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Will Obama Scandals Turn Tide Against Government?

By on May 20, 2013 | 6 comments

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In the wake of the explosion of scandals popping up around the Obama administration, Democrats have been devising ways to get ahead of the new information about the IRS, the AP, and Benghazi leaking out every day.

Longevity may be what gives rise to “the second-term scandal plague.” This is the cause political scientist Brendan Nyhan cited when he asserted back in May 2011 that mathematical odds demonstrated that the Obama administration was due for a scandal. The longer an administration is in place, the likelihood of unearthing misconduct increases. And the magnitude and timing of these scandals have been nothing short of a grenade. White House officials have been on the defense against whispers of a rebellion in the media. And if those whispers do bubble over and the president is completely buried, any administration might as well “abandon all hope, ye who enter here” for the foreseeable future.

Consider the following.

From Chris “Thrill Up My Leg” Matthews:

“What part of the presidency does Obama like? He doesn’t like dealing with other politicians — that means his own cabinet, that means members of the Congress, either party. He doesn’t particularly like the press. What part does he like?” Matthews said.


“He likes going on the road, campaigning, visiting businesses like he does every couple days somewhere in Ohio or somewhere. [But] what part does he like? He doesn’t like lobbying for the bills he cares about. … He doesn’t seem to like being an executive.”

From the UK’s most famous phone hacker and concern troll Piers Morgan:

“I’ve had some of the pro-gun lobbyists on here, saying to me, ‘Well, the reason we need to be armed is because of tyranny from our own government,’ and I’ve always laughed at them,” Morgan said last night.“But, actually, this is vaguely tyrannical behavior by the American government.”

From MSNBC talking head Rachel Maddow:

But the “bigger question” at hand according to Maddow is “why are they all quitting?” She reported that with 25 senators voluntarily leaving office since 2009, “this appears to be the fastest pace of U.S. senators quitting that job in modern American history.”




“Tell us if something is wrong there,” Maddow pleaded. “What is the secret about this place that has you fleeing like rats from a sinking ship?”

From NBC’s Lisa Meyers on Morning Joe:

“[T]here is such a focus on keeping the storyline and the narrative the way the administration wants it and sometimes these efforts can become excessive. And it may be that what we’re seeing from the Justice Department is really the embodiment of that mentality.”

From MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, also on Morning Joe:

President Obama knows he’s in trouble when Andrea Mitchell—Andrea Mitchell!—proclaims the IRS and AP scandals to be among “the most outrageous excesses I’ve seen” in all her years in journalism [which pre-date Watergate].  The strength of Mitchell’s statement drew gasps from Scarborough and Brzezinski.

Despite a recent CNN poll showing that the scandals haven’t heavily affected President Obama’s approval rating, the administration has tried hard to push back on these scandals but the questions persist.

Naturally, there are some people holding fast to defending the administration against the tide of the media at large. But when you have the Daily Beast publishing columns titled “Is Obama Worse for Press Freedom Than Nixon” it’s not easy for even for the most ardent Obamabots to ignore the grenade.

Even Benghazi – an issue that liberal outlets have dismissed consistently – has become a buzzword. Anthony Bourdain talks about it in this episode of Parts Unknown that I have on in the background as I write this piece. H2 talked about it in their most recent episode of America’s Book of Secrets, citing Petraeus’s side chick’s claim that Benghazi houses a secret CIA prison.

The real sticking point for the media at large has been the AP phone records seizure and the IRS targeting of conservative groups. These two issues belie serious questions about the stability of both freedom of the press and freedom of speech (and association). Even liberal stronghold the Huffington Post hosted a piece by Jon Ward tearing apart the IRS’ attempts to claim that no discrimination purposely occurred on a larger scale. In another passage from this series of unfortunate events, the Associated Press’s CEO asserted that the Department of Justice’s seizure of phone records was “unconstitutional,” suggesting that it directly undermined freedom of the press.

Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic utilized these most recent revelations to make an even stronger point: there is more than enough evidence to prove that the Obama administration has transgressed the law and threatened the freedoms & liberties of American citizens on multiple occasions.

Now, potential threats to First Amendment rights stir responses from Americans of all political stripes and may not lose potency as it falls within the scope of possibility. When threats to the First Amendment come from your own government rather than as telegraph messages from North Korea’s most powerful communications system, it’s something immediate. These are the things that have the potential to stick around for some time.

Setting aside questions about the validity of the consent of so few of those governed, each and every American citizen is guaranteed these freedoms and liberties whether they participate in the selection of their government or not.

