Will surveillance, IRS scandals tarnish Obama's presidential legacy?

Cal Jillson, political science professor at SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, talks about how recent scandals may affect President Obama's legacy.

By Lee-Anne Goodman

WASHINGTON - Not so long ago, a bad week for U.S. President Barack Obama was one that sparked comparisons to Jimmy Carter, a popular whipping boy for the right who was considered weak and ineffectual by many Americans.

Seven months into his second term, and the Carter comparisons are a distant memory: now Obama's being likened to former presidents Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, popular targets for the commander-in-chief's liberal base.

Revelations about the Obama administration's sweeping surveillance practices, as well as the ongoing investigation into the IRS's targeting of Tea Party organizations, have resulted in a litany of comparisons to both former presidents in recent weeks....

Obama's presidential legacy is not at risk from either controversy, said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

It's meaningful legislation that largely determines a presidential legacy, not "distractions," Jillson said.

"The key thing on the table in Obama's second term is the immigration bill," he said.

"If that gets through, it will be a huge signature piece of legislation for Obama, similar to health care reform in his first term. And it would result in substantive policies that would impact people's lives in a significant way."

The scandals, meantime, are something of a tempest in a teapot, Jillson said.

"There is nothing that is anywhere near being impeachable offences, let alone criminal. They won't result in a single charge against the administration other than political arrogance."