A little over a year ago, Congressman Darrell Issa, who as chairman of the House committee on government oversight is in charge of investigating the Obama administration, called Obama's "one of the most corrupt administrations" in American history. So to work he went, ferreting out wrongdoing and malfeasance, following the trail of corruption wherever it led. And most prominently it led to Solyndra, the solar cell manufacturer whose bankruptcy left the government holding the bag for half a billion dollars in loan guarantees. The investigation is finally nearing its end. Tremble, ye betrayers of the public trust, and behold Issa's wrath:
"Is there a criminal activity? Perhaps not," Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa told POLITICO after last Tuesday’s showdown with Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "Is there a political influence and connections? Perhaps not. Did they bend the rules for an agenda, an agenda not covered within the statute? Absolutely."
Wow. It's no wonder Michele Bachmann once said Solyndra "makes Watergate look like child's play."
So Solyndra turned out to be, if not a complete nothingburger, not nearly as much of a big deal as Republicans so fervently hoped. Yeah, a bunch of money went down the toilet, and people in the administration really wanted the company to succeed, despite its weaknesses, and that eagerness caused some of them to write some sketchy emails. But that's really it. And Solyndra is, by far, the closest thing to a major scandal the Obama administration has suffered. A close second is the "Fast and Furious" operation at the ATF, which was an obvious screw-up but without anything that even resembled corruption. Which, when you think back on every administration that preceded it, both Republican and Democratic, is pretty remarkable. It's entirely possible that Obama could finish out his first term without a single significant scandal. No shtupping interns, no trading arms for hostages, no secret break-ins, nothing. The fact that the administration passed out a quarter of a trillion dollars in stimulus funding (the rest of it was tax cuts and boosts in entitlements) without a single significant incident of theft, bribery, or anything of the sort is in and of itself a historic achievement.
There will probably be some low-grade scandalesque affairs that come to light before Obama leaves office, particularly if he gains a second term. But the really big ones—your Watergates, your Iran-Contras, your Lewinskys—get to be big because the president himself is involved. And so far, Obama has been squeaky-clean. I'm guessing that drives his opponents up a wall.