Former President Barack Obama really does believe his own press.
The former commander in chief repeats in his new memoir, A Promised Land, the tired media-created myth that his administration was scandal-free — an absurd assertion that would be laughable if it was not so damnable.
“In a town where proximity and access to the president were taken as a measure of clout,” Obama writes of the early days of his first term, “it didn’t take long for some cabinet members to start feeling underutilized and underappreciated, relegated to the periphery of the action and subject to the whims of often younger, less experienced White House staffers.”
He adds [emphasis added]:
None of these issues were unique to my presidency, and it’s a credit to both my cabinet and my staff that they maintained their focus even as the work environment got tougher. With few exceptions, we avoided the open hostilities and constant leaks that had characterized some previous administrations. Without exception, we avoided scandal. I’d made clear at the start of my administration that I’d have zero tolerance for ethical lapses, and people who had a problem with that didn’t join us in the first place.
This false boast would be open to interpretation (maybe he did not mean what he said!) were it not for the fact that Obama brags again later in his book that his White House suffered basically no scandals.
“I was going to have to find a way to reconnect with the American people,” Obama writes of the Democratic Party’s struggle to come to terms with its massive losses in the 2010 midterm elections, when voters turned out in droves to repudiate the White House's agenda. “I needed to get out of the White House bubble, to engage more frequently with voters.”
The former president adds [emphasis added]:
Yes, we’d been hurt by the sausage-making around the [Affordable Care Act], and fairly or not, we’d been tarnished by the bank bailouts. On the other hand, I could point to scores of ‘good government’ initiatives we’d introduced, whether it was placing limits on the hiring of former lobbyists, or giving the public access to data from federal agencies, or scouring agency budgets to eliminate waste. All these actions were worthy on their merits, and I was glad we’d taken them; it was one of the reasons we hadn’t had a whiff of scandal around my administration.
For the record, the Obama administration is book-ended by scandals. It opened with a voter intimidation scandal and ended with a Russian election interference scandal.
In just the first four years of Obama’s two terms in office, there was a “gunwalking” scandal, a scandal involving the extrajudicial droning of a U.S. citizen, and the Solyndra and green energy boondoggle scandals. There was the “If you like your healthcare plan” lie. There were multiple unconstitutional presidential appointments, including Richard Cordrary to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
In Obama's first term, Inspectors General who uncovered abuses at AmeriCorps and Amtrak were fired. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman resigned in disgrace following allegations of abusive behavior toward female colleagues. There was the Secret Service's Colombian prostitution scandal. Treasury Department officials were likewise cited for soliciting prostitutes and accepting illegal gifts.
There was also the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and all the lies that went with it, including the White House's initial falsehood that the deadly assault was inspired by a YouTube video.
Lastly, as for Obama’s boast that his administration scoured “agency budgets to eliminate waste,” his administration quadrupled the budget in its first year.
And that is just the first four years of the Obama era! We haven’t even gotten to the part in Obama’s second term where the IRS admits to targeting conservative groups or the part where the Justice Department is caught spying on reporters. This is to say nothing of the part where Obama's intelligence chief gets away with perjury after lying to Congress about his agency’s secretive mass surveillance activities. Also, don't forget that Obama's secretary of Veterans Affairs resigned in disgrace after it was revealed that an estimated 307,000 veterans died awaiting medical attention. Obama's Office of Personnel Management was also hacked. Lastly, his secretary of state kept a homebrew server in her bathroom so as to avoid record-keeping laws and procedures.
Avoided scandal indeed.
Now, to be fair, Obama’s laughable boast comes in the context of the early days of his administration, right around the time of the 2010 midterm elections. But, again, his administration opened with a voter intimidation scandal.
A Promised Land is a two-part memoir. Obama’s publisher has released only the first installment in the series. So, there is still time for the former president to admit that his administration did indeed suffer some scandals in at least the second term.
But don't bet on it.