As Scandals Grow Public’s Trust in Government Wanes

Throughout his term President Obama has voiced his frustration with numerous things that he perceived to be slowing his agenda. He blamed President Bush for the stagnant economy, House Republicans for their fiscal obstinacy, natural disasters for poor job numbers and even Rush Limbaugh as “the reason I can’t get anything passed.”

But for the wide swath of recent scandals that have engulfed his agenda Obama can only blame himself. Sure, there is the regrettable finger-pointing at low-level “rogue” bureaucrats and the inevitable attempt to try and turn things back on the GOP by arguing they are “overreaching.” But at the end of the day the buck stops with the president. Because while you can delegate authority, you should never delegate responsibility.

That’s a lesson Democrats have yet to learn. Not only do they believe they don’t bear responsibility for the scandals, they don’t believe it will jeopardize their election hopes.

Last week on Meet the Press, Sen. Chuck Schumer said that not only would the scandals not hurt Democrats, but it may actually hurt Republicans at the polls.

“If [Republicans] go too far they will lose,” Schumer said. “Republicans are right to want to look into these things, but if they emphasize it too much they’ll pay the price at the polls in 2014.”

Unfortunately for Democrats, poll results show they’re the ones whose election year opportunities may be in jeopardy. A new NBC/WSJ poll showed that strong majorities of Americans believe the three scandals raise doubts about the Obama Administration’s “overall honesty and integrity.” The numbers are event worse among independents. The poll found that 59 percent of independents disapproved of the job President Obama was doing, a precipitous drop from the 52 percent support he had in January.

And things don’t look to be getting better anytime soon in large part because the scandals just keep on coming. Like the four, yes four, separate scandals currently going on at the EPA. The scandals range from the abhorrent, like the EPA jacking up the fee conservatives pay for Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests while waiving fee for liberal groups, to the asinine, like the EPA giving an ethics award to a fake employee who was created only to circumvent FOIA requests.

Or the secondary IRS scandal in which a government watchdog revealed that the agency spent about $50 million to hold 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012. At least $4.1 million was spent on a lavish California conference to purchase stays in a presidential suite that run $3,500 per night, fund elaborate spoof training videos and pay for speakers on topics such as “leadership through art.”

Or the Department of Health and Human Services’ insider trading scandal in which hundreds of government employees were given an advance tip which could have led to a big payoff.

Or the State Department scandal in which officials manipulated or called off internal investigations into criminal conduct, including an underground drug ring, and a U.S. Ambassador suspected of patronizing prostitutes.

Or the…OK you get the point.

Of course you probably haven’t heard or read about a lot of these scandals because there is simply too much news to go around. The media is consumed by IRS’ inappropriate targeting of conservative groups and the revelations about PRISM, the federal government’s program to collect meta-data on individuals’ electronic correspondence. Nevertheless, the toll that each serialized scandal is having on the public’s trust in President Obama, and more importantly, in the ability of government to be a positive force.

“They are all separate issues,” Republican strategist Kevin Madden told Politico, referencing the NSA disclosures, IRS scandal, Benghazi attacks, and the Justice Department’s investigations into reporters. “But they all have people across the ideological spectrum questioning whether the government may have gone too far. For President Obama, who has invested so much in making the case you can and should trust your government, that erosion amongst the public is a major problem.”

And for that, President Obama can’t point the finger anywhere but at himself.