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Scandal-Free Obama

Beyond weakening the administration, the seemingly incessant wave of Trump scandals seems to reinforce liberals’ narrative of the previous president. As The New Republic remarked after the resignation of Michael Flynn, “Obama went eight years without a major White House scandal. Trump lasted three weeks.” Or as Obama himself boasted in December, “we’re probably the first administration in modern history that hasn’t had a major scandal in the White House.” To the horror of conservatives, who can cite a litany of official misdeeds during the Obama years, the apparent integrity of that era will feature prominently as historians evaluate that presidency. (Spoiler: as those historians are overwhelmingly liberal, they will rate it very highly indeed.)

In a sense, though, both sides are correct. The Obama administration did a great many bad things, but it suffered very few scandals. That paradox raises critical issues about how we report and record political events and how we define a word as apparently simple as “scandal.”

Very little effort is needed to compile a daunting list of horror stories surrounding the Obama administration, including the Justice Department’s disastrous Fast and Furious weapons scheme, the IRS’s targeting of political opponents, and a stunningly lax attitude to security evidenced by Hillary Clinton’s email server and the hacking of millions of files from the Office of Personnel Management. Even on the available evidence, the IRS affair had most of the major elements of something like Watergate, and a detailed investigation might well have turned up a chain of evidence leading to the White House.

But there was no detailed investigation, and that is the central point. Without investigation, the amount of embarrassing material that emerged was limited, and most mainstream media outlets had no interest in publicizing the affair. Concern was strictly limited to partisan conservative outlets, so official malfeasance did not turn into a general public scandal.

Misdeeds themselves, however, are not the sole basis for official statistics or public concern. To understand this, look for instance at the recently publicized issue of sexual assaults on college campuses. The actual behaviors involved have been prevalent for many decades, and have probably declined in recent years as a consequence of changing gender attitudes. In public perception, though, assaults are running at epidemic levels. That change is a consequence of strict new laws, reinforced by new mechanisms for investigation and enforcement. A new legal and bureaucratic environment has caused a massive upsurge of reported criminality, which uninformed people might take as an escalation of the behavior itself.

Political scandal is rather like that. To acknowledge that an administration or a party suffers a scandal says nothing whatever about the actual degree of wrongdoing that has occurred. Rather, it is a matter of perception, which is based on several distinct components, including a body of evidence but also the reactions of the media and the public. As long ago as 1930, Walter Lippman drew the essential distinction between the fact of political wrongdoing and its public manifestation. “It would be impossible,” he wrote, “for an historian to write a history of political corruption in America. What he could write is the history of the exposure of corruption.” And that exposure can be a complex and haphazard affair.

We can identify three key components. First, there must be investigation by law enforcement or intelligence agencies, which can be very difficult when the suspects are powerful or well-connected. Facing many obstacles to a free and wide-ranging investigation, the agencies involved will commonly leak information in the time-honored Washington way. The probability of such investigations and leaks depends on many variables, including the degree of harmony and common purpose within an administration. An administration riven by internal dissent or ideological feuding will be very leaky, and the amount of information available to media will accordingly be abundant.

Second, a great deal depends on the role of media in handling the allegations that do emerge. Some lurid tidbits will be avidly seized on and pursued, while others of equal plausibility will be largely ignored. That too depends on subjective factors, including the perceived popularity of the administration. If media outlets believe they are battering away at an already hated administration, they will do things they would not dare do against a popular leader.

Finally, media outlets can publish whatever evidence they wish, but this will not necessarily become the basis of a serious and damaging scandal unless it appeals to a mass audience, and probably one already restive and disenchanted with the political or economic status quo. Scandals thus reach storm force only when they focus or symbolize existing discontents.

The Watergate scandal developed as it did because it represented a perfect storm of these different elements. The political and military establishment and the intelligence agencies were deeply divided ideologically, both amongst themselves and against the Nixon White House. Leaks abounded from highly placed sources within the FBI and other agencies. Major media outlets loathed Nixon, and they published their stories at a time of unprecedented economic disaster: the OPEC oil squeeze, looming hyper-inflation, and even widespread fears of the imminent end of capitalism. The president duly fell.

