Mark it on your calendars: if President Obama has just 20 days to go -- October 6! -- in order to claim the record as the most scandal-free president since 1977. The prior record holder is also his predecessor: George W. Bush, who in the appraisal of Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan, hit the first scandal of his presidency on October 5, 2003, with the Valerie Plame affair. Nyhan's study this past May predicted that Obama was due for a scandal any day and the Solyndra loan matter may just be the issue that attaches the first S-word to Obama. Literally.
The criteria for what amounts to a scandal according to Nyhan is whether a news story on the front page of The Washington Post uses that word "scandal" in the reporter's own voice to describe the president or his administration. His study cites a other political scientists who have argued that what the Post publishes is a good measure of elite opinion, and thus, he would argue, can pinpoint the moment when a brewing controversy solidifies into a bona fide scandal. As Nyhan wrote in his study: "This restriction helps identify the most salient controversies at the point at which they become highly prominent and generate widespread coverage."