Saturday, September 17, 2011

A First Whiff of a Scandal?, Read 'Round the World

Is the Squeaky Clean Obama Image Tarnished?
President Barack Obama has his critics.  He has been consistently attacked from the right with a venom, called everything from a socialist to a secret Muslim, to a radical African (who knew that being Muslim or African were such bad things) to the more sane and mundane criticisms that he has spent too much money and run up too much debt.

On the left, criticisms have intensified of late as many groups are not happy with the progress of President Obama in liberal causes.  The President has kept Gitmo open, extended the Bush tax cuts and, by and large, continued President Bush's policy in Afghanistan, all very sore spots for progressives who were key to his nomination and election.

All of the criticism, both intense and mild, has basically been centered on the President's politics, however.  There really hasn't even been a hint of scandal in the Obama Administration, a stark contrast to virtually every other administration in the past 30 years.

President George Herbert Walker Bush was personally involved in the Iran Contra scandal and the Savings and Loan scandal broke while he was in office.  President Clinton had all manners of minor scandals (does anyone remember Hillary firing the White House travel office or opaque land deals in Whitewater?) and one massive one - lying under oath about his sexual encounter with an intern named Monica Lewinsky.  President George Walker Bush, while having nothing as national newsworthy as Clinton, had the outing of CIA Operative Valerie Plame and persistent questions about civil rights infractions and torture as part of anti-terrorist operations.

Somehow, for almost 3 years, President Obama has stayed clean.  Not a hint of personal scandal - he seems to be a faithful husband and a good father.  Not a hint of financial scandal - there is no evidence of personal dealings that unfairly profited the Obamas.  And no hint of political scandal - even the ugliness over Blago trying to sell a Senate seat largely reinforced Obama's squeaky clean image as all the evidence was that Blago was upset because Obama WOULDN'T play ball as Blago tried to wheel and deal for the seat.

This squeaky clean image has taken on a little tarnish this month, with questions raised around a federal loan guarantee to a now-bankrupt copy called Solyndra, that had manufactured thin-film solar panels in the United States.  The Obama Administration apparently pushed through a loan guarantee to Solyndra as part of the stimulus package, despite serious questions raised by government analysts that indicated that Solyndra didn't have a viable business model.  Worse yet, a key Solyndra investor is a major Obama campaign contributor, who had visited the White House on at least 4 occasions. 

Does this rise to the level of a major scandal?  I don't think so, at least not yet.  There isn't evidence that those two facts are connected (the contribution and the loan guarantee.)  It's logical to assume that a lot of people that are investing in solar technology are likely to have political leanings that would support the President.  And it doesn't stand a logical test that an investor, who had put his own money into a company, would do so believing it would fail - obviously if he did try to sway the process to get a loan guarantee, he did so believing it would make the company successful.

But this does all smack of crony capitalism.  And in an age where people are still made about the bank bailouts and Wall Street bonuses, crony capitalism is pretty toxic.  My guess is that this fades from the news pretty quickly but resurfaces at some point after the GOP field is settled.  President Obama doesn't have a ton of equities going into the election, he'd better hope a clean image remains one of them.

Who's Reading This Space?
One of the things that I love about Google is that they are constantly innovating.  Just recently, the blogspot service was upgraded to give some basic locational information about blog readers.  In that vein, I though it might be interesting for you to know a little bit about who is reading this site.

This site has a truly global audience, although it is centered in the United States.  The top 10 countries for readership are listed below:

1. United States - 62%
2. Germany - 6%
3. Russia - 5%
4. Poland - 3%
5. Canada - 2%
6. Slovenia - 2%
7. United Kingdom - 2%
8. Netherlands - 1%
9. Singapore - 1%
10. Ukraine - 1%
Other Countries (many of them!) - 15%

It's neat to know that this blog is read from Iran to France to Slovenia.  The popularity in various countries is also interesting.  Obviously, the traffic being heavily US doesn't surprise me, given that this space is all about electoral politics in the US.  Germany seems a logical second, both because of the close political relationship between the two first-world economies and the fact that there are a large number of military personnel deployed in Germany, who could be the readers (note that the traffic is only listed by where the traffic came from, not the nationality of the individual who was reading.)  The rest of the list is an interesting mix of first-world economies that follow American politics and developing countries where they may be readers interested in the lessons of the American political system.  Perhaps the most interest country of traffic, Iran, just missed the Top 10 listed at number 11.

Hello to everyone in the global audience.  I hope you find this site informative about American politics and that you enjoy it.  As always, I welcome your thoughts.

How about in the interest of a little friendly global competition, we try to see what country can get the most traffic to this site in the next month?  I'm sure the US will have the most, but the battle for second is wide open!  Tell all your friends to visit and check us out.

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