Three too many

Four months into his second term, Obama's agenda could be hobbled by three mushrooming scandals

A second-term scandal seems all too familiar. Previ-ous US administrations have become embroiled in scandal after re-election so often that political scientists call it the "second-term curse". Over the past week, it has become clear Barack Obama is not immune, and the administration that promised a new kind of politics finds itself being compared to Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. Three controversies have combined to create a perfect storm, with the White House trying to manage the political fallout as Obama attempts to rescue his legislative agenda from a newly emboldened Republican Party.

It began last Friday, with a revelation that brought the Republicans' long-running investigation into the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi — thus far a sideshow — to centrestage. A reporter said he had accessed the administration's emails in the aftermath of the attack, which purportedly emphasised the need for intervention on behalf of the state department, contrary to White House claims. Later that day, it was reported that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted the Tea Party and other conservative groups, without subjecting organisations on the left to the same scrutiny. With the White House already under fire, Monday's disclosure that the justice department had conducted a massive sweep of Associated Press's phone records has transformed a bad news cycle into the story of a presidency in crisis.

Separately, none of the stories would have caused much damage. Indeed, by Tuesday, the Benghazi story had begun to collapse. It could also be that the IRS's misdemeanour is more an agency scandal than an Obama one. There also appears to be little White House involvement in the AP brouhaha, and it is likely that without the impetus provided by

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