To Build a Fire
Scandals have no life on their own. Like fire, they need fuel to survive; and the hotter they burn, the faster that fuel goes. This week we saw at least three scandals race across our national attention spans with all the fury of a California blaze. Only they petered out so fast they may as well have been a boy scout’s first effort doused with morning coffee.
But that’s not for lack of trying. According to Dick Cheney, who is quickly acquiring the status of The Crazy Uncle In The Attic, Benghazi was one of the worst incidents that occurred in his career, gracefully eliding the fact that his career encompassed the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that precipitated– with his direct supervision– two disastrous wars, one of which has still to end – at the cost of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghanistan lives.
But whatever. It’s not like you would expect someone nicknamed ‘Darth Vader’ to actually tell the truth. Should anyone be interested in the truth, it’s not hard to come by. Read the recently released emails and the story is less one of ‘scandal’, and more one of interagency infighting with a little SOP confusion tossed on top for good measure – something military types would reclassify as a SNAFU. Hardly nefarious in the Dark Empire way that stalwarts of the GOP would have you believe. The only real scandal here is the fact that the GOP faked the emails they handed off to news organization which naturally reported this out without so much as a simple, ‘Hey, are you sure?’… much less an apology for taking the American public for a useless ride for the last six months. To quickly recap: the GOP edited the emails to agree with their allegations that the White House had edited talking points about Benghazi. I’m not even sure there’s an appropriate metaphor to capture this level of duplicity. Really, it’s something that ought to be studied in one of those Ivy League classrooms the rightwing loves to hate. Doctoral thesis: Republican Meta Narratives and the Birth of Red Herrings in Benghazi
Unfortunately, it’s not like the American Public has ever kept track of these things. Say, remember back when the Republicans burned through a few million tax payer dollars investigating Whitewater and came up with a completely unrelated Monica Lewinsky scandal? Do you suppose they’re pulling that same nonsense again?
The next scandal to flicker forth this week managed to get some traction for a day or two, and then like a backyard fire on a suburban track lawn, it died from lack of fuel. Not only did Steve Miller, the relevant agency director, resign, but Obama was in front of it before Hannity managed to check his cue cards and stop shouting ‘Benghazi’! As Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, “there’s no there there”. Seriously. This is about some poor schmucks in the Cincinnati offices of the IRS who were told to keep an eye out for words like Tea Party, Patriots, Constitution and 9/12 on the mostly correct theory that such groups had a hard-on for advocating tax delinquency, if not outright fraud, and were scooping up money from the Koch brothers faster than Imelda Marcos in a shoe shop. The IRS SHOULD of course be watchful of these groups, but none of that seems to have penetrated rightwing zeitgeist. Sometimes, you just want to take these folks aside and explain that screaming at 3000 decibels that the taxes are un-American, that you’re not intending to pay said taxes and that you think the IRS is, itself, unconstitutional, may not be the wisest choice when you’re trying to earn the IRS good housekeeping seal of approval.
But whatever. By week’s end, the scandal du jour had become the AP email scandal which didn’t make the right nearly as happy as it made the left angry; even though the ‘scandal’ really wasn’t one, at least not in the sense that Boehner had hoped it might be. You know, where you get to “send someone to jail”. No, none of the scandals really took hold, mostly because they asked the wrong questions. For Benghazi the problem wasn’t personalities –Hillary had zip to do with this—it was procedural. But you’d have to be after something beyond pure politics to actually understand the problem. Ditto the issue with the IRS whose guidelines for approving 504c organizations was confusing and became exponentially more difficult when Citizens United opened up a floodgate of applications that the agency had to process.
Finally, the AP email scandal isn’t so much a scandal as a symptom of bad law in need of repeal. Namely, the Patriot Act, passed under Bush and re-upped under the Obama administration which has subsequently made notions like a right to personal privacy, a really free press and due process utterly quaint like a Swanson TV dinner. Or an I Love Lucy episode. Or a boy scout’s first attempt to start a campfire.
Here’s one reason the IRS might be especially interested in the Tea Party types:
Judge rules tea party group a PAC, not a nonprofit