Are the AP snooping, Benghazi, and IRS scandals about to destroy Obama's second term? Not really—because hyperpartisanship in Washington had already stalled the president's agenda and put the 113th Congress on track to become another one of the young 21st century's already-legendary do-nothing bodies.
Most of what a president can accomplish takes place early in a term. But as Republican communications pros are fond of reminding reporters, Obama's second term was already off to a rocky start.
Gun control already failed.
The major reason the Toomey-Manchin bill to expand background checks failed was distrust of the federal government. That's not going to change. The IRS and AP scandals will no doubt worsen distrust of the federal government, especially in circles already prone to such sentiments and make it harder for members of Congress to withstand gun-lobby pressure. But the important thing to remember is that every major gun proposal before the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate already failed at a time when the political winds were as favorable to such reforms as they have been in more than a decade. And none of those proposals ever had a shot in the U.S. House.
Budget negotiations already failed.
The sequester was supposed to be a budgetary approach so stupid no one would ever allow it to be implemented, and yet here we are, with the Pentagon planning to furlough 650,000 civilian workers and Head Start and other programs across the country slashing services or putting off planned innovations. Even in the wake of a decisive reelection and while riding a crest of positive national sentiment, the president was unable to come to a grand bargain on revenues and spending with Republican leaders, and so instead we have the sequester, and no sign that Congress is eager to revisit the issue or reverse it. Republican willingness to negotiate with the president was always low, and what remained at the end of his first term seemed to evaporate early in the new year—that is, well before the current scandals.