Friday, May 17, 2013

Deflection, round three: the scandals could hurt the Republicans

Round one in the deflection game so often played by the mainstream liberal media was simple: pretend there are no scandals. This was evidenced in various news reports and articles that questioned the very existence of any "scandalous" activity in the aftermath of Benghazi, in the subpoena from Justice for AP phone records, or in the improper targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. As late as yesterday, the always entertaining Ezra Klein at WaPo was still holding firm on this angle. He attempts to play the part of neutral observer, dissecting each "scandal" to show why each is no such thing.

In each case though, Klein neglects to note key facts or components. For instance, he argues--with regard to Benghazi--that:
The inquiry has moved on from the events in Benghazi proper, tragic as they were, to the talking points about the events in Benghazi. And the release Wednesday night of 100 pages of internal e-mails on those talking points seems to show what my colleague Glenn Kessler suspected: This was a bureaucratic knife fight between the State Department and the CIA.
And that:
So far, it’s hard to see what, exactly, the scandal here is supposed to be.
He attempts to slough off the real-time issues that remain unresolved, why State and the military refused to send aid, who told them to stand down, most likely because he knows there's a major problem in there for the Administration, given the past claims that Obama is the "most sophisticated consumer of intelligence" the world has ever seen. Obviously, such was not the case in Benghazi, where neither the President nor the Secretary of State was dialed in to what was actually going on. And with regard to the talking points, Klein completely ignores the fabricated portions that blamed the attacks on a nothing YouTube video.

Klein's pseudo-analysis on the other two scandals lead him to similar conclusions. It's an effective tactic, ignoring the problematic elements of these stories, pretending they don't exist, then arguing that there is no scandal. But by and large, this tactic has failed; too many people are aware of the facts Klein is pointedly ignoring so he's now largely preaching to an empty choir.

Round two in the deflection game consisted of fabricating a new scandal to take the place of the one doing the damage to the Administration and the Left. The article by Jeffrey Toobin that I recently addressed is a perfect example of this. Toobin tries--and fails--to reset the IRS fiasco by arguing that the real problem is something totally different than what is being reported, wherein the targeted groups are actually to blame for the IRS' unfair targeting of them. Toobin was far from alone in this regard. Here's the same argument at the LA Times. And at the New York Times. And at MSNBC. Amazingly, all three use the same title: "The Real IRS Scandal." Great minds, or spoon-fed talking points?

But this argument isn't getting too much traction, mostly because the specifics of what actually occurred don't fit the narrative, despite the efforts of media elites to make them fit.

And thus, we arrive at round three in the deflection game: the idea that the continued focusing in on these scandals by Republicans and conservatives might eventually backfire on both groups. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but logic isn't something the left is currently worried about; the need to downplay these scandals trumps such silly concerns.

For instance, we have Ronald Brownstein at the National Journal. He attempts to liken current events to the impeachment saga of President Clinton, ultimately concluding that:
If these investigations ultimately impede deal-making on issues such as immigration, they will imperil Obama’s desire for a legislative legacy and stunt his second term. Yet such a breakdown would also endanger the GOP’s need to expand its unsustainably narrow electoral coalition. Republicans could find that stoking the flames of scandal may sear not only Obama’s hopes but also their own.
Brownstein's seeming even-handedness here--wherein everyone loses--is intended to portray a non-partisan perspective, to appeal to supposedly rational and clear-thinking members of the Republican Party. Howard Fineman at HuffPo goes down the same basic road, though in a clearly more partisan fashion, offering time-worn bits about voters and partisan politics, Nixonian aphorisms, and  angst over Godfather-esque vendettas. Fineman, however, comes to basically the same conlcusion, based on the same slice of history:
Take a look back at 1998. That year, the Washington Beltway, media and Republican Party had driven a second-term president, Bill Clinton, into a sordid corner with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton kept talking about all the things he wanted to get done, even as impeachment was grinding inexorably nearer.  
In November of that year, the Democrats in Congress picked up seats.
Both pieces imagine an inherent cost for Republicans in the pursuit of the current scandals. But that cost is based on a comparison to a very different kind of scandal involving a very different kind of President in a very different period of time. This isn't the nineties under Clinton; the economy isn't booming or even humming along. And Obama's problems here involve the assassination of a U.S. Ambassador, the apparent use of the IRS for political purposes, and the encroachment on the idea of a free press, not sex with a twenty-something intern by a promiscuous President.

Heads have already rolled at State and at the IRS. More are likely to follow and--eventually--Holder may be forced to step down as well, as the accumulation of evidence makes it clear that he is inept and not in control of Justice in the least. And perhaps even more significantly, the leading Democratic contender for the 2016 General Election--Hillary Clinton--is neck-deep in one of these scandals.

So, I eagerly await round four of the deflection game, since round three is clearly a dud. What will it be? Place your bets...

Cheers, all.

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