The Scandalous Lack of Obama Administration Scandals

If you ask many Republicans, they'll tell you that Barack Obama himself and the administration he leads are deeply, profoundly, fundamentally corrupt. It isn't just that they have the wrong values or the wrong policy priorities, but rather that they are practically a band of criminals bent on destroying America and unconcerned about what violations of law and morality they commit as they cut a swath of misery and destruction across our nation.

For some on the right—the cynical politician, the carnival-barking radio host—these ideas are a tool to use in a partisan game. They understand that the picture is an absurd one, but they also know it's useful in keeping the rabble roused. But for many others, from ordinary voters to Republican lawmakers, it's something they sincerely believe. So five years into this presidency, where do we stand with the scandals that were supposed to lead to Barack Obama's downfall? The truth—no doubt a painful one for Republicans—is that there's almost no there there. Or more precisely, what we have are a number of disconnected screw-ups and errors in judgment, most of which are not even worthy of the name "scandal." Given the last few decades of history, and given the size and scope of the federal government, that's quite an achievement.

So let's take a look back and see what happened to all these affairs that never turned out to be the scandals conservatives hoped they would be. Just to be clear, when I use the word "scandalous" in this list, I don't mean "bad." When you say, for instance, that there has been little evidence of anything scandalous occurring in Benghazi, conservatives often reply, "Four people died!" Indeed they did, and that was terribly tragic, but that doesn't necessarily make it a scandal. Two hundred and forty-one Americans died in the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon, but it wouldn't be accurate to call that a "Reagan administration scandal," because while there were some bad decisions made with awful results, there wasn't any criminality or corruption or cover-up, the things we usually associate with scandals.

To make a truly meaningful administration scandal, you need two things. First, there has to be some kind of criminal or morally atrocious behavior somewhere, which we can put under the general heading of "malfeasance." People doing their jobs poorly isn't enough to make it a scandal. Second, you need the involvement of highly-placed administration officials. Only an affair with both features is a scandal. If a ranger at Denali National Park in Alaska is found to be running a moose-based prostitution ring, that's only an administration scandal if people high up in the administration knew about it. On to our list:


The Energy Department gave loans to a bunch of companies with promising green technologies, including this one. When the price of silicon collapsed, the company's technology was no longer cost-effective, and they soon went bankrupt. The most scandalous thing that happened was that people in the administration sent a lot of panicked emails back and forth because they were embarrassed about the failure of the company, which they had repeatedly touted.

Conclusion: Involvement of high administration officials, but no malfeasance.

Fast and Furious 

Beginning in the Bush years, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used a tactic known as "gunwalking," where they allowed straw purchasers to buy weapons in the hopes that they could track the guns' progress to Mexican drug gangs and eventually disrupt the traffic. One gunwalking operation that began in 2009, Fast and Furious, was terribly mismanaged, and they lost track of guns that wound up with the gangs; one of these guns was found at the site of a shootout where a Border Patrol agent was killed.

Conclusion: Possible malfeasance, no high administration official involvement.


Four Americans are killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate. One investigation after another concludes that while evidence of anti-American hostility was not taken seriously enough and more should have been done to enhance security, no one intentionally left anyone to die and there was no cover-up.

Conclusion: High administration official involvement, no malfeasance.


Deluged with applications by Tea Party groups claiming to be "social welfare" organizations, poorly trained IRS officials give some of these groups extra scrutiny in reviewing their applications for charitable status. It is later revealed that many liberal groups got similar extra scrutiny.

Conclusion: No malfeasance, no high administration involvement.

Aggressive leak investigations

The Justice Department sought phone records for the Associated Press and listed a Fox News reporter as a possible criminal co-conspirator in an investigation, making it harder than ever for reporters, particularly national security reporters, to discover information and keep their sources confidential.

Conclusion: Probably no malfeasance (they were technically within their legal rights), probable high administration involvement.


There are also little things that pop up for a week or two and then disappear, like the time the GSA spent all that money on silly conferences. But when you look over this list, what's striking is that none of them comes within a hundred miles of the scandals that most recent two-term presidencies have eventually become embroiled in. And despite all conservatives' efforts, none of them have brought Barack Obama down.

