Last week feels a long time ago. I had an image of villagers with torches and pitchforks marching on the home of Dr. Frankenstein, a.k.a. Barack Obama. And I was among them, right behind Jon Stewart. Reading an article by Jonathan Chait since then has prompted me to put my pitch fork down.
“Scandal is a powerful, yet weirdly amorphous term of art in politics. Conceptually, the division between a scandal and a mere controversy or flub or policy dispute is hard to define. It required a peculiar sequencing of events to transform what would on their own have been normal political controversies into the nebulous, all-encompassing Obama Scandals.”
Chait then breaks down the sequence of events that mixed together was like combining nitro and glycerin in terms of exploding scandals. The chain reaction was initiated by a news report Friday, May 10 about Benghazi emails that was soon looked upon as sloppy reporting, but by then a scandalous mood had taken hold and its flames were fueled by revelations about I. R. S. and Justice Department behavior that was questionable at the very least (*1).
Of course, Republicans immediately jumped to the conclusion of administration wrong doing to a Watergate degree with impeachment at the top of their agendas, this before their multiple Congressional investigations had really gotten underway. Ever hear of the legal theory of “let’s execute him first and then give him a fair trial?”
Now, besides that piece of bad reporting on Benghazi, there is reporting on the workings of the I. R. S. which sums up the source of the wrongdoing not as White House intimidation, but as “little guidance from D. C. and a flood of new non-profits…(that)…left an office overwhelmed,” according to the L. A. Times (*2). Of the three “scandals,” the gathering of phone records from the Associated Press seems the most serious, but when you hear Republicans spouting out about an attack on First Amendment rights try to recall that it was Republicans who most stridently decried the leaks in the Obama administration and how they must be investigated, i. e. these rock throwers live in glass houses.
That is not to say there is nothing in the “trifecta of trouble” that merits investigation. We just don’t know where it all will lead. But for now it seems there might be a lot less fire and more smoke than appeared last week. Smoke dissipates and when it does you often see the sun. Way to early to tell, but the summer might not be as overcast for Democrats as it seemed.
Read Chait’s The Strange Case of the Obama Scandals and the pieces referenced below and decide for yourselves.
(*1) The May 10 news report on Benghazi emails that initiated the aroma of scandal soon to become a stench was made by ABC’s Jonathan Karl. As one media critic put it: “At best it is extremely sloppy” reporting. Here’s an analysis from Media Matters.
(*2) The L A Times article was on the front page last Sunday. Today in the Washington Post Richard Cohen sheds further light on an overwhelmed I. R. S. bureaucracy in Cincinatti who wound up questioning more conservative applications because most of the applications overwhelming them were from conservative groups.