A collection of scandals is threatening to cloud the nascent second term of US president Barack Obama. His administration faces allegations over the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeting the right-wing conservative Tea Party group, claims that authorities secretly obtained journalists’ telephone records, and allegations from Republicans who say Obama’s government was intentionally misleading in the way it handled the Benghazi embassy attack. All this could potentially derail Obama’s second term political agenda.
According to analysts, the IRS scandal – in which the tax agency is accused of targeting Tea Party organisations and other groups that were seeking tax-exempt status – couldn’t come at a worse moment for Obama; although the IRS is an independent agency, its controversial actions don’t do Obama any favours.
The IRS has apologised for its actions, described as “outrageous” by the president himself. Obama emphasised that an agency that enjoys independent status has to apply the laws in a non-partisan way.
But the IRS case is not the only one that is of concern to Obama: according to the Republicans, the government was intentionally misleading in the wake of the September 2012 attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. The accusation goes that the attack was manipulated for political reasons. The attack took place on the anniversary of 9/11, and towards the business end of the 2012 election campaign. Former US Vice President Dick Cheney claims the embassy was under-protected and that Obama and his team “covered up” what had happened. “If they’d told the truth about Benghazi, that it was a terrorist attack by an al Qaeda-affiliated group, it would have destroyed the false image of competence that was the basis of his campaign for re-election. The administration either had no forces ready to respond to an attack, which should have been anticipated on the anniversary of 9/11, or they refused to deploy them when our people asked for help,” Cheney said. The Republicans say that the gravity of the incident is comparable to the Watergate scandal, which caused the fall of Richard Nixon in the seventies.
If the investigation currently under way reveals incriminating data, Republican politicians can not only demand the impeachment of Obama, they can also ruin the chances of Hillary Clinton’s expected run for the presidency in 2016, as she was Secretary of State at the time. For many observers, stopping Clinton’s bid before it’s begun is the Republican objective.
And to top it all there’s a media scandal to add to the political and diplomatic ones: Associated Press claim that the US Justice Department seized journalists’ telephone records in 2012. The administration insists it sub-poenad the records in the public interest. It is widely believed, but not officially acknowledged, that the administration did so to gain intelligence on a source who leaked information about a terrorist attack in Yemen.
Not unsurprisingly, Associated Press is angry at what it sees as a violation of press freedom. AP’s president sent a letter to US Attorney General eric Holder that read: “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,”
All this can do much to disturb the political agenda of Obama’s Democrats. Analysts think that there is a huge chance that the scandals will negatively affect Democrat fortunes in midterm elections in 2014, when 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 seats of 100 in the Senate will be contested.