Alex Witt   |  May 25, 2013

How long will trio of controversies last?

PBS’s Christina Bellantoni and the Washington Post's David Nakamura join MSNBC’s Alex Witt for "Front Page Politics." David comments on the IRS targeting of conservative groups.  Christina explains why GOP lawmakers want constituents to ask them about the IRS scandal. Both offer their insights on the Obama administration’s move to curb sexual assaults in the military.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> i have remorse for the harm that this has caused. the sadness it's caused in my family and other families. and for causes that we belong to.

>> first lady michelle obama showing off her dance moves at an elementary school in washington , d.c., on friday. she's playing a game of freeze dance with the students to the godfather of soul's hit "we're going to have a funky good time." that's one of eight schools that uses the arts to promote academic achievement.

>>> and a new report in the national journal suggests that republican lawmakers are keeping the controversies a the forefront of their local constituencies. now, all of this is a new gallup poll that finds 42% of americans are doing a poor job. politics editor, white house reporter for "the washington post ," good to see you both. thank you for joining me.

>> thank you.

>> david , any other shoes to drop here on the irs targeting the conservative groups that might bring this controversy any closer to the president?

>> alex, what we know right now, i don't think it's the most likely that that is going to happen. the report did not suggest that anybody in the white house was directing this, certainly not during the election. it does not appear that the white house knew about it and tried to bury it then. the biggest problem is the idea that the president didn't know about it and his aides, even when they found in april, didn't tell him. they've been on the defensive about that. i think you're going to see congress to continue to ask why that was. congress is going to continue with the oversight hearings and the employee who took a fifth, to give her immunity. but i don't see right now any evidence that it's going to be closer to the white house in terms of directing this activity.

>> christina , republicans, though, plan on keeping the irs , benghazi , the doj, a.p. up and running. does the gop risk losing the upper hand?

>> there can always be other things that distract from the political conversation here in washington . but as you point out, they are going home for a week for memorial weekend recess. they are asking about the irs scandal in particular. the irs is already an unpopular entity. everybody pays taxes and nobody likes paying taxes. and then you can mondopolize. when you look at the trio scandals in a big picture , they are all very different from one another. while everyone in washington and particularly in our organizations in the press, it's exercised over the doj subpoenas, it's not necessarily resonating all that much in the bigger picture and benghazi is an issue that is very, very political, people view as political, and they are not following it as closely. that's why the irs is getting a lot of scrutiny. there are still questions to answer what is happening internally. republicans really want to keep the focus. the associated press had a great story today looking at how because the economy is improving, scandals are a much safer thing to be targeting politically right now.

>> david , listening to christina , coupled with the fact that earlier on my broadcast it was suggested that all summer is going to be spent dealing with these controversies, how long do you think they are going to last and do they have the potential to harm in any way the midterms well over a year away?

>> well, to take the first part of the question, i think that they will last quite a bit longer. republicans want them to last. i think you're seeing a number of the leading republicans really criticizing the white house even as they try to work on immigration and other things with the white house . it's interesting. it's a way to maybe show their base that they are staying safe where it counts politically on the president. even of the three scandals, as christina mentioned, giving the irs in the biggest light is the administration has sort of aggressively tried to confront that, sort of make moves to get rid of some of the officials in charge. they have a new acting director coming in. the president has ordered him to take the recommendations and implement them. the white house is trying to get out in front and continue to say we're making progress to cleanup this agency and they want to make sure that they get a handle on it. you're going to see, once the president does nominate a full-time director, that person will go through a congressional hearing process and there's going to be a number of more questions. so this is going to keep going throughout the summer for sure. but, again, as christina said, all three are very different and i the white house thinks the benghazi issue is put to rest and they don't want to deal with that anymore.

>> i want to switch gears and talk about the obama administration's move to curb sexual harassment assaults. he was at the commencement ceremony there at west point. let's listen to what the president said at the naval academy commencement yesterday.

>> those who commit sexual assaults are not only committing a crime, they threaten and that's why we have to be determined to stop these crimes, because they have no place in the military honor.

>> christina , do you think the military or the white house have offered any tangible solutions to these crisis or, better yet, are there better tangible solutions?

>> there are a couple of pieces of legislation to really address this. it's been a prolonged standing problem in the military and it gained a lot of high-profile cases that were getting a lost scrutiny and because of a documentary that came out last fall and it doesn't have a chance to pass but it's important because a lot of people are paying attention to it and it's definitely probably a lot more important than political scandals .

>> secretly filming teenage students in the locker rooms and bathrooms, that's not a sex assault but how can the obama administration get to the root of the problem?

>> it's going to take a while. he brought in a week ago to the white house and other military officials and they told reporters that the military is embarrassed by this, it's a threat to national security . not just to law & order because the military is based on discipline. these are really embarrassing situations for them. the president, in the white house that day, said this is not going to be solved overnight. there's no magic bullet , said. it's going to take training and officials looking at this who are committed to it. it's going to take a long time and they are going to stay at it. you might hear the white house say, we're going to keep on this and have the white house address this occasionally. so that suggests that they are going to have to report back to the white house on progress and on what steps they are taking.

>> david nakumuri, christina bellatoni, thank