But compare that disaster with other historical moments when administrations were committing misdeeds no less heinous than those of Richard Nixon, but largely escaped a like fate. Victor Lasky’s 1977 book It Didn’t Start With Watergate makes a convincing case for viewing Lyndon Johnson’s regime as the most flagrantly corrupt in U.S. history, at least since the 1870s. Not only was the LBJ White House heavily engaged in bugging and burgling opponents, but it was often using the same individuals who later earned notoriety as Nixon-era plumbers. In this instance, though, catastrophic scandals were averted. The intelligence apparatus had yet to develop the same internal schisms that it did under Nixon, the media remained unwilling to challenge the president directly, and the war-related spending boom ensured that economic conditions remained solid. Hence, Johnson completed his term, while Nixon did not.

Nor did it end with Watergate. Some enterprising political historian should write a history of one or more of America’s non-scandals, when public wrongdoing on a major scale was widely exposed but failed to lead to a Watergate-style explosion. A classic example would be the Whitewater affair that somewhat damaged Bill Clinton’s second term but never gained the traction needed to destroy his presidency. In that instance, as with the Iran-Contra affair of 1987, the key variable was the general public sense of prosperity and wellbeing, which had a great deal to do with oil prices standing at bargain-basement levels. Both Reagan and Clinton thus remained popular and escaped the stigma of economic crisis and collapse. In sharp contrast to 1974, a contented public had no desire to see a prolonged political circus directed at removing a president.

So we can take the story up to modern times. The Obama administration did many shameful and illegal things, but the law-enforcement bureaucracy remained united and largely under control: hence the remarkably few leaks. The media never lost their uncritical adulation for the president, and were reluctant to cause him any serious embarrassment. And despite troublingly high unemployment, most Americans had a general sense of improving conditions after 2009. The conditions to generate scandal did not exist, nor was there a mass audience receptive to such claims.

So yes, Obama really did run a scandal-free administration.

What you need for an apocalyptic scandal is a set of conditions roughly as follows: a deeply divided and restive set of bureaucrats and law-enforcement officials, a mass media at war with the administration, and a horrible economic crisis. Under Trump, the first two conditions assuredly exist already. If economic disaster is added to the mix, history suggests that something like a second Watergate meltdown is close to inevitable

Philip Jenkins is the author of The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels [1]. He is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University and serves as co-director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion.

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42 Comments To "Scandal-Free Obama"

#1 Comment By JadeHelmTruther579 On March 13, 2017 @ 3:19 am

You forgot to mention Obama’s attempted genocide in east Texas under Operation Jade Helm. If it hadn’t been for Greg Abbot and the Texas Rangers, he and Hillary would have succeeded, too.

Of course, the media completely ignored this story and the heroic Texans who fought this globalist conspiracy.

#2 Comment By Doug On March 13, 2017 @ 5:21 am

Didn’t Republicans have subpoena power and the ability to hold (read: stage) congressional investigations into Obama for something like three-quarters of his administration?

Why couldn’t they turn up the smoking gun you presume might exist regarding Obama’s ‘scandals’?

#3 Comment By Thrice A Viking On March 13, 2017 @ 5:59 am

Seeming economic prosperity under Obama may account for part of his scandal-free administration. (I say “seeming”, as it doesn’t hold up to rigorous examination, IMO.) But isn’t the tendency of many to cry “Racism!” at any criticism of his policies, however legitimate, also a big part of it?

#4 Comment By Jim Swarthout On March 13, 2017 @ 6:55 am

How convenient . . . Once again, as the Right has it, the black guy just had it too easy . . . And poor Trump–he of such humble origins and exuding such unimpeachable humanity–just out of dumb-unluck arrived at a time when the media might be watching for little things like possible collusion with Russia to undermine the election process, etc. One day, we will all be lucky to live in a country that is just like Kentucky . . .

#5 Comment By connecticut farmer On March 13, 2017 @ 8:04 am

The Nixon scandals took place whilst tens of millions of pilgrims were parked on queue lines at countless service stations. Add the media hostility towards Nixon and–Voila!–no more Nixon. The author is correct. Should this country experience another economic crisis similar to the recent mini-depression then we can kiss Trump good-bye.

#6 Comment By Jack Shifflett On March 13, 2017 @ 8:40 am

“Even on the available evidence, the IRS affair had most of the major elements of something like Watergate, and a detailed investigation might well have turned up a chain of evidence leading to the White House.”

So the investigations by the government’s Inspector General, the House Oversight Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, the FBI, and the Justice Department were not “detailed” enough? I’d suggest (with a nod to Occam’s Razor) that the reason there were no Obama scandals wasn’t that Republicans and right-wing media didn’t make all sorts of allegations and launch all sorts of investigations; it’s that Obama did nothing remotely scandalous.

