A president on his way out of town, like a dinner guest who frets the next morning that he talked too much and stayed too long, is obsessed with how he’ll be remembered. As the days dwindle down to a precious few, he spends his time bolstering his image and polishing what he imagines will be his “legacy.” He’s prone to inflating accomplishments and shading the truth about the disasters that occurred on his watch. President Obama is indulging himself only a little more than usual.
He boasts in an interview that his pride swells when he regards his eight years in the White House as “scandal free.” It’s true that no one was jailed for taking a bribe, but calling his administration “scandal free” is more than a stretch. All presidents live in a bubble, but Mr. Obama appears not to have subscribed to a newspaper, not even The Washington Post or The New York Times, over these past eight years. If he had, he could have read about scandals.
Scandal free? His secretary of State violated basic security directives, as well as the law, by setting up a private email server and selling access to the favors of her office. His attorney general was held in contempt of Congress for illegally withholding information and blocking an investigation of the Justice Department’s gun-running operation in Mexico, several attempts to ignore Congress and govern by executive orders were struck down by the federal courts as unconstitutional, as were appointments when Congress was out of town and unable to confirm or deny, and the Internal Revenue Service under his watch was caught singling out groups out of favor with the administration for “special treatment.” When the tax man cometh, he can be counted on to sting.
Those were scandals enough. But there was also the employment of well-connected outside vendors to construct the government’s Obamacare website, which never worked, at a cost not of millions but billions, and the funneling of government millions into failed crony enterprises like Solyndra that The Washington Post observed were “infused with politics at every level.”
Mr. Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder, was caught snooping into the telephone records of reporters for the Associated Press and targeting James Rosen, a reporter for Fox News. Mr. Holder authorized the attempt to “get” Mr. Rosen and then lied about it. The ghosts of old soldiers who died waiting for treatment at Veterans Hospitals might dispute Mr. Obama’s boast that his administration has been “scandal-free.” Such ghosts were not impressed when the VA declined to hire enough doctors and spent the money on press-relations hacks to say everything was OK.
“I will put the ethics of this administration and our track record in terms of just abiding by the rules and norms, and keeping trust with the American people — I will put this administration against any administration in history,” the president says. He has clearly been spending too much time on Planet Pluto. His legacy, over which he has no control, will show him otherwise when he reluctantly returns to Planet Earth.