Scandals Undercut Obama's Message - Secret Service, GSA Cases Fuel Dissatisfaction, Make It Harder to Argue That Government Helps People
From The Wall Street Journal:
The scandals simultaneously plaguing the Secret Service and General Services Administration have been disconcerting enough for the Obama administration. But beyond that, they have the potential to be a political liability for Democrats, who are making an election pitch to voters that the government is here to help.
Public confidence in nearly all facets of federal government has been on the decline for years. A January Gallup Poll found 69% of respondents somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the size and power of the federal government. Now, political scientists say, these tawdry tales and evidence of government waste are likely to fuel cynicism about Washington.
"For those who tend to be skeptical about the increasing power of the federal government—which includes a lot of independents—these outrageous escapades really provide a dramatic and tangible example of their wildest nightmares," said Bill Adams, a professor of public policy and public administration at George Washington University.
For President Barack Obama, who has argued government is the solution to some of the country's most urgent problems, recent revelations could undercut his message, perhaps unfairly given the relatively small scope of the scandals, some Republicans said.
The Secret Service scandal "could politically hurt the president, but it shouldn't.…The president has no responsibility for this," said Rep. Peter King, (R., N.Y.). The actions of a small number of agents aren't an extension of the president or his policies, he said, but some people don't draw that distinction.
The General Services Administration has come under fire for a raucous conference near Las Vegas that cost taxpayers more than $800,000. An assortment of other perks for GSA managers and their family members also has sparked criticism.
Republicans have been cautious about making a partisan issue out of the events, in part because the Obama administration is not the first to endure scandal. Democrats note that confidence in government declined precipitously on President George W. Bush's watch, as questions mounted about his handling of the Iraq war and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
While there's general agreement that the Secret Service is necessary, limited-government advocates see these scandals as evidence the federal bureaucracy should be scaled back. Republicans and Democrats are divided over how much government is too much, sparring over issues ranging from the auto bailout to the health-care law.
Before taking office, Mr. Obama argued the government could be a positive force to revive the economy and succeed where the private sector had failed. In this year's State of the Union address, he invoked Abraham Lincoln, saying government "should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more."
For many Republicans, that remains too much, at least in Mr. Obama's definition. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, has called for a smaller, simpler bureaucracy. He promised to make cuts to government departments including housing and education.