#7 Comment By collin On March 13, 2017 @ 9:52 am

To be honest, both Bush Jr. and Obama generally ran scandal free Presidency and most of the scandals were lower level scandals. Did the IRS really go beyond a few agents in Cincinnati? And how many hearings did we have on Benghazi again? And in terms of the press, the conservative press is fairly robust. And the lack of leaks against Obama (and Bush), might have simply been he ran a more Professional administration to where leaks were controlled. In terms of Trump, don’t underestimate the leaks are because the administration personal are:

1) Leaking to knife another member of the admin.
2) Is the best way to communicate with the President. (His TV watching is vastly more any one before him.)

Anyway, the ‘Robert Byrdism’ against Obama does not mean there real significant issues with Trump.

#8 Comment By cka2nd On March 13, 2017 @ 9:56 am

I personally question how real the “IRS investigates political opponents” story was, but it would have helped if Congress had investigated serious topics – why the hell were we in Libya at all? – instead of bogus ones.

#9 Comment By Slugger On March 13, 2017 @ 9:59 am

From the beginning of Obama’s terms there were a number of problems. Unfortunately, the ones making it to the front page of my newspaper, i.e. he put mustard on a hamburger, he moved a bust of Churchill, and his wife thought that children should eat their veggies, were so ridiculous that I started ignoring anything from his critics.

#10 Comment By Gaius Gracchus On March 13, 2017 @ 10:06 am

A compliant bureaucracy and a highly partisan media covers up a mountain of scandal. But that does not make the scandal go away. Your definition is very flawed.

A murderer who successfully makes the crime look like natural death is not free from being a murderer.

The Obama administration was scandalous. The media just did everything possible to obfuscate and obscure the scandals. Likewise the shameless bureaucracy covered up everything it could.

Such does not make the administration scandal free. It just demonstrates how far gone the media is gone from objectivity and how little civic virtue is left in Washington.

Calling the Obama administration scandal free is to continue the media and bureaucratic cover up, aiding and abetting the great miscarriages of justice.

#11 Comment By BobPM On March 13, 2017 @ 10:18 am

With all due respect, the litany of scandals you cite are mostly efforts to blow-up mundane administrative failures.

“Fast and Furious weapons scheme” [lower level sting operation started during the Bush years],

“the IRS’s targeting of political opponents [effort to enforce legislation that in fact made political targeting the point of enforcement – both liberal and conservative groups were targeted, but the explosion of tea party organizations made the effort lopsided], and

“a stunningly lax attitude to security evidenced by Hillary Clinton’s email server” [private email was ubiquitous throughout the prior administration and conservatives didn’t care witness the RNC email destruction, VP’s office uses, and the practices of prior SOS’s Powell was in fact hacked. Of course suddenly Hillary comes into office and with her apparent technology savvy should have corrected all Bush admin practices]; and

the hacking of millions of files from the Office of Personnel Management [bad security practices that should, and did, trigger rethinking of governmental security systems].

None of these likely involved malicious or wrongful direction from the executive and as noted are maybe bad administrative practices but hardly the scandals they were promoted as.

#12 Comment By msnthrop On March 13, 2017 @ 11:13 am

Lol, what is the difference between an investigation ( [2]), and a “detailed” investigation.

#13 Comment By MM On March 13, 2017 @ 12:07 pm

“What you need for an apocalyptic scandal: a mass media at war with the administration.”

Ironic, considering that the prior administration literally obtained reporters’ phone records secretly (some might call that spying), and attempted to prosecute at least one reporter for not revealing his sources, if that didn’t convince the press into taking a more aggressive posture, nothing would’ve.

Also, President Obama performed an amazing feat of PR in skating past the NSA mass surveillance “scandal”. I cannot imagine another set of circumstances whereby a former (emphasis) constitutional law professor authorizes the greatest violation of the 4th Amendment in U.S. history, is caught red-handed thanks to Mr. Snowden, and faces absolutely no political consequences from the public, the ACLU, his own party, and law enforcement, despite the fact that the NSA program was eventually found to be totally ineffective and totally illegal.

