By 2010 I knew something was wrong.
It was quiet. Too quiet. The silence was...eerie.
Affordable Health Care had finally passed, the Stimulus that saved us from the most wretched of Great Depressions was piping through the economy, the stock market was revving back, the unemployment rate had begun to drop, housing prices ended their freefall and started moving back up again. The War in Iraq was mercifully being brought to a close.
But still, something wasn't right. I would toss and turn at night, unable to sleep. Still, the source of this nagging feeling eluded me.
More years went by. Another election in 2012....2013....2014...
Then it hit me:
Where were the Scandals?
Oh yes, there was that blip over the website. Some IT group got canned for failing to anticipate the heavy traffic. In fact, that just happened last week. My office survived. Site works fine now, thanks for asking.
But getting back to the Administration--well, first a little history:
I started voting in 1980. I voted for Jimmy Carter because, among other things, I thought he was an honest man. After Nixon and Watergate he was just what the country needed. But even he had his share of problems. Who can forget those stories (never proved, mind you) about Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan snorting coke down at Studio 54? Whoa, that was a big deal back then! And Bert Lance, director of OMB resigning due to the BCCI scandal-- Huge stuff. And it all culminated in some wrecked helicopters in the desert, the residue of a well-intentioned but failed attempt to save some innocent American embassy employees taken prisoner by some fanatical Iranian guys. They ended up getting out, safe and alive thanks to Jimmy Carter's patience and perseverance but too late for him to be re-elected.
Yeah, it was awful. But then Ronald Reagan showed up, and it was "Morning In America' again.
It sure was. Americans got to see their government in a whole new light.
A complete accounting of the number of scandals, resignations, prosecutions and prison sentences resulting from Reagan's eight years in office is beyond my self-imposed three-day limit for writing these types of posts, but we can look at some highlights (for a more comprehensive accounting see the Wikipedia entry linked above, to which I owe the substance of this article).
We had the HUD Scandal. We had Deborah Gore Dean, Assistant to the Secretary of HUD, convicted on 12 counts of perjury and sentenced to 21 months in prison. We had Phillip Winn and Thomas Demery, both Secretarys of HUD, convicted of or pleading to bribery.
We had the Wedtech scandal involving bribery for defense contracts. We had the Savings and Loan Scandal involving 747 bank and financial failures, costing the taxpayers 160 billion dollars. We had Attorney General Ed Meese under seemingly constant investigation but not convicted. We had White House Press Secretary Lyn Nofziger who was convicted (later his conviction was overturned). We had James Watt, Secretary of the Interior, charged with 25 counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, sentenced to five years' probation.
We had the Iran-Contra Affair in which Reagan knowingly traded high tech weaponry to the Iranians in exchange for the release of hostages some pals of theirs had kidnapped, all to finance an illegal insurgency in Nicaragua. We had a nasty proxy war in El Salvador in which thousands were killed or tortured by people paid by the US government. We had a Secretary of Defense indicted and a National Security Advisor and an Assistant Secretary of Defense convicted. We had National Security Advisors, CIA Station Chiefs and Major Generals in the Air Force (Secord) indicted, convicted and pardoned. We had Michael Deaver, another Deputy Chief of Staff, convicted. We had the head of the EPA resign after scandal. We had the Assistant Secretary of the Navy sentenced to four years of prison without parole.
We had Oliver North, John Poindexter, Robert McFarlane. The list of people actually indicted, convicted or imprisoned under Reagan's aegis is staggering. It's hard to believe that many criminals could surface in a mere eight years.
But look, I recognize that going back to Reagan is like reading about the War of 1812 for some of us here. Suffice it to say that just about every day of the Reagan Administration involved some sort of scandal. And these were real scandals--involving prosecutions, convictions, jail time, stolen money, bribery, death squads and all kinds of nasty stuff. They were scandals that brought a whole new meaning to the term "Presidential Pardon." They were covered extensively by all the networks and news outlets and newspapers and ran on all the wire services, not just one. They involved real Courts and real Bailiffs and real Prison sentences.
