Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Impact Of Scandal

(Enjoy the new site design at Balloon Juice.)

Doug J points out that Watergate, despite being the Ur Scandal, barely made a dent in the trajectory of American politics.  Nixon's crimes have only gotten more profound as time has let slip more tapes and more revelations.  And Nixon was largely carrying on some programs LBJ started, but Nixon made them personal (because it was always personal with Nixon).

But Doug's right.  Watergate may have given us Jimmy Carter, but the trajectory of American politics after the Watts' riots was towards the fragmentation of the New Deal Coalition and the rise of the Reagan Coalition.

Washington is currently obsessing of a troika of quasi-scandals and non-scandals and WHAT WILL THIS ALL MEAN??!!11>?

History shows it rarely means much.  Poppy Bush was nipples deep in Iran Contra, which was arguably "worse than Watergate".  Clinton retired popular, though you could make a case that no Monica means no Dubya, considering how close things were in Florida.  But the trend has been towards Democratic presidential majorities and that's no going to go away because of the Three Little Piglets scandals.

Benghazi: a tragedy, not a scandal.  A political circus intended to cripple Hillary's bid in 2016.  Admiral Mullen yesterday reiterated what Bob Gates said, there was no military response possible to Benghazi.  There is no scandal.  And the emails that ABC was breathlessly flacking were simply notes about emails provided them by GOP staffers.  Synergy!

The AP subpoenas aren't really a scandal in and of themselves.  Unlike the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration went to court and got a subpoena.  Bush's FBI just seized the phone records.  But this is the price of the "War on Terra!" that the press needs to realize.  Wars breed excess executive power.  And now it bit the AP.  Maybe the AP should have spent the last 11 years reporting on this increase in executive power.  The fact is the DOJ followed proper procedures.  The problem is the procedures.

The IRS scandal feels less like a scandal the more you dig into it, but it undoubtedly is the closest to a real scandal we have.  These low level guys dig something stupid and wrong and were told to stop.  I'm not sure where the scandal is there, but at least there was something stupid and wrong, which is more than you can say for the other two nontroversies.

Right now, the Courtier Press have their knives out for Obama, because he's "aloof" and doesn't invite them to swing on his tire swing and eat barbecue.  It's reached the point where they are bored with Obama and want a new story.

The nation didn't give much of a shit about Monica Lewinksy in the end.  It was a prurient tale and that set tongues a wagging.  But in the end, no one but the GOP thought he should be impeached.

Frankly, I hope the wingnut do try and impeach Obama over something stupid like this.  It worked out so well for them the last time.

UPDATE:  I think Booman is on to something here:

As a political writer, I was about ready to hang myself if I had to write one more article about sequestration and the budget. So, I get it. Now we all have something to write about again. I don't think the general public really understands how important it is that writing be fun. They know that writers are after page-views, but trust me when I say that writing for page-views isn't fun. What's fun is writing about stuff that you can get energized about, and that has a lot of carry-over to what people want to read. The damage being done by the sequester is the most important domestic story in the country right now, along with the cause of the sequester, which is the total radicalization of the Republican Party. But writing about the closing of health clinics and day care centers and access to cancer treatment and closed airports cannot compare to writing about a BIG SCANDAL.

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