Watergate to Petraeus

From Watergate to Iran-Contra: Presidential Second-Term Scandals (PHOTOS)

From Nixon’s Watergate armageddon to Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky affair, see the biggest second-term scandals of U.S. presidents.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Fewer than half of U.S. presidents have won a second term—and those who do sometimes find their accomplishment marred by scandal that derails many of their ambitions. With David Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director coming as Barack Obama heads toward a second term, the president becomes part of an unhappy tradition that helped hobble some of his predecessors.

AP Photo

After winning a second term in a landslide, losing only Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., Richard Nixon found himself brought low by Watergate, the mother of all modern political scandals—becoming the only American president to resign from office.

Lana Harris / AP Photo

Col. Oliver North testifies at the joint congressional hearing investigating the Iran-Contra affair. The complicated scandal involved the secret sale of weapons to Iran, with proceeds going to back the Contra rebels in Nicaragua—despite an embargo on weapon sales to Iran and a law prohibiting U.S. government money from going to the Contras. While President Reagan’s knowledge of the plot was never established, the investigation badly hurt his ability to govern in his second term, even though he was just the second president, after Nixon, to win 49 states, losing only Minnesota, and again Washington, D.C.

AP Photo / APTV

In this image taken from video, Monica Lewinsky (wearing beret) smiles at President Bill Clinton as he greets well-wishers at a White House lawn party in Washington on Nov. 6, 1996. The White House intern’s affair with the president led to his impeachment in the House, though he eventually was acquitted by the Senate.

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

President George W. Bush’s widely criticized response after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast in 2005 dealt his second term a blow from which it never recovered.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images ; Kevin Lamarque / Reuters / Landov

Obama critics have tried to tie the stunning resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus (right) in connection with an extramarital affair—just days after the president won a second term—to questions about the administration’s response to the Benghazi attack. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice (left)—a rumored frontrunner to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state—has been heavily criticized by Republicans for incorrectly saying days after the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens that it had been inspired by a YouTube trailer for the anti-Prophet Muhammad film The Innocence of Muslims.