Well, at least the institutionalized left can no longer claim the high ground on privacy rights…

#14 Comment By SteveM On March 13, 2017 @ 12:27 pm

Apart from any legal scandals, Obama completely ignored the slow but inexorable implosion of Obamacare for the 3 years that it was obviously unfolding. He completely dismissed the sad fate of the “deplorables” rotting in the economic wastelands of America as he flew over them many times on his way to his sumptuous golfing vacations in Hawaii. And he completely vacated the Constitution by implicitly declaring that the AUMF meant whenever he said it meant allowing him to make war at anytime in anyplace. Which means that the U.S. is currently slaughter people in at least 7 nations thousands of miles away from American shores for some ambiguous reasons.

The after-effects of Obama are obvious. Trump and the Republicans inherited a pathologically busted health care system that cannot be repaired, it can only be blown up. They have also inherited a worker participation rate that is the lowest in over 35 years (which includes the opioid addicted deplorables). And about the AUMF precedent, Trump the Prince of Incoherence and primed by his Neocon cabal of advisors, is off and running down war-monger alley, threatening war with China and North Korea as well sending ground troops into Syria with nary a congressional authorization or even nod of approval from the feckless, sclerotic nitwits on Capitol Hill.

And for all of the wreckage that Obama leaves behind, he is wildly applauded by the crony-rotten cognoscenti in New York who congratulate him for getting out while the getting out was good.

Obama further proves the Clinton axiom that it really does pay to be a self-absorbed, narcissistic political reptile.

#15 Comment By KennethF On March 13, 2017 @ 12:28 pm

Hilarious attempt to create false equivalency between Obama and Trump. There’s so much spin (along with the tedious “liberal media” straw man) that I won’t waste space debunking it all.

I’ll just point out that it’s preposterous to think that Obama was treated more fairly than Trump, especially given that the GOP controlled Congress for six years. Oh, that’s right: maybe the GOP would have found real dirt on Obama if they didn’t spend so much time smearing HRC with BENGHAAAAAAAAAZI!!! and impotently voting to repeal Obamacare 55 times. The Benghazi silliness did work out pretty well for the GOP, even though you got Trump instead of a conservative/Republican.

#16 Comment By Argon On March 13, 2017 @ 2:01 pm

We should never forget the Bowling Green Massacre that happened on President Obama’s watch…

#17 Comment By Argon On March 13, 2017 @ 2:06 pm

collin: “To be honest, both Bush Jr. and Obama generally ran scandal free Presidency and most of the scandals were lower level scandals.”

I agree with most of what you wrote but the pretense for Iraq war strikes me as scandalous as does the tacit implementation of torture. And a scandal for Obama is that he didn’t prosecute those who facilitated torture, which is a clear violation of international treaties.

#18 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On March 13, 2017 @ 2:06 pm

I had such high hopes for this screed, but as several respondents have noted, more form than substance. The 44th POTUS will be looked upon favorably by historians because he faithfully execute(d) the Office of President of the United States, to the best of his ability, which was a significant challenge, given the opposition he faced from the GOP, right-wing media, et al. The idea that history will use a different standard to measure him because most historians are ‘overwhelming liberal’ is, well what one would expect from overwhelmingly conservative pundit. C’mon so you’re better than that.

#19 Comment By Dave On March 13, 2017 @ 2:20 pm

That the scandals you cite weren’t scandals at all (IRS targeted both sides of the aisle, Fast & Furious was an awful policy based on a similar program under Bush) reinforces the notion that Obama’s 8 years really were scandal-free.

#20 Comment By Howard On March 13, 2017 @ 2:44 pm

To the horror of conservatives, who can cite a litany of official misdeeds during the Obama years, the apparent integrity of that era will feature prominently as historians evaluate that presidency.

Again — are we talking about historians in 2017, or 2020, or 2050, or 2250, or when? How did “historians” evaluate Hernán Cortés? Do you think it might matter in what country and what year the historian lived?

(Spoiler: as those historians are overwhelmingly liberal, they will rate it very highly indeed.)

Spoiler: No one can be sure how historians of the future will think, but it is safe to assume they will not think exactly the same way they do today.

#21 Comment By Llllurker On March 13, 2017 @ 3:25 pm

Not too easy to pull this off: “How to compare the severity of scandals without ever taking the scandals themselves into account.”

None the less, IMO Iran Contra would be the big one that got away and I suppose it supports your theory.

Regarding Trump/Russia it seems to me that we are just one piece of paper away from a complete unraveling. If one item surfaces that is foo big for the GOP leaders to slip under the rug, and that also puts one of the players in real jeopardy. I’d bet on it being Flynn because he seems prone to doing dumb things.

