Every presidential administration faces its share of controversies and scandals, and the Obama administration was no exception. While Barack Obama’s presidency was often praised for its relative lack of personal scandals compared to many of its predecessors (cough cough Bill Clinton), it still encountered various political and administrative challenges. Here, we explore some of the significant controversies that arose during President Obama’s two terms in office from 2009 to 2017.
1. The Benghazi Attack and Aftermath (2012)
One of the most politically charged controversies was the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The Obama administration was criticized for its handling of the attack, particularly regarding security lapses at the compound and the accuracy of the information released in its aftermath. Congressional investigations and hearings ensued, creating a storm of political debate.
2. Operation Fast and Furious (2010)
This scandal involved a botched Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) operation intended to track and arrest gun smugglers to Mexican drug cartels. The operation lost track of approximately 1,400 out of 2,000 firearms they allowed smugglers to buy. When these guns began appearing at crime scenes, including one where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed, it sparked a congressional investigation and public outcry.
3. IRS Targeting Controversy (2013)
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was accused of applying extra scrutiny to conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. An Inspector General’s report found that the IRS did use inappropriate criteria to assess these groups, leading to widespread criticism of the agency and the administration, although no evidence directly connected the practice to the White House.
4. The Affordable Care Act Rollout (2013)
The launch of Healthcare.gov, the online marketplace for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was plagued with technical problems, including website outages and glitches. The troubled rollout of Obama’s signature healthcare reform was widely criticized and became a focal point for opponents of the ACA.
5. The National Security Agency (NSA) Surveillance Revelations (2013)
Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, leaked classified information revealing the extent of NSA’s global surveillance programs. This disclosure sparked a national and international debate about privacy, surveillance, and the balance between national security and civil liberties.
6. The Solyndra Scandal (2011)
Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that received a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government, filed for bankruptcy in 2011. This raised questions about the administration’s support for renewable energy companies and the management of taxpayer dollars.