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Trouble in threes: Scandals hamper Obama's message

President Barack Obama waves as he arrives on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, in Washington.
President Barack Obama waves as he arrives on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, in Washington.
Evan Vucci, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A trio of scandals that have blown up almost simultaneously have given Republicans an opportunity to question President Barack Obama's leadership.

Reports tell of bureaucrats carousing in Las Vegas, the Secret Service consorting with Cartagena prostitutes and U.S. soldiers posing with enemy corpses. And they have given Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney an opening in a race so close that any advantage can make a difference.

Even if the president escapes being defined by these eruptions, they feed a potentially damaging story line. They erode public confidence in Washington institutions, fuel a perception of federal excess and frustrate Obama's argument that government can be a force for good.