Nightly News   |  May 16, 2013

White House does damage control

After what’s arguably been the president’s toughest political week since winning reelection to a second term, Obama named a new head of the IRS and announced a new push for increased security for diplomats abroad. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>>> obama is now on the offensive trying to assure the public he's taking seriously this confluence of three separate controversies really that have erupted at the same time. we also learned tonight another top official at the irs is stepping down. our political director, chief white house correspondent chuck todd , with us from the north lawn . chuck, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. damage control, day two. what's easily been the president's toughest week politically since winning re-election. all of these presidential pronouncements today designed to show that he's on top of these bubbling controversies popping up all over his government. today's weather in the rose garden , a fitting metaphor for a president who suddenly may think he's got a dark cloud following him. at one point out of concern for his guests, he asked marines for umbrellas.

>> there we go. that's good.

>> reporter: the president reiterated his pledge to clean up the irs in the wake of the agency's bias targeting of conservative groups.

>> we will be putting in new leadership that will be able to make sure that following up on the i.g. audit that we gather up all the facts, that we hold accountable those who have taken these outrageous actions.

>> reporter: today, he appointed a new acting irs commissioner , daniel werfel. a high-level career civil servant who has served under presidents obama and george. w bush . mr. obama also stood by his beleaguered attorney general, eric holder , for the justice department 's unprecedented decision to subpoena associated press phone records as part of their investigation into national security leaks.

>> he's an outstanding attorney general, and he does his job with integrity. and i expect he will continue to do so.

>> reporter: and as for benghazi, the president tried to turn the debate away from how it was handled to how to prevent another attack in the future.

>> i've directed the defense department to ensure that our military can respond lightning quick in times of crisis. but we're not going to be able to do this alone. we're going to need congress as a partner.

>> reporter: this week's swirl of controversyies has some comparing obama to an unpopular former president.

>> how do you feel of comparisons to this week's scandals to those that happened under the nixon administration ?

>> i'll let you guys engage this those comparisons. and you can go ahead and read the history, i think, and draw your own conclusions.

>> reporter: yet another controversy actually that's popping up in his government -- the sexual assault issue that's hitting the military. late this afternoon, brian, he met with military chiefs about this issue. and listen to what he said -- "not only is it a crime, not only is it shameful and disgraceful, but is going to make and has made our military less effective." he said defense secretary chuck hagel would be having weekly meetings on the issue until the military gets its arms around it.

>> chuck, thanks.