Commentary Magazine


Obama’s Reputation for Integrity Is Fading

A new poll from Scott Rasmussen finds that seven in 10 Americans believe the IRS decision to target conservatives groups was made in Washington, D.C. And more than four in 10 (41 percent) believe it was made in the White House. In addition, 82 percent of those surveyed are now following the IRS story, including 44 percent who are following the story “very closely.”

The Rasmussen poll should be viewed alongside a recent CNN/ORC International survey showing that nearly half of those surveyed (47 percent) say they believe the IRS anti-conservative (and probably illegal) operation was directed by the White House.

There’s no question that as the president is about to begin the first summer of his second term, the public’s respect for Mr. Obama’s integrity is melting away.

Fewer than half of those surveyed in the CNN/ORC International poll believe the president is honest and trustworthy (see here for more). And no wonder. Top officials in his administration (including Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper) have misled Congress, in the case of Mr. Holder on multiple occasions. The president and others in his administration repeated a fabricated story about the lethal attacks on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. The administration continues to stonewall and conceal key information related to congressional investigations. And there is broader contempt for the rule of law in this administration.

Will any of this, or all of this, badly damage the president’s second term? We’ll find out in time. But we do know that the founders believed that as president we needed individuals “most distinguished by their abilities and virtue, and in whom the people perceive just grounds for confidence.” In Federalist #64 we are further told that our leaders should be people “whose reputation for integrity inspires and merits confidence.”

Mr. Obama’s reputation for integrity that in turn inspires and merits confidence is eroding. That cannot be good for a president whose abilities and competence, at home and abroad, are already deeply in doubt.