Second term presidents never have an easy time. Reagan had the Iran-Contra scandal, Clinton had Monica Lewinsky, George W. Bush had the slog of Iraq and the economic collapse and now Barack Obama has Benghazi, the IRS and the snooping on the Associated Press by the Justice Department. All of these presidents survived the curse of the second term, but I think it is fair to say that being in the White House those last four years was no fun and added wrinkles and gray hair.
President Obama and his staff are scrambling to respond to legitimate questions about administrative incompetence, paranoia, and outright illegality. The Republicans in Congress, Fox News and the conservative right are correctly having a field day as they tell their followers that Barack Obama is showing his true colors and that the government is indeed really dangerous.
Individually these scandals do not add up to what some hope will end in the House Judiciary Committee writing a bill of particulars for an impeachment of # 44. But the more we hear about the failures of Benghazi, the more it appears that there is less there than the Republicans had hoped. Sure, there was gross incompetence, tragic response delays, bureaucratic infighting, and some political word play that was unnecessary. But a cover-up is a stretch.
The IRS going after the Tea Party was just plain stupid and the work of a gang of operatives anxious to go after a thorn in the President’s side. But it is important to point out that tax lawyers and tax professors readily admit that the federal tax code, in particular the section 501(c)-4 that governs groups like the various Tea Party affiliates is vague enough that some agents might want to chalk up administrative points by targeting these groups. Nevertheless, the IRS was setting itself up for a huge fall and should have been paying more attention to recouping the illegal portion of the $ 20 trillion in offshore accounts rather than the giving the Tea Party a hard time.
Finally, the Justice Department going after the Associated Press and its phone logs to spy on their contacts is perhaps the most serious act contributing to the second term Obama curse. The official justification is that there was concern over a national security issue involving a potential terrorist attack in Yemen, but there is enough contradictory evidence that this was all about stopping leaks and going after the “leakers”. Again a stupid move and likely illegal.
Since most Americans are not 24/7 cable watchers and the economy is looking brighter, these curses can be handled with some outright firings and a forthright president who doesn’t stonewall or mumble through a news conference. But as with past presidents, the second term is supposed to be about finishing up unfinished business and developing a positive legacy. But what usually happens is that second or third tier administrators gum up the works and tarnish the president and the presidency. But as President Harry Truman said, ” The Buck Stops Here”, meaning Barack Obama has some answering to do.