Republicans will say that these things haven't been scandals because the media have refused to investigate them, which is just ridiculous. All of these stories got plenty of coverage at the time they emerged and in many cases for some time after, and major news organizations did their best to investigate them. The problem conservatives have isn't that they weren't covered, it's that the coverage ran its course and then petered out, because nothing scandalous was revealed. To show you the depths of disingenuousness conservatives will plunge to, consider this report from the Media Research Center. They breathlessly report that the television networks devoted 44 times as much air time to the Chris Christie Bridgegate scandal than they have to the IRS scandal in the last six months—88 minutes for the former, and only two minutes for the latter. Conservative writers wrote columns about this terrible media bias based on the MRC's findings. But if you're saying, "Hold on, I know there was more than two minutes of coverage of the IRS scandal, because I saw plenty of it," you're on to something. That's because the IRS story broke last May, eight months ago. So if you ignore the two months after the story broke, when it got lots and lots of coverage, it got almost no coverage! Which is like saying the media ignore the Super Bowl, if you look only at their coverage from March until September.

That's the kind of pathetic excuse for analysis produced by the right's leading media watchdog. If you were a conservative, wouldn't you be embarrassed by that? And wouldn't you also be embarrassed that your side's investigative efforts in Congress are led by Darrell Issa, who has done analogous things (like leaking partial transcripts of testimony that turn out to be completely misleading) that end up only serving to make him look foolish? The pursuit of the allegedly corrupt Obama administration and the allegedly in-the-tank media is being led by a bunch of buffoons who undermine their credibility every time they open their mouths. Issa is now planning to spend his last year as head of the oversight committee focusing on Benghazi, the IRS, and Fast and Furious. Seriously.

So what can we conclude from all this? There are three possible explanations for the lack of a major scandal in the Obama administration. The first is that something truly horrific has gone on, but as of yet it hasn't been discovered. The second is that the scandals we know about haven't been fully investigated, and will eventually yield more wrongdoing than we currently understand. And the third is that the administration has not, in fact, committed any horrible crimes. Which seems most likely?

That isn't to say that they haven't made plenty of mistakes, because they have. And there are three years left in Obama's term, so you never know—maybe someone will discover that he's having an affair with Jennifer Lawrence, or that Valerie Jarrett is a mole for the Yakuza, or that those FEMA concentration camps are real. But there's also the chance that he'll end his term without any major scandal, which would be quite something.

A final note: The question of whether we should think of NSA spying as a scandal in these terms is a complicated one that I'm going to have to leave for another day.


An entertaining read, but this should somehow be labeled as political satire or a paraody of some sort shouldn't it? Oh. Wait. You're actually serious. Never mind. And the NSA scandal (like everything else treated in this essay) is indeed too complicated for Mr. Waldman. Good instinct to just let it go.

Isn't it ironic that a fluff piece, devoid of facts, is written about some deeply important issues that have been completely ignored by Mr Waldmen's ilk? The facts are simply inconvenient. Stay tuned for a crushing, fact-filled piece tomorrow on Christie.

Alternate ending to "The Wizard of Oz":

Toto pulls the curtain back. The All Powerful Wizard is cranking on levers and shouting into a mic. He then notices Paul Waldman, Dorothy, The Tinman, Scarecrow, and the Lion looking at him in surprise.

Wizard: "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. He is no one."
Paul: "I believe it guys. Makes sense."

This piece was terribly written and reasoned. Yama hama.

Nixon's second article of impeachment: " he endeavoured to use the IRS against his enemies." But he couldn't do it-his henchman Jack Caulfield told him IRS was infested with democrats. Obama on the other hand effectively used IRS to kneecap the teaparty right before the 2012 elections. Then used a campaign contributor to "investigate." The investigator never troubled to get testimony from the victims.

If the Watergate scandal had been investigated by Nixon donors, there would not have been a scandal either. This administration is a fraud. All they do is investigate themselves and say, "Nothing here". The lame stream media mimics that and presto chango, scandal gone.

The scandal on Bengahazi was the administration's lies they told for weeks. The Senate investigation bears out that they should have known about it. Press has been ignoring it now that Hillary might run.

The IRS scandal was targeting conservative groups, oh wait, there was a delay on one or two liberal groups as well, so no scandal here, wink, wink. All the money given to Obama's crony friends, like Solyndra. Press ignores, Admin says no scandal, so bye bye scandal.

