The Obama administration's efforts to create "green jobs" have fallen far short of what was promised, as Reuters reports in a detailed analysis that casts Solyndra as just one failure. The Fast and the Furious scandal is surely going to come up in the course of the general election. And the Los Angeles Times is reporting that wasteful spending at the General Services Administration goes far beyond its now infamous 2010 Las Vegas conference. "GSA employees and contractors--including at least one employee with responsibility for the White House--line their pockets to the tune of millions of dollars a year, according to reports by the agency's inspector general," the story states. There were, in fact, "64 prosecutions between October 2010 and September 2011 of people who bilked the GSA by inflating costs, or just flat out stole from it."
Said David Axelrod on Meet the Press on Sunday, speaking about Obama: "Well, on the GSA issue he is--I think it's fair to say apoplectic because we'd made a big effort to cut waste, inefficiency, fraud against government, saved tens of billions of dollars doing it on just this very kind of thing. And so this was very enraging to him." You can see how the comments cut two ways. On one hand, it's an assertion or reminder that the president earnestly tried to cut waste. On the other, it's an admission that whatever steps he took didn't in fact succeed in preventing epic waste.
That's why this issue is so fraught for Obama. It hardly matters if a voter concludes that he's to blame or that this is just how government is. Either way, Obama's promises about making Washington work again are revealed as empty talk, whether because he didn't try or because he did and failed. Damage control is made more difficult by the fact that another scandal could always emerge or get more traction. We've already got U.S. soldiers posing with Afghan corpses. Says Buzzfeed, reporting on another possible candidate, "A State Department official has accused a high-ranking member of the diplomatic corps of improper sexual behavior in Iraq."
The Transportation Security Administration is no one's idea of a well-managed agency.
Is it all Obama's fault?
But it's as awkward for Democrats to argue that Obama is an honest, vigilant, capable leader, and this is just the normal level of nonsense we should expect to see from the federal government. That's the sort of pessimism that makes folks amenable to the notion that our government should attempt fewer things and thereby accomplish them more adeptly and efficiently. Just as Obama's reelection bid depends partly on the economy, including parts of it over which he has no control, he is also partly at the mercy of the executive branch. The more mini-scandals that emerge, the less capable either government itself or its current managers seem. Either way, it helps the Republican keen on cutting government, experienced at analyzing organizational failures, and as uncannily adept at avoiding personal scandal as President Obama himself.