Between the recent Benghazi hearing and reports of the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups, Republicans and the right-wing media have had a field day waxing on about the new scandals that will bring down President Obama. The comparisons to Watergate abound, especially among those who remember that Nixon’s impeachment articles included criticism of his use income tax audits in a “discriminatory matter.”
But this is far from the first time we’ve heard the right compare a story reflecting less than positively on Obama or someone in his administration to Watergate.
Here, an abridged collection of the scandals that Republicans wished were Watergate, but weren’t:
“This makes Watergate look like child’s play.” - Michele Bachmann, November 2011
Back in 2011, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann dropped the Watergate comparison to the controversy surrounding the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a company the president once touted as a model of clean technology and job creation. Conservative groups spent millions of dollars on ads designed to use the issue to bring the president down. Then he won reelection.
Fast & Furious
“This is far worse than Watergate.” - Louie Gohmert, June 2012
Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert was one of many who tried to argue that the controversy over the Fast & Furious “gun walking” program was worse than Watergate. He based that claim on Obama’s decision to claim executive privilege in the case after months of House investigations into how the program, which was started in the Bush administration, lost track of hundreds of guns it purposefully allowed into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Gohmert claimed that Obama’s decision to assert executive privilege put him on par with Nixon, who used executive privilege to try to hide the audio recordings that eventually incriminated him in the Watergate scandal. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa echoed those Watergate-level accusations.
“”The White House is facing a major scandal—one that threatens to bring down President Obama. It could be his Watergate.” - Jeffrey Kuhner, May 2010
The Right pounced on an offhand remark from Pennsylvania Democrat Joe Sestak suggesting that he was offered a job in the Obama administration for not running against Arlen Specter. California Congressman Darrell Issa, of the House Oversight Committee, wondered the same thing and even demanded a special prosecutor investigate the story. Conservative columnist Jeffrey Kuhner said it could be Obama’s Watergate. The story went away as Republicans lost interest in exploiting it not long after a Bush administration ethics lawyer pointed out how overblown the story had been.
Alleged national security leaks from Obama White House
“Watergate meant nothing… This is far more important than Watergate. To me there’s no comparison at all.” - Peter King, June 2012
New York Congressman Peter King was outraged over allegations that White House officials might have leaked national security information to outlets including The New York Times, Newsweek and the Associated Press, in an attempt to make the president look good. The story came nowhere near Watergate-level leaks, in part because Attorney General Eric Holder quickly picked two senior Department of Justice prosecutors to investigate the leaks.
Obama’s birth certificate
“Why does the press protect him? Is this another Watergate?” - Donald Trump, May 2012
When a promotional brochure from Obama’s old publisher with a typo declaring Obama’s birth place as Kenya was revealed this past summer, Donald Trump pounced. He tweeted that the press was protecting the president on an issue that might turn out to be his Watergate. Then the literary agent took the blame for the fact-checking error and the story quickly went away, perhaps in part because the president had already released his long-form birth certificate.
“Is Media Matters Obama’s Watergate?” - The American Spectator, February 2012
That’s what the American Spectator asked in February of last year after a report of Obama administration connections to left-wing media watchdog group Media Matters. The Spectator’s report tried to draw comparisons between that story and Tony Ulasewicz, who delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money to Watergate defendants.
Work permits for immigrants under 30
“Whatever Nixon did pales in comparison to just this move today.” - Rush Limbaugh, June 2012
Rush Limbaugh declared the president’s plan to offer “amnesty” to 8 million undocumented immigrants was far worse than anything Nixon “supposedly” ever did.
In all these cases, the proclamations of a Nixonian level scandal proved to be more wishful thinking than political reality. But Republicans appear determined to make the Benghazi scandal stick to the president in a more meaningful way, specifically over news that administration talking points about the attack were edited. The only problem is that Republicans knew about the timeline for the talking points months ago.
President Obama pointed out that Republicans knew about the emails Monday and called the conversation a “sideshow” Monday.
“The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow,” Obama said. “What we have been very clear about throughout was that immediately after this event happened, we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were.”