Another issue that is in play in this case? It is drop dead obvious that there is no corner that Trump will not cut. So the reporters who are looking into this know that they have unusually good odds of hitting pay dirt which should create plenty of extra persistence and motivation.

#22 Comment By Howard On March 13, 2017 @ 3:27 pm

Incidentally, there are good reasons it really irks me to hear pontifical statements about how “historians of the future” will view this or that.

For one thing, those statements derive from a naive version of historical determinism that is essentially the sore-loser side of the “wrong side of history” argument put forward by liberals. That’s not what we see in history, though. The teetotaler movement managed to pass an amendment to the US Constitution, so they were clearly on “the right side of history” — yet nothing remains of them today, when you are considered an old fogy if you still frown on recreational marijuana. The Ku Klux Klan was re-founded in 1915 and became a major political force by the 1920’s, but today it seems to be mostly a haven for bitter, pathetic old men who favor something like a racist equivalent of the Society for Creative Anachronism. [3]

Secondly, it vastly oversimplifies the range of ideas available to people. It assumes ideas all fall neatly onto a line from left to right and cluster naturally around the familiar positions of the Democrats and Republicans. That is only the crudest possible approximation. Just look at our current president. Where does he fit on that line? For good or for ill — or, more likely, for a mixture of the two — he cannot be simply pigeonholed into any of the usual categories.

#23 Comment By Jack Harllee On March 13, 2017 @ 4:22 pm

As MM points out, the article misses the only serious scandal that involved Obama himself: the Snowden revelations. We heard Obama repeatedly lie to the country. The pattern was this: Snowden would make a claim; Obama would then make a statement denying the claim; and then Greenwald would release documents showing the claim was after all quite true. Usually, if you parsed Obama’s statements carefully they were technically true, but they were intended to deceive. This happened repeatedly over a period of several months.

#24 Comment By balconesfault On March 13, 2017 @ 4:58 pm

“Very little effort is needed to compile a daunting list of horror stories surrounding the Obama administration, including the Justice Department’s disastrous Fast and Furious weapons scheme, the IRS’s targeting of political opponents, and a stunningly lax attitude to security evidenced by Hillary Clinton’s email server and the hacking of millions of files from the Office of Personnel Management. Even on the available evidence, the IRS affair had most of the major elements of something like Watergate, and a detailed investigation might well have turned up a chain of evidence leading to the White House.

But there was no detailed investigation, and that is the central point.”

Holy Revisionism, Batman!

To say that the litany of investigations and hearings carried out by the GOP led Congress on all these issues over the last 6 years didn’t represent a “detailed investigation” is either pure silliness, or a scathing indictment of the incompetence of the leadership of the House and Senate Committees which spent millions of our taxpayer dollars looking into these “scandals”.

The essence of the charges were pretty well summarized by BobPM above. The charges against Obama were best nurtured in the deep recesses of the minds of Breitbart and Hannity and Limbaugh and Roger Ailes minions. Once they were exposed to the light of day they tended to dissolve like cheap tissue paper.

Given the incredibly adversarial Congress, as well as an FBI director who showed himself to have no compulsions against releasing information that would be politically damaging to the Democrats … perhaps as Jack Shifflet notes Occam’s Razor is best applied here?

Mr. Jenkins tends to raise some interesting questions with many of his commentaries. This certainly fails to meet that standard.

#25 Comment By Jim D On March 13, 2017 @ 5:14 pm

I am no fan of Barack Obama, but what a tiresome article. Instead of pontificating (if that is allowed in Waco) about a set of conditions necessary for an “apocalyptic” scandal, the author would have done better just to suggest employing the Pepper Hamilton law firm. That’s all that’s needed for public wrongdoing overlooked on a major scale to become an apocalyptic scandal.

#26 Comment By Michael Belleguard On March 13, 2017 @ 5:24 pm

Lets start with Genocide of 90,000 Million Americans’ (Native)and then displacement of the few hundred thousand survivors, as the greatest lie, scandal, and cover up, misrepresentation, and on and on. OF which numerous presidents Republican or Democrats, were party too. The newspapers, Justice, War Departments were all part of the Brain Washing, Propaganda Cover up. In other words, its as old as the U.S.A. from day one. There is no such thing as a Trustworthy President, EXCEPT Abraham Lincoln, and he died because of it. Maybe if part of electing a President, was that they had to agree to die for their country and then actually do it, before we would trust, believe, or even conceive any of them capable of being Trustworthy. And the new one is no better.

