Which Obama scandal will inevitably lead to impeachment?

The GOP's second-term scandal machine is operational! Will Obama be sunk by the IRS, the AP or Benghazi?

Published May 14, 2013 12:59PM (EDT)

             (AP/Charles Dharapak)
(AP/Charles Dharapak)

As we all know, Republicans really want to impeach Barack Obama. Last time they really wanted to impeach a president, they did so, even though most Americans thought that was going a bit far. Here in 2013, a majority of Republicans support Obama's removal from office, and while elected Republicans seem, on the whole, slightly skeptical, we have suddenly been provided with a wealth of potential impeachment-worthy scandal.

We are in second-term scandal mode. A combination of genuine abuses of power and overblown pseudo-scandals will engulf the administration over the next four years. But which currently raging controversy is most likely to lead to the premature end of the administration?


This is the sexy, popular scandal, that we have already had numerous blockbuster hearings on. Mitt Romney ineptly seized on it and Darrell Issa has been carefully maintaining it. So far, though, it has seemed like a placeholder while we wait for the main event. (Like Agnew's resignation, or Gennifer Flowers.) After months of increasingly complicated accusations, there are still no scalps. This is sort of "Fast & Furious" Mark II, in that respect, in that conservatives (and congressional Republicans) thought it'd destroy the administration, and then they utterly failed to prosecute it correctly.

This is entirely because Republicans and conservatives missed the scandal in both instances. In "Fast & Furious" they invented a bizarre gun control conspiracy instead of questioning the scope and methods of the drug war. In Benghazi, conservatives have decided to downplay any actual scandalous findings in favor of conspiracy theories and blatant political attacks on Hillary Clinton. Republicans have been fixated on Sunday show talking points -- because Sunday shows are very important to members of Congress -- instead of, say, the way security concerns were trumped by cost-cutting concerns, or the consequences of intervention, or any number of Benghazi lessons more plausible than "Obama said STAND DOWN." Republicans have argued that Hillary Clinton knew this this would happen, and did nothing, rather than making the case that no one at the State Department saw this coming (besides the diplomats on the ground), though they definitely should have.

So: Issa is too incompetent and Republicans are too fixated on Hillary 2016 for #BENGHAZI to sink the administration. Sorry, angry Twitter people.

AP Phone Logs

The Justice Department obtained two months' worth of phone records from Associated Press reporters, receiving access to logs from personal and work phones from AP offices and from the personal phones of AP reporters. It was a ridiculously broad collection of data. The records were obtained last year, and the AP was only notified last Friday. Attorney General Eric Holder almost certainly personally signed off on the request. As it's a media scandal, the media will be vigilant in following it. The ACLU and the AP have registered complaints with the Justice Department.The real scandal is, it was probably all legal.

Here's what complicates this one: Almost no one in Congress actually supports placing limits on the government's spying powers. It would be hard for Republican senators to make the case that the law has been violated, when the vast majority of them -- all of them save perhaps Rand Paul -- believe that the law allows federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to do whatever it takes to Keep Us Safe.

The other problem Republicans face when attempting to use this scandal to impeach the president is that Republicans demanded the leak investigations that led to the U.S. attorney obtaining the phone logs. Republicans spent months last year attacking the administration for leaks. They claimed that Obama was purposefully leaking sensitive, national security-endangering information to journalists, in an attempt to have more stories printed showing how tough on terror his administration was

In fact, this particular inquiry started when a bunch of Republican members of Congress started demanding a special prosecutor to investigate the leak that led to this scandal. So, it will be hard (but not impossible!) for Republicans to act hugely upset and offended about this one. Even if journalists freak out about it.


Yep, this is the one. The IRS persecuting Tea Party groups. It's basically the conservative movement's dream scandal. It's all over. Pack your bags, Barry.

Even if this had nothing at all to do with the Obama administration, and no one at the White House knew it was happening, this is definitely the one that will probably end with Obama forced from office. And maybe in jail. Or deported. Even though it's definitely true that 501(c)4 groups are mostly tax-dodging electioneering organizations, and even though it seems like "Tea Party" is a useful heuristic for finding explicitly election-focused groups, and even though it actually seems impossible to argue that the "primary purpose" of an organization like "True the Vote" isn't politics, this will be a scandal that lasts the entire rest of the summer. And I suppose that unless there is evidence that those crazy IRS jihadists in Cincinnati also planned on attacking Organizing for America and StudentsFirst, conservatives have a right to be angry.

Two Senate panels are investigating. Two House committees are on the case, too, with Ways and Means looking to hear testimony this week. Reporters are working on expanding the scope of the scandal to Washington. It is going to be a long next few years.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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