We know many recent presidents fell prey to a second-term curse. Richard Nixon was forced out of office by Watergate. Bill Clinton was impeached. George W. Bush had Hurricane Katrina and then the financial meltdown.
We are barely out of January and all this has occurred: We learned the economy contracted in the 4th quarter of 2012. President Obama is trying to wriggle out of a sequester, which he insisted upon in the 2011 budget negotiations. The Congressional Budget Office says our debt is dangerously increasing. Obama was forced to push Susan Rice aside and should have pushed Chuck Hagel off the boat. Jack Lew is now under scrutiny for ignoring federal law regarding Medicare insolvency warnings. And Benghazi — you remember the story the mainstream media would not cover? — has turned into a debacle. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified today that the president was absent during the Benghazi, Libya, attack(s) and neither he nor Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to anyone in the White House after briefly telling the president an attack was underway. What?!?
The last item is stunning, in part, because no reporter or debate moderator asked the very simple question many conservative critics were asking (Where was the president?) and because no senior official came forward before the election to say, “Ya know the president wasn’t around.” It is almost like the press and the administration together helped conceal gross irresponsibility by the president until after the election.
Isn’t it time someone not under the thumb of the White House or the Justice Department investigate exactly what the president was up to, what knowledge he had before the incident of the deteriorating situation in Libya, whether he was receiving briefings leading up to Sept. 11, 2012, on Libya and security precautions and why he and his staff kept telling the American people a false narrative about the incident? And maybe outside eyes should look at the leaking of national security secrets.
It is one thing to say that the president’s appointees missed cables or got their talking points mixed up. It is quite another to say the president was AWOL during the entire episode and then went to Las Vegas the next day for a campaign event. At some point — is it now? — events, negligence and plain old incompetence do have a way of catching up.
Second-term curses really aren’t curses of course. It is simply the passage of time that allows bad news to catch up. Coupled with growing arrogance and resignation of the first-string team of advisers, presidents can make things worse for themselves. Obama sure is.