John Dickerson downplayed most of the recent scandals surrounding the Obama administration on Thursday's CBS This Morning, asserting that the White House was "trying to get something done on immigration....they're trying to stay focused on the things that really matter to this presidency, and only trying to spend a small amount of time putting out these little fires."
This came mere moments after Dickerson acknowledged the potential for the scandals to affect the President's legacy: "At the worst end...you get a feeling it's a scandal a week related to the administration, and if that idea sets in – that there's a kind of, rot....that affects the President's legacy." [audio available here; video below the jump]
Just before the segment with the CBS News political director, anchor Gayle King gave a news brief on the latest on the developing State Department scandal. King noted that "Secretary of State John Kerry says he welcomes an investigation into the alleged coverup of misconduct by diplomats and other officials."
Co-anchor Charlie Rose turned to Dickerson and asked, "So, the question comes: what's the impact on the President and the presidency?" His reply included his "little fires" label of the scandal. Rose followed up by wondering if the White House "should they be more aggressive in defending and responding".
The former Time magazine journalist answered by further explaining the White House strategy, and admitted the administration's ongoing concern about the IRS scandal:
JOHN DICKERSON: ...Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff, has this 90/10 rule that I keep being told about, which is spend 90 percent of your time on the things that are important to this White House, 10 percent on the scandals. That's wise for any White House. The problem is, if they miss the one scandal that's important – and I think the one they're most worried about is still these IRS allegations. That's what people in the public really seem to care the most about, and it's the one that can affect the other things the White House is trying to do – to the extent that it effects total distrust in – or it increases total distrust in the government. So, should they be more aggressive? I think on that one in particular; on these others, they should probably stay focused.
Dickerson made a gaffe later in the segment after King raised the issue of how this latest State Department scandal might affect a possible Hillary Clinton run for the presidency in 2016:
GAYLE KING: John, does this latest scandal affect Hillary Clinton, since she was Secretary of State at the time?
DICKERSON: That is the most interesting political part of this State Department scandal – is this is tarnishing Hillary Clinton's image as Secretary of State. It gives Republicans something to talk about. They obviously see her as the next Republican nominee in 2016 (sic). And so, there's a real political motivation, even if people don't seem to care about these – that scandal or the Benghazi investigation in the public, they see a political target here in Hillary Clinton.
It's amazing that the CBS News political director would even bring up Benghazi by name, as just over a week earlier, he only vaguely referenced it as he gave his take on Susan Rice being named the President's national security advisor: "We know ever since Susan Rice worked for his campaign, and is, by all accounts from – from those inside the White House, sees the world in the way the President does. They have a very good relationship. And so, he was disappointed during the secretary of state circus, as they saw it."
[Update: The full transcript of the John Dickerson segment from Thursday's CBS This Morning is available at MRC.org.]