The mostly media driven scandal talk involving President Obama has so far stirred barely a yawn among the public. There are good reasons. The four alleged scandals, Benghazi, the IRS, the AP leaks, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius supposed shakedown of corporations to help implement the health care act don't come close to passing the smell test for a public fogging of the president. There is absolutely no clear-cut evidence or testimony that Obama had any knowledge of or hand in the missteps. And the comparison to Watergate, or Nixon, is a joke and an insult.
Nixon orchestrated the long train of Watergate criminal abuses. He and a slew of administration officials resigned, retired, or were indicted for their criminal conduct. The IRS alleged scandal is the one that does have the potential to generate some public outrage, mostly because of the inherent public fear and animosity toward the IRS. But the best or worst that can be said about this is that some IRS operatives dissected the Tea Party and other political groups because some do blatantly engage in political activities that IRS rules forbid after they get a tax exemption. These officials went too far with their over intrusive scrutiny of these groups. But this is a far cry from the blatant and direct misuse of the IRS by past presidents from Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson to Republican Nixon too whipsaw political groups they considered enemies.
Then there's the almost ritual expectation by the public that second term presidents will be dogged by some scandal. This was the case with Eisenhower, Nixon, of course, Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush. This shouldn't surprise. They've been in office a long time. They run a big sprawling government with thousands of appointees and personnel. This is simply beyond the pale of one person to control every facet and decision their appointees and personnel make.
These are mere trifles though, when stacked up against the major reason that the media's sensationalized missteps of the Obama administration have barely registered a blip on the public chart. The reason is the GOP. It has stepped up its very publicly avowed bitter, protracted and divisive war to stymie Obama's second term presidency. It has virtually declared a boycott of his judicial nominees. GOP senators have subjected his top cabinet picks to a free-wheeling public attack, smear, and vilification campaign. GOP House Republicans have voted 37 times to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. Both House and Senate Republicans have made it equally clear they will not even consider trying to do a deal with Obama on fiscal and debt reduction measures.
The GOP has made no secret that it will continue to use its two formidable weapons to further hammer Obama. One is its power to say no in Congress. The hoped for payoff for the GOP is that forcing Obama into a prolonged war with it will result in the White House getting little or none of its legislative agenda through Congress and this will sour public opinion on the White House. This has been the bane of other presidents during their second term and has marred their legacy.
Then there's the power of money. Since many well-heeled GOP corporate bankrolled candidates went down to defeat in the presidential election, some saw this as a grand rejection of the corporate, banking and wealthy ultra-conservative bankrollers ability to buy their way into office with their handpicked conservative candidates. This is a wrong read. Money will continue to be a potent weapon at the GOP's disposal. The astronomical cost of winning an office virtually assures that. The difference is that in future elections the GOP will be more selective and prudent about the conservatives that its campaign financiers bankroll.
The GOP's greatest weapon is the frozen political divide in the country. Nearly 50 percent of the nation's voters not only did not support Obama, but expressed total contempt for his policies and his administration. The GOP banks that it can swivel this divisiveness into sustained opposition to those policies, and that it can buy enough time with that until the 2014 midterm elections and further boost its numbers in the House and especially the Senate. This is where the real and manufactured Obama scandals fit in. By blitzing the White House and the media with a score of hearings on alleged Obama administration scandals, the GOP hopes to stir up enough dirt, public doubt, and dissension to further cripple Obama and, in a dream case, cripple Hillary Clinton or any other Democratic presidential contender for 2016. So far, the ploy hasn't worked. The alleged Obama scandals have not ignited public outrage. But this in no way sates the GOP's thirst to pull out all stops to try and make sure they do.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new ebook is How the NRA Terrorizes Congress--The NRA's Subversion of the Gun Control Debate (Amazon). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.