The White House under Obama has avoided big scandals, despite GOP claims to the contrary. Jonathan Alter writes in his new column, “The Obama Miracle: A White House Free Of Scandal”:
President Barack Obama goes into 2012 with a weak economy that may doom his reelection. But he has one asset that hasn’t received much attention: He’s honest.
The sight of Texas Governor Rick Perry tumbling out of the clown car recently as a “birther” (or at least a birther-enabler) is a sign of weakness, not just for the Perry campaign but for the whole Republican effort to tarnish the president’s character.
Although it’s possible that the Solyndra LLC story will become a classic feeding frenzy, don’t bet on it. Providing $535 million in loan guarantees to a solar-panel maker that goes bankrupt was dumb, but so far not criminal or even unethical on the part of the administration. These kinds of stories are unlikely to derail Obama in 2012. If he loses, it will be because of the economy — period.
Even so, the president’s Teflon is intriguing. How did we end up in such a scandal-less state? After investigating the question for a recent Washington Monthly article, I’ve been developing some theories.
For starters, the tone is always set at the top. Obama puts a premium on personal integrity, and with a few exceptions (Tim Geithner’s tax problems in 2009) his administration tends to fire first and ask questions later. The best known example is Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official who was mistakenly fired by her boss over a miscommunication that led higher-ups to believe — wrongly — that she had made inappropriate racially tinged remarks. In several other cases, the decision to give staffers accused of wrongdoing the boot was made within hours, taking the air out of any possible uproar.