It's official. Obama and company have reached the point where you can no longer tell the scandal without a scorecard.
The last few months have been especially bad for the president, once considered a kind of golden boy, emblematic of a new, post-partisan age in American politics. Since winning re-election seven months ago, things have been heading down hill for him and his administration at a fairly rapid rate in some kind of "second term curse." It's more appropriate to attribute the bad news lately breaking to the failure to keep watch on what the administration had been doing from the beginning. The pile just got too high and is in the process of tumbling over.
That the president could do no wrong was once an infectious idea, the best example possibly being MSNBC's Chris Matthews' oft-quoted comment about feeling a tingle up his leg when he heard Obama speak. As we now know, the nation's chief executive is just a man – capable of making mistakes and misleading the country on a myriad of issues.
To some the straw that finally broke the camel's back was the revelation that the National Security Agency has been spying on phone calls and email transmissions and other forms of communications used, not by spies for hire or foreign governments, but by the American people.
Honestly, too little is known at this point in time about what the agency was actually doing to render a judgment either way about the morality and propriety of its actions. The sudden resignation of the deputy director of the CIA certainly doesn't help matters. But what makes this a scandal of the highest order is that a 20-something government contractor and ex-CIA employee was able to put at least a few of the "crown jewels" of America's intelligence community on display for all to see.
It's not too hard to believe that the same policymakers who don't take the "war on terror" seriously, who refuse to call even the most obvious acts of politically motivated violence "terrorism" have been less than vigilant in making sure America keeps its secrets. This is only one piece of the puzzle however, part of a disturbing pattern of surveillance, of intimidation, of implied threats, of mismanagement and of deception that makes it nigh impossible for the people to put much faith in the government right now.
The newest scandal involves a high-ranking U.S. diplomatic official who reportedly has been accused of soliciting prostitutes and under-aged – by European standards – sexual partners who may have repeatedly slipped the leash of his security detail so he could engage in illicit behavior. It also may involve, informed speculation says, at least one senior U.S. State Department official who, when notified that something might be up, chose to look the other way.
The story is still unfolding and the rumor mill is running on overdrive so we'll have to wait and see where it all goes. Nevertheless it seems somehow curious that the Obama administration has repeatedly bobbled, bungled, and botched items in the area of national security and foreign policy – everything from leaving Poland and the Czech Republic surprised and holding the short end of the stick on a joint missile defense program from which the U.S. unexpectedly bailed to the myriad mysteries still surrounding what happened in Benghazi and why.
With so much smoke being created by all these missteps is it possible there is actually a fire to go along with it? Each week brings with it a new scandal, something exciting to attract the attention of the public and the media and the opposition.
This may be the point. With some much coming to light it's hard to keep track of who did what to whom, in which agency, and why or why not. It's also hard to keep feeding new, salacious, attention-grabbing facts to the media every day in order that pro-Obama partisans cannot use a lull in a particular investigation to claim "Show's over … Nothing more to see here. Keeping moving along people, keep moving."
All this hurts the president's poll numbers but will not really damage his presidency; that will only happen when something concrete is found and placed in the center ring of the circus of public opinion. The hope of some GOP operatives to the contrary, the "Ship of State" has not yet hit the rocks. The Obama presidency can survive bad news for as long as it wants as long as it retains the ability to change the subject.
- Read Peter Fenn: The Cozy NSA-Telecom Surveillance Relationship Has Gone on Too Long
- Read Lara Brown: Obama Scandals Hearken Back to Ulysses S. Grant
- Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad