In his final few days in office, President Obama and his pals have been frantically spinning his tenure in the White House as a “scandal-free” eight years.
Just watch this exchange between CNN’s Jake Tapper and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough on Sunday in which McDonough claims the Obama administration has been free of scandal.
— CNN (@CNN) January 15, 2017
McDonough’s rhetoric echoes that of President Obama, who said last week he was the first president in modern history that “hasn’t had a major scandal in the White House.” You can also watch this video montage of Obama and friends repeatedly insisting his tenure was “scandal free.”
So. Much. Spin. It’s almost as if Obama realizes that his legacy — which is comprised largely of executive orders that can easily be undone under a new president — is toast. To suggest an enduring legacy his team wants folks to fixate on his “scandal-free” administration because President-elect Donald Trump has said he plans to tear up the Iran nuclear deal and will work with Congress to repeal Obama’s signature health care law, effectively erasing two of Obama’s largest “accomplishments.”
To his credit, Obama wasn’t caught having an extramarital affair with a White House intern, but that doesn’t mean he or his administration were free of scandal. The helpful folks over at Grabien have compiled a list of the Obama administration’s worst scandals and gaffes. So far there are 730 of them, but for the sake of space and time, I’m going to highlight five of the worst.
1. Fast and Furious
Remember “Fast and Furious,” the Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Tobacco’s illicit gun-running operation that used tax dollars to funnel guns into the hands of Mexican drug lords? The ATF was reportedly using the operation as part of a campaign to push for additional gun control measures. This operation eventually led to the deaths of at least two American border patrol agents and the whistleblower who spilled the beans was later fired by the ATF, a move he says was politically motivated and part of an effort to punish him for going public. To this day, more than 1,000 guns remain missing as a result of this scandal.
This shouldn’t need to be said: restricting Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms is not what the president, or his employees, should be doing. That two Americans were killed in such a constitutionally questionable operation makes it all the worse.
In 2011, Obama’s State Department left four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, to be killed by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya. In the weeks leading up to the attack, other countries withdrew their diplomatic presence from the region, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton forced Americans to stay in a compound that did not have adequate security measures. She also ignored multiple requests for additional security from Stevens in the final moments of his life while he and his companions were in the midst of a deadly terror attack.
Afterwards, the Obama administration tried to cover up the true nature of the attack as part of backlash against an inflammatory video published online. In reality, Clinton knew the danger these men were in and simply didn’t care. When they begged and pleaded for help, Obama’s State Department essentially shrugged and said “figure it out for yourselves.”
3. That Time Obama Pretended a Massive Oil Spill Wasn’t Happening
On April 23, 2010, the same day the U.S. Coast Guard pronounced 11 Deepwater workers dead, Barack and Michelle Obama headed to North Carolina for BBQ and a vacation. Obama didn’t visit the gulf area until May 2, several days after Gov. Bobby Jindal declared the region to be in a state of emergency. When he does finally visit, he leaves soon after to play golf.
This isn’t the only time Obama chose to have fun instead of visiting the site of a tragedy. He took two weeks to visit San Bernardino after terrorists killed 14 people. When he finally did visit the site of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil at that time, he only did so during a pit stop en route to his family’s annual vacation to Hawaii.
From the skyrocketing premiums to extremely long wait times in emergency rooms, Obama’s signature health-care law has been plagued with scandal after scandal. The rollout of Healthcare.gov was a huge disaster. The website, which was supposed to be a quick and easy way for Americans to shop and compare prices for insurance plans in the exchange marketplace, was a glitchy heap of garbage. As it turns out, one of the executives at CGI Federal, the company that received a no-bid contract to build the site, was a classmate of Michelle Obama — spurring many to suspect that cronyism and special interests plagued the project from start to finish.
Despite assurances from the president that “if you like your health care plan you can keep it,” millions of Americans lost their health insurance plans because Obamacare essentially outlawed them. Obama’s Health and Human Services then used the law to bully nuns and a Christian-owned businesses for refusing to provide contraceptives to their employees on the grounds that it violated their conscience.
5. When Obama’s Tax Collectors Targeted Conservative Groups and Got Away With It
Under Obama, the IRS targeted conservative groups by flagging tax-exempt applications from organizations with conservative-sounding names to require additional screening. When individuals complained about how the IRS was intentionally ignoring applications from some groups, they were intimidated by the agency to keep their mouths shut.
The IRS’s treatment impeded many conservatives groups from getting off the ground, which may have had a major political impact: a 2013 study by the American Enterprise Institute concluded that the IRS’s actions may have swung the 2012 election. Yet at the height of the scandal, the federal agency decided to hand out more than $70 million in bonuses to the same paper-pushers who bullied conservative organizations.
In 2015, the Department of Justice announced that after a two-year-long investigation into the matter, they would do nothing about about it and that Lois Lerner, the woman allegedly responsible for the entire ordeal, was off the hook. Meanwhile the same Justice Department announced it would go after the undercover reporters who exposed Planned Parenthood’s organ harvesting scheme, yet would not look into whether or not the nation’s largest abortion provider did anything wrong.
President Obama’s tenure has not been without scandal. To pretend otherwise is not just embarrassing, but gaslights the struggles of those who have suffered at the hands of his carelessness and intolerance. It tells the family members of the Benghazi victims that their deaths were no big deal. It also sends a message to conservatives and religious Americans alike that the way they were personally victimized by factions of his administration is acceptable. Obama’s misdeeds need to be acknowledged to hold his administration and legacy responsible.