Scandal-Mongering: Desperate and Doomed

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Writing for The Week, Peter Weber asks whether Republicans will overplay the various scandals that could engulf the Obama Administration. That's a fair question, given how the GOP handled the Lewinsky scandal back in the 1990s and, more importantly, why it did so. Weber quotes blogger Jonathan Bernstein regarding the how:

Scandal-mongering, obviously, is very lucrative within the conservative marketplace.... [But] actually finishing an impeachment presumably ends whatever scandal they are mongering. It might be better to just keep the witch-hunt going.... On balance I think the final word on this is likely to be John Boehner's demonstrated ability in guiding House Republicans past their worst self-destructive instincts.
This may be, but Weber indicates earlier that the American public is weary of scandals and, at least in the case of Bengazi, indifferent to them. So even this much political calculus looks futile to me.

Regarding why the GOP might overplay any or all of Obama's scandals, one need only consider why they overplayed the Lewinsky scandal and why they were unable to defeat Barack Obama in 2012. As I said after the 2012 election:
Barack Obama did not win comfortably. He has no mandate. If America is so brain-dead as to actually want this non-entity for President again, our goose is cooked. But this "win" seemed more like something happening by  default. Perhaps if voters had had a clearer and more inspiring choice, the result would have been different. Perhaps Scott Brown wasn't the only Republican who sounded too much like his opponent, but only the most obvious one. Obama -- or the man who first signed ObamaCare into law in his own state? A man who wants to run a massive welfare state somehow -- or one whose Vice President wants to save the massive welfare state by slowing its rate of growth? This wasn't really much of a choice, was it?
The Republicans only spoke of dismantling the welfare state "brick by brick" when they took Congress during Clinton's presidency. Based on their subsequent actions, they made this promise only because they thought it would get them elected. They did no such thing, and they did not represent a true, principled alternative to Bill Clinton's vision of improper government. The GOP didn't truly oppose the welfare state then, and they don't now. Until they do, the Republicans can only hope to gain power as a more palatable alternative, whatever that might mean -- at least until most voters become completely cynical about all politicians. So I see scandal-mongering as a poor long-term strategy as well as a poor short-term one.

That said, if Barack Obama deserves to be impeached and removed from office -- and I would hope that anyone would see using the IRS to violate freedom of speech as sufficient reason -- the GOP should cast aside any forecasts of short-term electoral losses (or Democrat gains due to "healing") and move precisely in that direction. They should, that is, for the right reason, which is protecting the individual rights of all Americans. Such a move would represent a step in the right direction, and, by that fact, show that the GOP is (a) serious about providing Americans a proper-government alternative and (b) trustworthy.

If the GOP hopes to use Barack Obama's scandals to oust a man from power, they might succeed. However, any attempt on their part to use Barack Obama's scandals as a  substitute for having to make a case to voters that they deserve to hold office will backfire sooner or later.

-- CAV

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