Poppy Bush had fewer scandals in his Administration because he was too busy pardoning people from the Reagan Administration to do anything else in his mercifully short four years in office:
...George H. W. Bush (R) granted clemency to five convicted government officials and Caspar Weinberger, whose trial had not yet begun. This action prevented any further investigation into the matter.Pardoning criminals convicted of violating the public trust inherent to their office is, it seems to me, as heinous as committing a crime against the public itself. While the first Bush Administration was relatively scandal-free, it's easy to forget that he was Vice-President during the entire Reagan tenure. As such, George H.W. Bush was either stupendously clueless or thoroughly complicit in the actions of his boss, Ronald Reagan, under whom he served for the same eight years. He does not get a "pass."
Caspar Weinberger Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan
Robert C. McFarlane National Security Advisor to Ronald Reagan
Elliott Abrams Assistant Secretary of State to Ronald Reagan
Clair George CIA Chief of Covert Ops
Alan D. Fiers Chief of the CIA's Central American Task Force
Duane Clarridge CIA Operations Officer
Bush's Treasury Secretary pled guilty to tax evasion, earning the distinction of the only Treasury Secretary ever to be sent to prison. "Poppy's" role in the Iran-Contra scandal was also never fully explored. He implausibly claimed he was "out of the loop" but his own personal Diaries suggest he was thoroughly involved.
Bill Clinton? A lot of smoke but not much fire. Wikipedia lists a grand total of 2 real "scandals" for his Executive Branch. Ronald Blackley, Chief of Staff to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy was sentenced to 27 months for perjury. But this rightly falls on Clinton's shoulders, because a Chief Executive really, really must keep tabs on aides to his Secretary of Agriculture.
The rest is Monica, Monica, Monica. Which dealt the country a crushing blow, as evidenced by Clinton's approval ratings when he left office. And while William Safire may have wasted his last days at the New York Times hyperventilating about Whitewater, the public was about as unimpressed as they are about Benghazi.
In May 2006, a CNN poll comparing Clinton's job performance with that of his successor, George W. Bush, found that a strong majority of respondents said Clinton outperformed Bush in six different areas questioned. ABC News characterized public consensus on Clinton as, "You can't trust him, he's got weak morals and ethics – and he's done a heck of a good job."Even so, no one can ever think of Bill Clinton anymore without thinking about Monica. So yes, there was "scandal" during his tenure, even if it amounted to little more than consensual oral sex and a President trying to evade talking about it.
George W. Bush:
And that brings us to George W. Bush. It's not possible to completely assess all the scandals emanating from his rancid Administration, because they're ongoing. The full nature of he and Cheney's domestic surveillance programs, their methodology, data collected and stored, are still being revealed. Indeed, Wikipedia calls the implementation of the PRISM program his latest "Executive" Scandal, even though more comprehensive details of it did not emerge until recently. It can also be credibly argued that the entire War in Iraq was a "scandal" having been instigated knowingly under false pretenses. Blithely allowing an entire city to drown under the incompetent supervision of a political hack put in charge of FEMA would also qualify. Finally, the lethal mix of arrogance and incompetence that failed to anticipate and prevent the greatest terrorist attack in American history cannot and should not be exempt from the list.
But here are some of the more "conventional" scandals generated by Bush II, in no particular order: We had Carl Truscott, the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearams ATF under investigation for lavish spending and personal misuse of funds, resigning in 2006. We had Janet Rhenquist, the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, resigning after being investigated for withholding an audit of payments made by her department to the state of Florida until after the re-election of Jeb Bush (Yes, Jeb, we'll be revisiting that one).
Tom Scully withheld information from Congress regarding the costs of the "Prescription Drug Act," and eventually resigned. Daniel Armitage leaked the name of a CIA agent in retaliation for her husband's efforts to uncover the lies leading up to the Iraq War. Bush's nominee for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Bernie Kerik, went down in flames and was sentenced to four years in jail.
It was discovered that the Administration paid off news columnists to hype Republican policies. One of the policies was the Iraq War. During that War, billions of dollars went "missing" in Iraq, having been stashed on a plane and earmarked for the Coalition Provisional Authority. No one knows where that money went, to this day.
