Friday, May 27, 2011

Obama scandal starting in 3... 2...

Brendan Nyhan has a really interesting piece up on the rather remarkable lack of scandals emerging from the Obama administration. Really, you have all the pieces in place -- an opposition party that despises the president and has subpoena power, a polarized political environment, a media system predisposed toward scandal coverage, etc. Where are the scandals?

Brendan suggests that Obama has been blessed, in a way, by a series of substantive events that have eaten up much of the available media time:
Just as slow news periods seem to encourage scandal coverage, my research shows that pressure from competing stories diverts attention and media resources that could have been devoted to negative coverage of the administration, reducing both the likelihood of presidential scandal and the volume of coverage those scandals receive. In Obama’s case, it is clear that external events have consumed much of the news agenda over the last eighteen months, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Arab Spring revolts, the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the killing of Osama bin Laden. The saturation coverage that these stories received left little room for scandal, particularly given the volume of debate over the merits of the president’s legislative agenda and his confrontation with the new Republican majority in the House.
I suppose one can quibble about the definition of scandal. The birther controversy, for example, was held as important by a nontrivial portion of the Republican Party, although it hardly derailed the administration and didn't really result in hearings or trials. But we really haven't seen anything like a Watergate, an Iran-Contra scandal, or even a Whitewater (which was based on only slightly more substance than the birther affair). At this point in Clinton's presidency, Dan Burton was already conducting simulations of Vince Foster's death using a handgun and a pumpkin in his backyard. Are these guys even trying today?

Brendan estimates that the likelihood of an Obama scandal will increase substantially over the next year. And so we wait.


Anonymous said...

I don't really consider it a scandal, and it would depend on your definition, but I think the rumblings we are starting to hear about his failing to comply with the War Powers Act with respect to Libya may qualify....I can see the Right asking why it is that he hasn't been called on this by the media. And I've heard discussions about hearings.

Marc said...

Champ Biden's a mole for Carla Bruni, who is actually working for the Chinese.

Anonymous said...

Might everything that went down with Acorn qualify as a scandal, at least in the same way that the Birther thing qualifies?

Of course, with those qualifications, you end up with the same limit case: Scandal is in the eye of the beholder.