WASHINGTON (AP) — As a candidate, Barack Obama vowed to bring a different, better kind of leadership to the dysfunctional capital. He’d make government more efficient, accountable and transparent. He’d rise above the “small-ball” nature of doing business. And he’d work with Republicans to break Washington paralysis.
You can trust me, Obama said back in 2008. And — for a while, at least — a good piece of the country did.
But with big promises often come big failures — and the potential for big hits to the one thing that can make or break a presidency: credibility.
A series of mounting controversies is exposing both the risks of political promise-making and the limits of national-level governing while undercutting the core assurance Obama made from the outset: that he and his administration would behave differently.
The latest: the government’s acknowledgement that, in a holdover from the Bush administration and with a bipartisan Congress’ approval and a secret court’s authorization, it was siphoning the phone records of millions of American citizens in a massive data-collection effort officials say was meant to protect the nation from terrorism. This came after the disclosure that the government was snooping on journalists.
Also, the IRS’ improper targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status has spiraled into a wholesale examination of the agency, including the finding that it spent $49 million in taxpayer money on 225 employee conferences over the past three years.
Collectively, the issues call into question not only whether the nation’s government can be trusted but also whether the leadership itself can. All of this has Obama on the verge of losing the already waning faith of the American people. And without their confidence, it’s really…