Katrina, Watergate And More: Five Exaggerated Obama ‘Disasters’

The front page of Friday’s New York Times offered a hyperbolic question: Is the Healthcare.gov rollout President Obama’s Katrina?

Here’s the exact language from the piece: “The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.”

But before we jump the gun and write off Obama as a lame duck whose incompetence doomed his second term, let’s remember we’ve heard these comparisons before (although they have been more likely to appear on The Drudge Report rather than the New York Times). Whenever the president faces a difficult political situation, pundits rush to compare it to disasters from past presidencies. Here’s a look back at five of the comparisons that have not panned out:

Benghazi Was Obama’s Watergate+Iran-Contra


An independent Accountability Review Board concluded that no individual officials should face disciplinary action for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012. According to the board, the attack was caused by “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department…that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”

Nevertheless, Republicans like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) still believe Benghazi measures up to some of the worst political scandals in recent history. King said about Benghazi: “If you add Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it by maybe 10 or so you’re going to get in the zone of what Benghazi is.”

AFP Photo

The IRS Scandal Was Also Obama’s Watergate

Above is an ad from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) re-election campaign that likens the Obama administration to the Nixon administration. According to Republicans like McConnell, Obama’s federal government has greatly overreached into the lives of average U.S. citizens.

“Of all the scandals, of all issues, this thing touches everyone’s life. Nobody likes the IRS,” said GOP strategist Scott Jennings, a former advisor to Mitch McConnell. “It will have staying power, and it will be used—and it should be—in political campaigns.”

The Bank Bailout Was Also Obama’s Katrina

Bank of America

Ironically, the New York Times has already compared one of Obama’s policies to a “Katrina moment. ”

“It would be foolish to dismiss as hyperbole the stark warning delivered by Paulette Altmaier of Cupertino, Calif., in a letter to the editor published by the Times last week: ‘President Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived,” wrote Frank Rich in March 2009.

AFP Photo/Frederic J. Brown

Fast And Furious Was Worse Than Watergate 

Eric Holder

“This is larger than Watergate because nobody died in Watergate,” Arizona sheriff Paul Babeu said of the gun-running non-scandal. He added that Attorney General Eric Holder “should be fired, and if he’s not fired on his own, he should have the honor for his own office and service to resign.”

Photo: ryanjreilly via Flickr

NSA Spying Is Obama’s Vietnam

Will Obama’s handling of the war on terror be his Vietnam?

The folks at The Economist certainly believe so:

“For the president the war on terror is what the Vietnam War was to Lyndon Johnson: a vast, tragic distraction in which he must be seen to be winning, lest the domestic agenda he really cares about (health care, financial reform, climate-change mitigation, immigration reform, gun control, inequality) be derailed. It’s no surprise that he has given the surveillance state whatever it says it needs to prevent a major terrorist attack.”

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