Except that the administration has been trying like mad to cover up the truth about Benghazi from the beginning. They were unprepared for a terrorist attack, they did order men left to die (disobeyed by at least one team), they did not try to rescue them, and then they were dishonest about who was attacking and why, to cover up that utter lack of preparation. No one has ever been held accountable.

The IRS has unfolded similarly. The evidence is clear that the IRS did target groups in direct violation of the law. The administration's initial story of a "rogue office" have turned out not to be true, and there is now evidence that they received their orders, and possibly their targets, from someone in the White House. Additionally, the person appointed to investigate the matter is a political donor to the administration, a major conflict of interest.

The entire issue of Fast and Furious is that, as you say, there is malfeasance, but the administration has, again, never held anyone accountable, or admitted any wrongdoing. Americans are dead due to actions by Justice, but we have no assurance that it won't happen again, because we don't know who is responsible in the first place.

These stories remain in the news because there are unanswered questions. They are all national issues, unlike the "Bridgegate" traffic jam, and two of them involve dead Americans as a direct result of government action (or inaction). And yes, if you knowingly omit some of the key information, then, yes, the stories lack something.

Mr. Waldman, will you please pass around whatever drugs you are using? Perhaps if I were high as a kite the world would look like unicorns and rainbows to me too.

This is insulting. In Benghazi, the administration lied and misled the American public about the nature of the attacks for weeks, and then lied about that, and then got Candy Crowley to lie about it in the Presidential debate.

In the NRLB the president made unconstitutional appointment he knows the SCOTUS will rule unconsitutional, but give unions elevated negotiating power while the court take years to undo the Unconstitutional corruption.

Obamacare was sold on a mountain of lies, which, by definition is curruption.

The IRS has a "few" "poorly trained" blah blah blah. And we know this because an Obama contributor has been hired to investigate, which is corrupt.

Your embrace of corruption sickens me.

Wow this is an absurd piece of revisionist history.

You will want to send this piece down the memory hole once the facts eventually come out...and they will.

DNC talking points or journalism? you decide.

One more whitewash for Obama. A whitewash that ignores the failed leadership that goes off to a fundraiser while an embassy is being attacked. The most (almost) criminal accomplishment of dividing the nation and making those who were apathetic to race, now focus on it. The biggest scandal is that if all of the holy journalists had done their job and reported what was happening in the months before the 2012 elections, Obama would not now be president. But that's ok, you can still keep your insurance.

Good article. Seems like to paid right-wing Kock-suckers have been sent out. Hope they're paid well. What would be worse is if these fascists actually believed they sh%# they're spewing.

My advice to them: Take the Ronald Raygun or Rush Limbaugh posters down from your bedroom wall, fold it into sharp corners, and shove it up your azz.

Ah, the well reasoned response. Love it. Deflect and attack, don't actually respond to any of the points being made. It's easy to do! Watch:

tslynch27 needs to get rid of his Barbara Boxer Blow Up Doll and join us in the real world!


I hope he got his George Soros check along with his food stamps and disability benefits (which he showed his ID for, but showing ID is RACIST when voting).


Yer a doosh.

Any of those will work. It takes the place of actual thought, which is obviously not going to happen in the head of tslynch any time politics are discussed...

You missed one key component to scandals. THE key component. You need a press that is willing to go after the scandal and DIG. Step back for a moment and compare the venemous non-stop coverage of "Bridgegate" to the ho-hum, apologetic coverage of Obama's scandals and you'll understand what I mean.

and with solyndra and others, the writer claims no scandal, but strange how the political contributors got their money out, and made money while the little people suffered.

Funny how the writer ignores the warnings that were happening and ignored.
The Obama administration ignored warnings from its own analysts to cut its losses on a $535 million loan to Solyndra, and instead restructured the deal, leading to bigger costs to taxpayers when the solar panel maker went bankrupt, Republican investigators said on Thursday.

