Watch Out, Obama: Second Terms Have Been Tainted By Scandal

bill and hillary clinton and barack obama

Photo: AP

“The Second Year Curse” is the idea that after getting re-elected for a second term, presidents have had problems maintaining the momentum. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt, two-term presidents have seen their second-terms marred by scandals and failures.

Some managed to continue with a successful closing act despite their problems, others saw their administration implode in scandal. 

Will Obama continue or overcome the trend? Only time will tell. For now, here are eight cautionary tales for the President to consider during his second term.

Franklin Roosevelt: Court Packing Plan

After a landslide victory in the 1936 election, Roosevelt announced a controversial plan to expand the Supreme Court to up to 15 judges in order to shift the political leanings of the branch to support the New Deal support.

To the ire of both Republicans and Democrats, FDR tried to use his post-election momentum to try to force ageing conservatives off the court. His plan was struck down in the Senate 70 to 22.

Source: History.com

Harry Truman: The Korean War

In 1951 Truman got into a public, heated fight with the wildly popular General Douglas MacArthur over the Korean War.

MacArthur wanted to bomb the People's Republic of China, while Truman refused to escalate.

When MacArthur criticised the President's decision publicly, Truman fired him for insubordination. MacArthur returned to the U.S. and recieved a hero's welcome.

Dwight Eisenhower: The Overcoat Scandal and the U-2 Incident

In 1958, two years after Eisenhower was elected to office for a second time, his White House chief of staff, Sherman Adams, was accused of accepting a vicuña coat and an oriental rug from Boston Industrialist Bernard Goldfine in exchange for intervention with regulatory agencies. Adams resigned, but his exit would cast a pall over the second term of the Eisenhower administration.

Then, during the final year of Eisenhower's second term, a U-2 spy plane was shot down over China while carrying out espionage over the U.S.S.R.

The pilot, Francis Powers, was captured -- as was the plane -- and a humiliated Eisenhower was forced to admit that the jet belonged to the U.S.

Source: St. Petersberg Times, History

Lyndon B. Johnson: Vietnam War

Johnson's decision to escalate the war in Vietnam inspired widespread protest during his second term. The severity of the opposition within his own party prompted Johnson to decline seeking a third term. To this day, Johnson's legacy remains highly controversial because of his decisions about the Vietnam War.

Source: NYTimes, University of Florida

Richard Nixon: Watergate

Nixon's presidency imploded during his second term over the infamous Watergate scandal, which followed the discovery that his aides broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee to steal information and bug phones.

The scandal escalated with the discovery that Nixon personally authorised a cover up of the relationship between the White House and the burglars.

In 1974, Nixon became the first and only man to resign from the Oval Office.

Ronald Reagan: Iran-Contra Affair

Reagan's second administration was rocked by the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986.

Although Congress explicitly forbade the President from funding the Nicaraguan Contra faction in their war against the communist Sadinistas, members of Reagan's national security team avoided the directive, and secretly funded the Contras by selling arms to Iran. The Reagan administration sold over 1,500 missiles to Iran, violating the U.S. embargo and sanctions, and portions of the money were diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras.

The ensuing scandal was massive, and fourteen people were charged in either operational or cover-up crimes.

Bill Clinton: Monica Lewinsky

Clinton's extramarital affair with intern Monica Lewinsky and subsequent perjury derailed his second term agenda and cast a shadow over his entire legacy.

After news of the relationship broke in January 1998, Clinton denied the affair forcefully, but by August 1998 admitted publicly to his sexual relationship. The House of Representatives voted to impeach the President on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. The Senate did not vote for impeachment.

George W. Bush: Hurricane Katrina et al ...

The second term of the Bush presidency was marred by a series of public failures, including the indictment of Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, in a CIA leak case; the botched Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers; and Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security.

Perhaps the most lasting failure, was the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, which was widely criticised as too little, too late.

Three years later, Bush's second term ended on a note of failure, with the 2008 financial meltdown and ensuing TARP bailout.

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