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File Photo of U.S. President Barack Obama (Xinhua File Photo)
by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, May 17 (Xinhua) -- A tsunami of scandals threatens to distract Barack Obama from his second-term agenda as U.S. media and Republicans turn up the heat on the embattled U.S. president.
"The recent rash of scandals does complicate the life of the administration. It takes them off-message and distracts from the broader narrative of an improving economy,"Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.
In a major brouhaha that has pundits and politicians spitting with rage, it was revealed in recent days that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has targeted conservative groups as far back as 2010, subjecting them to unfair scrutiny based on their political views.
At the same time, journalists and lawmakers alike expressed outrage over reports earlier this week that the Justice Department had been snooping on Associated Press journalists, secretly obtaining two months of reporters' phone records, including home phones and cell phones.
And in a third and ongoing controversy, Republicans continue to push for more information on the administration's handling of September's terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which ended in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
While the White House has called the push a partisan "side show, " Republicans maintain there are many unanswered questions, and some are calling for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to appear again before a Congressional hearing.
The Obama administration, prior to the scandals, had been working on issues including the hot button topic of immigration reform, but the trifecta of controversies threatens to tie up the administration in knots, experts said.
Still, the GOP, a party searching for relevance after losing the November elections amid a changing demographic landscape that favors Democrats, cannot yet count the scandals as manna from the heavens.
"I don't think this changes the political calculus yet," American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Karlyn Bowman told Xinhua, adding that the GOP has serious brand damage.
Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua that Republicans must be careful not to overreach and must avoid being seen as a party desperate to attack Obama no matter what the issue.
For Democrats, keeping the public's eye on the slowly improving economy is key to not getting bogged down in the scandals, experts said. "The administration has to make sure people understand unemployment is coming down and things are getting better on the economy," West said.
Some experts said the crises are unlikely to cripple the administration on immigration reform, an issue that many GOP lawmakers are also keen to solve.
Meanwhile, Steven Miller, who stepped down as IRS commissioner this week over the scandal, told Congress that incompetence was to blame for the IRS' targeting of conservative groups, arguing that there was no evidence of political motivation.