--Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.--
In the welter of comment on President Obama's second term, one remarkable feature seems to have slipped under the radar. This has been a presidency blessedly free of scandal. When last did the White House remain more or less scandal-free for as long as four years? His predecessor, George W., had the average scandal quotient (Halliburton contracts, the Abramoff affair among others). Before him, there was Clinton, who seemed to clock up a scandal a week – we all remember the sex, but there was also Whitewater, which involved money, allegations of graft and ultimately suicide. Under Bush Senior and Reagan we had the Iran contra affair. As for Nixon, the less said the better. Even the saintly Jimmy Carter had a problem brother and some rather loose cannons among the pals he shipped in from Georgia to staff his administration.
What makes Obama's record all the more remarkable is that he emerged from the mire of the Chicago Democratic Party, a bye-word for corruption for decades past, and in fact the Governor of Illinois was accused of trying to "sell" the new President's abandoned senate seat only a few weeks after the election. Moreover, you can be quite sure that this administration's many enemies will have subjected its dealings to the most microscopic scrutiny in search of even the tiniest flaws, misjudgements and personal peccadilloes. It is truly amazing that they have found so few.
All in all, Barack Obama seems to be a man of outstanding integrity, decency and intellect, a truly uplifting speaker and an inspiring leader.
So why has his first term been such a disappointment?
In my view, his (and America's, and the world's) tragedy is that he was elected in 2008. If he had been in the Oval Office on 9/11, he would surely have responded far better than W – he certainly wouldn't have made the cretinous error of calling for a crusade against al-Qaeda – nor I suspect would he have ever got America involved in a new war in Iraq. If he had been elected in the Eighties or Nineties, he might have ridden the post-Cold War wave to greatness and at the same time made some progress on the ambitious social reforms he dreams of.