Saturday, November 17, 2012

Desperately Seeking Scandal

This week Paul Waldman hit the sweet spot when he pointed out the motivation behind the non-story on Benghazi...scandal envy.
So what's going on here? I can sum it up in two words: scandal envy. Republicans are indescribably frustrated by the fact that Barack Obama, whom they regard as both illegitimate and corrupt, went through an entire term without a major scandal. They tried with "Fast and Furious," but that turned out to be small potatoes. They tried with Solyndra, but that didn't produce the criminality they hoped for either. Obama even managed to dole out three-quarters of a trillion dollars in stimulus money without any graft or double-dealing to be found. Nixon had Watergate, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Clinton had Lewinsky, and Barack Obama has gotten off scott-free. This is making them absolutely livid, and they're going to keep trying to gin up a scandal, even if there's no there there. Benghazi may not be an actual scandal, but it's all they have handy.
Kevin Drum took it from there.
Yep. They're just convinced that Obama runs a gang of Chicago thugs who are lying and cheating behind the scenes at every opportunity. It's a foundational story on the tea-party right. Unfortunately, the reality is that whatever else you think of Obama, he's one of the straightest arrows we've had in the White House since....forever. He runs a tight ship organizationally, and on a personal level he's so intolerant of personal peccadilloes that he sometimes seems almost inhuman. It would be astonishing if he could actually avoid a serious scandal for an entire eight-year term, but if anyone can do it, it's probably Obama.
It all reminded me of an article Jonathan Alter wrote a year ago titled "Scandal in the Age of Obama." He outlines several theories about why attempts by Republicans to stir up a scandal have failed. Alter has a little fun with "The Family-Man Theory."
Of course the most entertaining and explosive scandals involve sex, which reporters and pundits will ride all day and night. But you’ve got to give them something to work with... Barack Obama and an intern? Highly unlikely. The first lady would kill him, cover it up, look fabulous at the state funeral—and no one would be any the wiser.
But perhaps more pertinent to things like the Benghazi non-story is his "Pattern-of-Behavior Theory."
A critical variable in aggressive press coverage is whether a story is consistent with what we think we already know about a politician. If it is, the story is more likely to resonate.
The fact that President Obama took the risk to go after bin Laden and has been so aggressive in his "war on al Qaeda" makes in laughable to think that he would use a terrorist incident to blatantly manipulate a story. That's one of the reasons this one will never develop.

I have no doubt that when the Benghazi story fades, the Republicans will continue their quest. But when it comes to this President, they've got their work cut out for them.
With Obama, the perceived pattern of behavior that he carried with him into office was mostly positive. Being seen as a professorial type who stands above the fray hasn’t always endeared him to the public, but it hasn’t exactly set the stage for scandal either.

No comments:

Post a Comment