Paul Blumenthal at The Huffington Post continues the teary-eyed liberal goodbye to President Barack Obama with a polished article that suggests Obama’s administration had fewer scandals than any recent two-term president.
Blumenthal begins by recounting scandals in administrations going back to Nixon, from Monica Lewinsky, to Iran-Contra, to everyone’s favorite scandal, Watergate. He then notes that ethics were very important to the president, who insisted that plans be implemented to ensure a lack of scandal.
Blumenthal writes, in part:
The administration also adopted a loose ban on registered lobbyists entering the administration. Not all of these commitments stuck. Obama granted waivers that allowed some lobbyists to be appointed to government positions. And lawyers who represented banks or other industries, but were not registered as official lobbyists, moved freely from the private sector to the public sector and back again.
By no means did the Obama administration thwart the power of special interests and big money in Washington. But the administration did avoid major scandals, which Eisen attributed to the “tone at the top.” [Emphases mine]
Forgive me if I’m not impressed.
To his credit, Blumenthal actually admits of the existence of “wrongdoings” that others might refer to as scandals.
Congress held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt in the “Fast and Furious” investigation ― a botched Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms operation against gun smugglers from 2009 to 2011 that led to the death of a border control agent. Officials also resigned over the Internal Revenue Service’s alleged targeting of conservative groups for tax scrutiny, overspending on conferences at the General Services Administration, and hacking that exposed employee records at the Office of Personnel Management.
The years-long investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s response to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi revealed that she kept a private email server. While that did not lead to any charges or convictions, it may have contributed to her election defeat.
The methodology for defining “scandal” here is curious. The ATF embarked on an idiotic operation which ended in the death of an American and Obama’s own attorney general was held in contempt for his misinvestigation of said operation.
Not a scandal.
Of course, in the case of Watergate, government agencies, including the IRS, deliberately targeted political opponents. But the IRS’s targeting of conservative organizations, which was serious enough to lead to resignations?
Not a scandal.
Perhaps the difference is that, like Benghazi, as Blumenthal notes, these “wrongdoings” didn’t lead to charges or convictions, just resignations (and being held in contempt). No, Fast and Furious and Benghazi didn’t lead to anyone going to prison, just to the deaths of Americans.
And remember, Nixon resigned; he was neither impeached nor convicted. Again, it’s strange standard of scandal.
Additionally, the proverbial buck appears no longer to stop with the president in cases like Benghazi or Hillary’s private email server, though it certainly did during the Reagan administration with the Iran-Contra affair.
While history ultimately may judge Obama differently than his adoring fans, the good news for his legacy is that he will be followed by President Trump, who is already facing numerous ethics questions and he hasn’t even taken office yet. Much like President Obama’s popularity and his speech-making ability, his record on scandal could benefit by comparison to the extreme deviation from normal by his successor.