#27 Comment By Charlieford On March 13, 2017 @ 6:33 pm

I applaud the IRS’s investigations of so-called political organizations that deserve tax exemptions as much as Trump University does. If there’s any scandal, it’s that these things even exist. Thanks, Obama!

#28 Comment By Summary RI On March 13, 2017 @ 7:21 pm

You’re right to say that it’s because the public hasn’t been paying attention. But that is largely because the media was giving him a pass on nearly every bloody disaster he created (or helped create, or exacerbated).

That his depraved Yemen policy, to pick just one example, wasn’t a public scandal is itself a scandal, underscoring the amorality of too many journalists and reporters who should have been screaming bloody murder – and would have if it had been a different president.

Obama had the potential to become one of our best and greatest presidents, a possibility was so intoxicating that it blinded many to what he became, which was one of the worst.

#29 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 13, 2017 @ 7:22 pm

I reminded of the sentiments of the Chief Justice on the ACA,

He didn’t want to be responsible for defeat of major legislation of the first “black president.”

I am not sure what section of the Constitution he was referencing, but it spoke volumes for any fair hearing of the admin.

I suspect as with Pres. Lincoln, historians will cleave to anything to avoid the obvious scandalous practices in preferences for some historical “greater good.”

Bay of Pigs, CIA investigation of Martin Luther King as he advanced due process for blacks, as some kind of communist plot — much akin to Russia and the current Pres. conspiracies. The democrats apparently have a thing for the Russians interference in US politics. I need not mention marital infidelity.

As for the previous executive, the bailouts were a scandal that never aired. Torture, Syria, Libya, Ukraine . . .

#30 Comment By Whine Merchant On March 13, 2017 @ 8:53 pm

I am so very pleased to read the thoughtful and reasoned comments here. I turn to TAC for civil and logical exchange, a rarity on the net.
This piece, with its selective citations, is clearly more partisan than the author would like to admit. He does have an interesting point in that the zeitgeist in the eras of 43 & 44 was such that public were content to coast and despite the best efforts of the media, did not precipitate the kind of outrage that we see everywhere today. I suggest that in professionally-run administrations the scandal fodder was too week to generate real heat, and the actions of today [on ALL sides of politics] too volatile to ignore.

#31 Comment By Coco On March 13, 2017 @ 8:53 pm

Ahm, you forgot revelations of massive surveillance and Clapper lying to Congress

#32 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 13, 2017 @ 9:07 pm

“And despite troublingly high unemployment, most Americans had a general sense of improving conditions after 2009.”

That accounts for the surprise election results with the victor having thought very differently from the pundits who think so, and resonated with the afflicted voters.

#33 Comment By kalendjay On March 13, 2017 @ 9:32 pm

The first instinct of the scandal sheet is to compare the minimal scandals of the incumbent Democrat to Nixon. Notwithstanding, Obama has had his share of policy relevant resignations,

[4],

and so did Clinton, Reagan, Carter, and the Bushes. So what is it about the Nixon thing?

It harkens to an observation made by F. H. Buckley that parliamentary democracies are perceived by the public to be more accountable for their actions and are held to closer account. Compared to his successors, Nixon appeared on the one hand to be an accountable and activistic president, and more responsive to the notion he was ultimately accountable to the electorate — as they say, “the buck stops here”.

On the one hand, there is no direct proof he was responsible for ordering the Watergate break-in, and could have played as agiley with public perceptions about this as the Clintons did with their scandal sheet. On the other, he was a wheeler dealer who left himself open to second guessing, improprieties, and the plain old perception that he was dishonest. He was not a great manager or delegator of responsibilities. Like parliamentarians, he was used to running a loyal and unitary government to keep opponents in check. Trouble is, there is something about this mindset that does not comport with the executive branch as it has now developed, which is to turn the cabinet into clients of the legislative process, and the administration into a public relations exercise before the press, rather than before an electoral system that can vote ‘no confidence’.

So whatever happens at the IRS, the State Department, the DOE, the CIA, or whatever, are just considered “one of those things” that voters and their parties have no real control over, and no timely or symbolic way of response to. Like Eisenhower with his Ag Secretary Benson, or Reagan with Oliver North and Alexander Haig, Obama moves one way, while his appointees move toward the exit.

