, and more. He's been pretty open about the futility of working with the GOP. In a March press conference about the failure to stop the sequester, Obama said, "I mean, Jessica, I am not a dictator. I'm the President." He dismissed the idea that "I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right." His many press conferences about gun control dared Congress to pass background check legislation that 90 percent of Americans supported. Earlier this month, Obama explained how he was trying to get House Republicans to vote for his agenda: "We're going to try to do everything we can to create a permission structure for them to be able to do what's going to be best for the country." "Permission structure" seems to be a favorite term of Obama aides — press secretary Jay Carney said it was "in common usage" around the White House. Maybe Obama's team thinks it's finally figured out the right permission structure to get House Republicans to work with them — by letting the GOP say they're responding to a trio of Nixon-level scandals. As Obama himself said on Thursday about the Nixon comparisons: "You can go ahead and read the history, and draw your own conclusions."