As the efforts to erode our freedoms and liberties continues, will these highly publicized acts of gross misconduct be a catalyst for more Americans to recognize the disintegration? Will the media truly raise its eyebrows and finally be a vehicle for this information?

What do you think?

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Skyler Mann is a founding member and Managing Editor at Pocket Full of Liberty. She has her BA in philosophy and works in the insurance industry, moonlighting as a political pundit. She is a self-described small-l libertarian and an advocate for pragmatism -- one's political principles do not always align with what is feasible. She's a red fish in a blue sea, residing in Wilton, CT with her son and Mr, and has a Don't Tread On Me bumper sticker on her car. Follow her on Twitter: @sevenlayercake


  1. Adam Shields

    May 20, 2013

    Post a Reply

    I think it has very little to do with the media. Yes the media is important in publicizing information about government. But as much as people like to complain about government they do not like the alternatives (smaller or no government.)

    If you can’t even get a majority of Republicans to agree to cuts to Medicare or Medicaid then you will not get smaller government.

    So you may get greater frustration with government (as we have been getting over the last decade or so), but you do not actually get smaller government because the modern economy requires a larger government.

  2. stephandstuff

    May 20, 2013

    Post a Reply

    I think Adam is mostly correct, but the media is a huge factor. The media has been in hot water recently, with the Boston marathon coverage and mishaps in which CNN lost a great deal of credibility, and recently the email fiasco with Jon Karl and abc news. People are growing skeptical of the media as much as they are growing skeptical of the government. I think it should be a goal of right-wingers to keep passion alive and not let this skepticism turn to mere disgust and apathy.

  3. OfficChick

    May 20, 2013

    Post a Reply

    Well, with breaking news of DOJ targeting Fox’s James Rosen, and reports that Obama met w/ IRS union head day before the targeting began, perhaps more citizens will come to the conclusion government is taking our freedoms and it must be beat back. A tipping point, let’s hope. But, I’m not optimistic.

  4. Dave Rice (@bfmva7xsp)

    May 20, 2013

    Post a Reply

    The cynic in me suspects the media has started to focus more on the infringements of liberty once it was clear that they were not beyond the reach of Dear Leader’s police state.

    I do think the MSM can play a huge role in turning the swing voters away from Obama. But it’s less clear if it would turn things against the Democrats as a whole. As Adam notes, people do seem somewhere between accepting and resigned to the expanded role of government.

    A limit to the influence the media can have though is how do we get information to voters. We see plenty of reference to “low information voters”, but it gets more shocking to me every day how little people know about these scandals, or the positions of our representatives in general. If the conversations I had with my own family this weekend are any indication (and they have little choice about listening to my occasional rants), the general public has no clue what’s happening. People just don’t watch the news any more. Newspaper readership is down substantially. Honestly, it’s a wonder anybody shows up on election day at all. And that makes GOTV improvement so critical to future GOP fortunes.

  5. Lawful Plunder

    May 20, 2013

    Post a Reply

    It’s just hard to move the needle because the public is already so cynical when it comes to govt. They EXPECT that the IRS behaves this way, so they aren’t particularly shocked when stories like this come out.

    2 other factors mitigate against anything substantive coming out of these scandals. The public has a very short attention span (look at how quickly the shock/outrage over Newtown died down) and they tend to view things in partisan terms. If they see this as an attempt to gang up on Obama/Dems, voters will just retreat to their familiar corners.

    And if we view the Watergate scandal as a template, there may be some reforms that come out of this, but a substantive re-thinking of the size/scope of govt? No way.

    I agree….The fact that the press is involved does make this a bit of a wild card. They’ve largely been allies of the Obama Administration up until this point. If that changes, his popularity will suffer, although as you say, there’s scant evidence of that so far.

    But to the extent these scandals stymie the Administration, what does it matter? As evidenced by the campaign, there never was a 2nd term agenda. Immigration reform?….The prospects might suffer, but probably not.

    Bottom line…the public has become inured to the size/scope/corruption of big govt and the increasing assaults on the right to privacy/other civil liberties. Hard to imagine these scandals changing that, much as I wish they would.

  6. Mike

    May 20, 2013

    Post a Reply

    Well, I hope they’re not just paying lip-service to the scandals because they can’t avoid them any more…but we’ll see. I am in total agreement that the target here should be “big government,” with a particular focus reigning it in. Less government, more accountability, more liberty. Win-Win-Win.


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