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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 14th, 2013
06:59 PM ET

Curse of the second-term scandal

Call it the second-term curse. Up until now, President Barack Obama has for the most part avoided getting caught up in scandals. But this month's triple whopper of the Benghazi debacle, the IRS fiasco and, now, the news that the Department of Justice seized the phone records of AP journalists puts the Obama administration in good company with other second-term presidents: Nixon, Clinton, Reagan, George W. Bush, and more. All suffered through scandals that would have threatened their re-elections, had they happened sooner.

"Part of it is just the odds catching up with you, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a dangerous place, you stay there long enough bad things happen," said CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. "You stay there long enough, someone, somewhere does something wrong."

If the latest trio of incidents had happened in May 2012 instead of May 2013, it could have been very dangerous for the Obama administration.

"The curse is always in the cover-up," said Rick Tyler, a former adviser to Newt Gingrich. "All these things happened in the first term... it is now the cover-ups that will be their undoing.

Democrats and Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for the IRS scandal, and the Justice Department's pursuit of the AP's phone records.

"We should not rush to judgement, and we should wait until these investigations are completed before we begin to write the script," said CNN political contributor and democratic strategist Donna Brazile.

The indirect cost to the administration is almost inevitable, said Brownstein, pointing to what happened between former President Bill Clinton and then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, after Clinton's scandal with former White House intern Monika Lewinsky.

"If you look at what happened in Bill Clinton's second term, when they made the big bipartisan budget deal in 1997, then Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton were talking about further deals like entitlements. Impeachment came along and it made the climate utterly inhospitable to working together," said Brownstein.

"When does this administration, take responsibility for this administration?" said Tyler, pointing to former President Ronald Reagan who addressed the nation from the oval office and took responsibility for the administration's role in the Iran-Contra affair.

Republicans "made a personal and political decision not to cooperate, not to even agree on things they previously held as policy. I think this administration has been forthcoming," said Brazile. The administration's "mistake is that they're not revealing the information and leaking it to the press the way the Republicans are, and therefore they're playing catch-up and not doing a good job with crisis management."

Whatever damage comes, comes at a time when the two sides of the political party are already moving further apart, during "an atmosphere in which the window for getting things done is already narrowing," said Brownstein.

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