In its final report on its 18-month probe into the failed loan, the Republican-led House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee said the Democratic administration rushed into the deal, then helped keep the company going despite a series of red flags and explicit warnings.

and the same could be said for other companies that had the same problems

Abound Solar – The solar manufacturer received a $400 million DOE stimulus loan guarantee - BANKRUPT
Solyndra – The solar manufacturer received a $535 million DOE stimulus loan guarantee -BANKRUPT
Beacon Power – The solar company received a $43 million DOE stimulus loan guarantee –BANKRUPT
Nevada Geothermal Power – Internal audit for the firm that received a $98.5 million stimulus loan guarantee revealed $98 million in net losses and significant debt. MAJOR LOSSES & DEBT
Ener1 – The battery maker, #67 on the White House list of 100 Projects that are Changing America, received a $118.5 million stimulus grant - BANKRUPT
A123 – The battery maker received a $249 million DOE stimulus grant - LAYOFFS
Fisker Automotive – The electric vehicle manufacturer received a $529 million DOE ATVM stimulus loan - LAYOFFS


The Amonix solar manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas, subsidized by federal tax credits and grants, has closed its 214,000-square-foot facility about a year after it opened.
Officials at Amonix headquarters in Seal Beach, Calif., have not responded to repeated calls for comment this week. The company began selling surplus equipment, from automated tooling systems to robotic welding cells, in an online auction Wednesday.

Guess the writer is trying to pass the party line along, ignoring history, and following the plan of Moochelle to rewrite history

What's scandalous is the hypocrisy of liberal media - e.g. this opinion piece.

The white-washiest of white washes. I realize that, as the Prospect, it is your job to defend and deflect anyone with a (D) after their name. I get it. But this is just insulting. You are better off focusing on how bad closing lanes on a bridge is than trying to compare that with putting semi-automatic weapons into the hands of the Mexican drug lords or trying to say that using political power to punish people is only OK if you are a Democrat. Chris Christie is the leader, so he had to know his staff was using their political power to punish a political opponent, but that has absolutely no resemblance at all to President Obama's staff using their political power to punish political opponents, because President Obama didn't know about it.

There is a very real reason why the President's approval rating is in the 30's: We the People are now inured to the media covering for him. To be honest, I would have been disappointed if this article hadn't been written. As it is, it can be used as the shining example of how Liberal Media covers the Liberal politicians. It is bovine scatology of the highest order. I just wish some more thought had been put into it. This is transparently biased and all obviously fabricated. Couldn't you do a somewhat better job of carrying water?

Oh, one other thing:

Saying that the coverage of the IRS scandal has fallen off because it happened 8 months ago makes sense. So why does the liberal media keep bringing up Bush, which stopped being relevant 5 YEARS ago? Hmmmmm....

So Paul, I see you're still drinking the cool aide. There is no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama suffers from a gross lack of managerial and leadership skills complicated by the complete absence of a soul. How any human being can send women and men into harms way and remain ambivalent about it is beyond my ability to comprehend. You can cavalierly split hairs smugly assured of how right you are, but make no mistake, Obama's gross incompetence as a leader has lead to the death and injury of thousands.

Simple line for line refute of the only things the gop baggers have been able to scream about...Utter fails on everyone!

Mr. Waldman is, if nothing else, quite prolific. But like that odious matter that regularly emanates from the south end of a northbound cow, it is quickly very easy to get way too much of what falls out.
Mr. Waldman may actually believe what he has penned in this pseudo article, but more likely he is just the willing shill of the Obama Administration. Again.
No scandals? Riiiiiiggggght! And there was no fire at the Hindenburg and no hole in the Titantic.
But what we do know, is that -- with the exception of the location of Jimmy Hoffa's body -- the truth always comes out. And time will not be kind to this Administration or this President on Benghazi. His current rankings in the polls are likely the high water mark for his next three years. No, he won't hit the low number that George W. Bush did, but that is only because Democrats are largely incapable of being honest about one of their own being a crook, charlatan, imbecile or thief (i.e., Representatives Dan Rostenkowski and William J. Jefferson). It just doesn't seem to matter to them if a person has integrity or character. They just want to know whether they voted with Pelosi or Reid most of the time. That is the sole determiner of a person's desirability or lack thereof.

The right wing machine is working overtime today. Word got out about a piece unapproved by Rush the Clown or Faux News or CraziMax . And they can't believe it. And they're here in numbers
After months of indoctrination, I know, it's hard.
Meanwhile in the sane word, we accept facts (not partisan attacks), context (not one-sided reviews that ignore history or the complete story) and scope (a clerk spills coffee, it's not likely to be the President's fault).

What a worthless hack. I don't know how you liberal progressives live with yourselves. I picture you putting a 45 in your mouths and pulling the trigger. There is not enough psychiatric medicine in the world for you people. Not one scandal. Are you f**king kidding me? I only hope that when the time comes, you get what is coming to you in the end.

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