The list of indictments, convictions, plea bargains and prison sentences is too long to re-type:
Jack Abramoff Scandal in which the prominent lobbyist with close ties to Republican administration officials and legislators offered bribes as part of his lobbying efforts. Abramoff was sentenced to 4 years in prison. See Legislative scandals.It goes on and on and on. We had Felipe Sixto, Bush's Special Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs, sentenced to 30 months for stealing over half a million dollars. We had Special Assistant, Timothy Goeglein resign after a plagiarism scandal. Scott Bloch, appointed to head the Office of Special Counsel, pled guilty to criminal contempt of Congress. Lewis Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of Justice for the "Plame Affair" (Bush commuted his sentence). We had Alphonso Jackson, Bush's HUD Secretary, resigning under investigation by the Justice Department. We had several officials resign over the mishandling of Blackwater contractors accused of killing civilians in Iraq.
1.David Safavian GSA (General Services Administration) Chief of Staff, found guilty of blocking justice and lying, and sentenced to 18 months
2.Roger Stillwell Staff in the Department of the Interior under President George W. Bush (R). Pleaded guilty and received two years suspended sentence. 
3.Susan B. Ralston Special Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to Karl Rove, resigned October 6, 2006, after it became known that she accepted gifts and passed information to her former boss Jack Abramoff.
4.J. Steven Griles former Deputy to the Secretary of the Interior pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 10 months.
5.Italia Federici staff to the Secretary of Interior, and President of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, pled guilty to tax evasion and obstruction of justice. She was sentenced to four years probation.
6.Jared Carpenter Vice-President of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, was discovered during the Abramoff investigation and pled guilty to income tax evasion. He got 45 days, plus 4 years probation.
7.Mark Zachares staff in the Department of Labor, bribed by Abramoff, guilty of conspiracy to defraud.
8.Robert E. Coughlin Deputy Chief of Staff, Criminal Division of the Justice Department pleaded guilty to conflict of interest after accepting bribes from Jack Abramoff. (2008)
Kyle Foggo Executive director of the CIA was convicted of honest services fraud in the awarding of a government contract and sentenced to 37 months in federal prison at Pine Knot, Kentucky. On September 29, 2008, Foggo pleaded guilty to one count of the indictment, admitting that while he was the CIA executive director, he acted to steer a CIA contract to the firm of his lifelong friend, Brent R. Wilkes.
Julie MacDonald Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior, resigned May 1, 2007, after giving government documents to developers (2007)
Claude Allen Appointed as an advisor by President George W. Bush (R) on Domestic Policy, Allen was arrested for a series of felony thefts in retail stores. He was convicted on one count and resigned soon after.
Lester Crawford Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, resigned after 2 months. Pled guilty to conflict of interest and received 3 years suspended sentence and fined $90,000 (2006)[89
We had Bush inexplicably dismissing 12 Federal prosecutors appointed by Bush himself, allegedly for prosecuting Republicans instead of Democrats. We had the mysterious destruction or loss of five million emails (imagine what a tale they would have told).
And these are just the scandals we know about. These are just the folks who got caught. Remember that.
And the Obama Administration?
We had two completely partisan Congressional witchhunts, one ("Fast and Furious") resulting in Eric Holder being held in contempt of Congress and one resulting in President Obama demanding and receiving the resignation of the head of the IRS. That "scandal" also resulted in the resignations of two mid-level IRS officials, one of whom was held "in contempt of Congress." All because the IRS dared to attempt to collect taxes from political groups that questionably characterized themselves as "tax-exempt."
We had one NLRB guy fired by Obama for leaking information. We had two GSA guys fired for spending too much on a party for GSA employees in Las Vegas.
Oh, and one glitchy website that prompted the head of Health and Human Services to resign.
That's it. Finito. After six and a half years.
Many of us have big disagreements and heated arguments about Obama Administration policies--drones, surveillance, Guantanamo, and treatment of the bankers and finance industry all come to mind. But there is simply no denying the fact that this Administration has been the most law-abiding, clean and criminal-free in generations. Different people will glean different things from this. A popular argument is that President Obama had to be "extra vigilant" because he was an African-American. If that's the case, maybe all of our Presidents should be African-American.
Or one could conclude that criminals simply gravitate to the Republican Party. It's hard to argue with that, based on the evidence.
But here's the bottom line, as the GOP cynically prepares a Benghazi political sideshow to try and motivate its base. For all the Republican bloviating about "lawlessness" of this Administration and its "illegal usurpation" of power, the facts themselves stand in rather stark contrast:
[I]f 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.