If you listen to Fox News and Republican congressmen, you’d think that the Obama administration is a cesspool of Chicago-style corruption.
And indeed the confluence of Benghazi, the IRS’s political profiling of Tea Party groups over their tax-exempt status, and the seizure of AP journalists’ phone records by the Justice Department has set the Beltway media’s hearts aflutter, even as they haven’t registered much with the American people.
But if you actually count the number of White House officials or Cabinet members accused or convicted of crimes, President Obama’s administration is the cleanest since Jimmy Carter’s. (On Tuesday IRS official Lois Lerner said she’d take the Fifth Amendment if she was compelled to testify before Congress, so we’ll see how that plays out).
For the unvarnished facts—no spin—just go to this Wikipedia entry, “List of federal political scandals in the United States.” It’s broken down nicely by executive, legislative, and judicial branches in each administration.
Thus far, Attorney General Eric Holder is the only top Obama White House aide or Cabinet member to be cited for contempt of Congress, in connection with the highly political “Fast and Furious” scandal. And no high executive branch officials have faced criminal charges.
Contrast that with two of the most scandal-ridden administrations –that of President George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. (We’ll write about Bill Clinton another day.)
Under President Bush, according to Wikipedia:
- Three appointees to White House or top administrative posts resigned after facing criminal charges.
- Several others, including special counsel Karl Rove, resigned following investigations of various improprieties.
- The president fired 11 U.S. attorneys he appointed because they were prosecuting more corrupt Republican than Democratic politicians. A dozen more top White House and Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, resigned rather than testify before Congress on the issue.
- I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame affair, but his sentence was commuted by the president.
- Seven officials of agencies and cabinet departments pled guilty or were convicted of criminal charges as part of super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s web of corruption.
But the Reagan Administration was even worse:
- Five officials of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and former Secretary of the Interior James Watt pleaded guilty or were convicted of taking bribes by contractors building low-income housing.
- Attorney General Edwin Meese and White House press secretary Lynn Nofziger were implicated in the Wedtech scandal, in which that company was convicted of bribery to procure Defense Department contracts.
- Deputy White House chief of staff Michael Deaver pleaded guilty to perjury related to lobbying activities.
And there were many more, most prominently the Iran-Contra affair, in which CIA director William Casey and NSC operative Lt. Col. Oliver North concocted a plan to sell missiles to Iran (which was behind the deadly 1983 attacks on the US Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut) and use the money to fund a guerilla war against the leftist Sandinistas in Nicaragua, in direct defiance of an amendment passed by Congress.
President Reagan first denied such a plan existed, then was forced to admit it.
Among the many top officials who resigned, pleaded guilty or were charged criminally for their involvement were North, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, National Security Adviser John Poindexter, and several CIA operatives. Almost the entire national security leadership faced criminal charges. President George H.W. Bush pardoned Weinberger, Abrams and McFarlane in late 1992.
Can anything that’s been alleged so far in the Obama administration remotely compare with this? That’s why the Beltway media needs to get off their Twitter feeds and read a history book—or just Wikipedia. Or just get a grip.