Spring in Washington has been chilly for everyone, but for no one more than President Obama — and there are few hints that more clement political weather will arrive soon at the White House.
During the first 100 days of his second term, Obama did not sign any major legislation. The failure last month of his efforts to tighten gun controls started his bad run. But the past week has been especially challenging.
New information about the attacks last year in Benghazi, Libya, the Internal Revenue Service’s acknowledgement that it targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups and the revelation that the Justice Department went after The Associated Press’s sources have caused the news media to look balefully at the Obama administration.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced it is investigating whether the IRS broke the law in its politically selective enforcement.
Republicans have also seized on the administration’s recent push for donations to nonprofit organizations that are helping implement ObamaCare.
Obama has pushed back hard on Benghazi, accusing Republicans of playing partisan, political games. He has distanced himself from the DOJ and IRS issues, asserting the White House was not involved in them.
Still, these scandals have taken place on his watch, and put the White House on the defensive. That takes time away from Obama’s agenda. In this divided Congress, no high-profile bill will get past Capitol Hill without an effective push by the president.
Just four months after his second inauguration, Obama faces a major challenge. Can he rebound, or will investigations hamper his legislative wish list into the summer and fall?
No one should underestimate Obama; he has gotten off the mat many times.
Republican Scott Brown in 2010 won the Senate seat vacated by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.). The pundits said Brown’s triumph signaled the death of healthcare reform. A couple of months later, Obama signed the bill into law.
In the 2010 elections, Republicans captured control of the House and cut into the Democrats’ majority in the Senate. Obama called the results “a shellacking.” Conventional wisdom claimed that Obama was the underdog in his reelection bid, but he ended up winning comfortably.
There were controversies in Obama’s first four years, including “Fast and Furious,” Solyndra and excessive spending by the General Services Administration.
But this year’s scandals could be more damaging, in part because they are easier to understand than a gun-running operation and a government loan guarantee.
The political winds moved over the last week. Whether that’s a short-lived shift or something bigger remains to be seen.