The Obama administration has largely been heralded as the most scandal-free in modern history. But now, right in the middle of an election year, President Obama is being saddled with a string of embarrassing — and potentially damaging — incidents. Most recently, The Los Angeles Times released photos of U.S. soldiers posing with the corpses of Afghan insurgents. While the revelation was deeply troubling, that scandal has mostly reflected poorly on the military. Obama hasn't been so lucky, though, with respect to the still-unfolding Secret Service prostitution scandal that blew up in Colombia as the president headed there for the Summit of the Americas on April 14. Will the storm of bad publicity hurt Obama? Here, five scandals that could hurt the president's chances for a second term:
1. The Secret Service prostitution mess...
"One Secret Service scandal in Colombia, by itself, will not undermine Obama's re-election chances," says Kyle Wingfield at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But if the list of "known scandals grows much broader or deeper or seedier, at some point some voters may conclude their government isn't being well-run. And that could only be bad news for an incumbent who promised competence in government, and who will be opposed by a managerial businessman-turned-politician in Mitt Romney."
2. ...Combined with the General Services Administration mess
So what makes the Colombia fiasco potentially harmful is that it comes as Americans are still digesting another bombshell, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post, "the lavish spending of the General Services Administration on a wild Las Vegas retreat." Romney is already "starting to ramp up his rhetoric on the subject," suggesting that he'd be more forceful in keeping his bureaucrats in line. "I'd clean house," the presumptive GOP nominee told conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.
3. Alleged sexual hijinks at the Baghdad embassy
A "State Department gadfly," foreign service officer Peter Van Buren, dropped another potentially embarrassing "bombshell" this week, says Michael Hastings at Buzzfeed. Van Buren — who's locked in a "protracted legal battle with Foggy Bottom over the publication of his memoir, We Meant Well" — suggested on his personal blog that another potential scandal is in the offing for the administration. "What if a video existed that showed a prominent State Department VIP on the roof of the Republican Palace in Baghdad receiving, um, pleasure of an oral nature from another State Department officer?"
4. The "Fast and Furious" gun-running fiasco
"Republicans can bring the campaign war to American's television sets," says Thomas Grier at The Daily Caller, by shining a spotlight on the "Fast and Furious" scandal at the Justice Department. The DOJ's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives came under fire in early 2011 for pushing gun shops to sell weapons to "straw" buyers who were funneling guns to Mexican drug gangs. The ATF's goal was to trace the weapons to the upper echelons of Mexico's deadly drug cartels, but the botched sting ended in the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent and the shootings of some 200 Mexican civilians. "Of all the myriad scandals of the Obama administration," this one is the worst, and "bloodiest," says David Limbaugh at News Busters.
5. The Solyndra boondoggle
Republicans have also "attempted to capitalize on the failure of Solyndra," says Felicity Carus at PV Tech. Congress is still investigating the case, that involved a $535 million Department of Energy loan to the now-defunct solar-panel manufacturer. Although Solyndra filed for bankruptcy last September with little to show for the huge investment, a recent survey suggests that the GOP's "attempt to use the Solyndra story to political advantage has failed to achieve the effect desired." Republicans who accuse Obama of reckless spending are ticked off about Solyndra, but the rest of the American public increasingly sees solar energy, which Obama was pushing with the Solyndra loan, as "a no-brainer."