Trump probably recognizes the problem because he has survived so many scandals, and figures pragmatically that the system has exhausted its methods of dealing with him, or his cabinet. But whether his appointees can serve a well oiled purpose on the order of a tightly run and parliamentary political party remains to be seen. If not, the result will be backbiting, more leaks, and some mock heroism of a GOP Senator to vainly ‘protect’ the system.

#34 Comment By Taras77 On March 13, 2017 @ 9:35 pm

Scandal free=Obama as a fraud;

Holder’s entire DOJ was a scandal, e.g. FRONTLINE: The Untouchables: Money, Power and Wall Street DVD

This program, aired in mid-2013, was a scathing review of the banksters and DOJ inaction. Martin Smith did a masterful in a low key method of interviews which left the interviewee frequently babbling with embarrassment.

Lanny Braer, Holder’s deputy in charge of bank prosecutions (none) resigned the next morning after the program aired and went back to his law firm, Covington et al as a senior partner-as did holder when he resigned. The law firm has a number of major banks as clients, heh, no conflict of interest there.

I do not know if the program is still available but the DVD is as noted above.

#35 Comment By Intelliwriter On March 13, 2017 @ 10:58 pm

I’m fairly certain the Republicans were in charge of both the House and Senate, but there was no appetite to uncover the hundreds of Obama scandals? Maybe it’s because they were too busy investigating the Benghazi non-scandal and the debunked Planned Parenthood baby part video.

Sometimes when there’s nothing there, there’s nothing there.

#36 Comment By Scott_api On March 14, 2017 @ 9:19 am

@MM-

You hit the biggest scandal (IMO) of this administration, with the possible exception of the Drone war. I think neither of these became big because the GOP tends to agree with both stances, so they were not inclined to investigate. Of course, the GOP was also busy with numerous ACA repeal votes and Beghazi investigations to actually investigate what might have been real issues, so that might have contributed as well.

#37 Comment By JonF On March 14, 2017 @ 12:26 pm

The notion that Whitewater was not adequately investigated is nonsense. Ken Starr may have been many things, but incompetent and Democratic hack are not two that apply to him. The simple fact was that there was no there there.
And referencing “hyperinflation” in the US is just bizarre. Words have meaning and the United States (excepting the CSA in the later years of the Civil War) has never had anything remotely like hyperinflation. Yes, inflation was unpleasantly high in the late 70s– but far below the level that deserves the “hyper” label. Compare with Weimar Germany or Zimbabwe to see the gaping difference.

Several posters though on on the mark about Obama and the surveillance state. He, George W Bush and Donald Trump have all deserved impeachment over that one.

#38 Comment By gVOR08 On March 14, 2017 @ 4:12 pm

I note that Philip Jenkins did not include Benghazi in his litany of “scandals”. Perhaps even he couldn’t keep a straight face while claiming there was no “detailed investigation” of Benghazi.

#39 Comment By Charlieford On March 15, 2017 @ 10:28 am

And the multiple, years long, Benghazi investigations certainly complicates any contention that there was no appetite for scandal-mongering in Congress, the media, or among the people.

Indeed, it would seem that the obsessive attention to Benghazi was precisely because there simply was so little to the other allegations of scandal mentioned.

#40 Comment By peanut On March 15, 2017 @ 1:30 pm

” He completely dismissed the sad fate of the “deplorables” rotting in the economic wastelands of America as he flew over them many times on his way to his sumptuous golfing vacations in Hawaii”

So, in your timeline, neither the car bailout, nor the stimulus, nor Medicaid expansion happened? What other things happened differently? Did the Packers make it to the 2014 superbowl?

#41 Comment By RolleiMann On March 15, 2017 @ 4:24 pm

Scandal: “a disgraceful or discreditable action, circumstance, etc.” Obama’s entire presidency was a national scandal. Consider the ‘apology tour,’ ‘leading from behind,’ domestic surveillance,’ disappearance the night of Benghazi, premature withdrawal of troops from Iraq — permitting ISIS to rise, IRS targeting of conservative political opponents, lying to America (“If you like your doctor, …,” fomenting racial division, attacks on law enforcement, and wasteful spending of public funds on luxurious family vacations. Scandalous.

#42 Comment By Michael Worrall On March 18, 2017 @ 7:47 pm

News flash…Obama is no longer in the White House. There are larger issues of concern at this point.