Monday, May 13, 2013

Putting Scandals In Perspective

We're going to be getting this for the next three months or so between summer movies.  Link is to Balloon Juice but from there it's the No Mister Nice Blog site:

I know what Public Policy Polling should ask in its next national poll, based on results from the latest PPP poll:
... there's no doubt about how mad Republicans are about Benghazi. 41% say they consider this to be the biggest political scandal in American history to only 43% who disagree with that sentiment. Only 10% of Democrats and 20% of independents share that feeling. Republicans think by a 74/19 margin than Benghazi is a worse political scandal than Watergate, by a 74/12 margin that it's worse than Teapot Dome, and by a 70/20 margin that it's worse than Iran Contra.
This poll was conducted Friday through Sunday. I bet if you polled Republicans today through Wednesday, they'd have a completely different answer -- because they'd say that the IRS scandal is the biggest political scandal in American history. (Please, PPP, survey that, and prove me right.)But yes, over the weekend, Republicans were at Defcon-1 about Benghazi. However:
One interesting thing about the voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history is that 39% of them don't actually know where it is. 10% think it's in Egypt, 9% in Iran, 6% in Cuba, 5% in Syria, 4% in Iraq, and 1% each in North Korea and Liberia with 4% not willing to venture a guess.
Cuba! Love it.

When your polling providers can't win a ninth-grade geography quiz, you might want to question the shared wisdom of the morans upright citizens getting quizzed.

But the thing bothering me is that there doesn't seem to be much honest perspective here.  The Benghazi attack bigger than Watergate?  Worse than Teapot Dome?  Worse than Iran Contra?

They not only flunked out of geography class, they flunked flank, uh flunked American history.

Let's try this as a little perspective.

Watergate was a catch-all for a series of Nixon Administration backed "plumbing" operations aggressively hunting down leaks and also working to sabotage the 1972 Democratic primaries and general election.  Involved dozens of upper White House admins, ex-CIA spooks, illegal wiretapping (before FISA), and millions of dollars in slush fund / money laundering operations.  With the President of the United States himself urging obstruction of justice and payoffs to sweep it all under the rug.  Granted, Watergate had no body count - that we know of - like Benghazi did.  But the main focus of the Far Right's ire on Benghazi is how the Obama White House and Hillary Clinton State Department tried to "cover up" their questionable response to the tragedy: there is no hush money, no obstruction, no Cubans breaking into offices with G. Gordon Liddy at look-out duty, nothing on the scale of Watergate.  The original arguments about Obama and Hillary's failings to secure the Libyan consulate are getting a lot of push-back from people with more solid credentials who are pointing out A) embassy attacks under Bush the Lesser were WORSE, and B) budget cuts pushed by Republican-controlled Congress are a big reason why our embassies are under-defended.  But they've got a winner here, people, so they're pushing Benghazi as BIGGER THAN WATERGATE...

...even though Watergate is the measuring stick by how all other scandals are measured.  If it's bigger than Watergate it's gotta be in the Top Freaking Three All-Time list.  Does Benghazi - a failure of proper security budgeting if anything - rank that high?  Really?

Teapot Dome, if anyone didn't sleep through Early 20th Century American history, was a massive kickback scandal involving the Interior Department higher-ups leasing oil-reserve lands to their buddies during the Harding administration (another Republican, by the by).  We're talking corruption at a high level of government involving millions of dollars.  Again, no discernible body count for Teapot Dome like there is for Benghazi, but then again Benghazi does not involve millions of dollars (in today's money) in bribes.

And for the third item on the list - Iran Contra, which is a Reagan-era scandal (and another Republican administration scandal.  It's official, I'm noticing a trend...) - this gets a little complicated.  The first half (Iran) is where the Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran during a period when the Iranian government were officially opposing us and in fact backing a handful of embarrassing hostage-takings and attacks in Lebanon and across the Middle East.  The second half (Contra) is where the Reagan admin took the funds raised from those arms deals and used it to fund Contra rebel forces fighting a civil war in Nicaragua, which was disallowed by Congress through the Boland Amendment, a series of laws limiting direct U.S. funding.  To be fair, this one's actually a bit bigger than Watergate: Iran Contra directly challenged the checks-and-balances between Congress and White House, it involved illegal financial dealings in the millions of dollars, and it does have something of a body count (hundreds if not thousands of people killed during the civil war).  At least eleven White House officials indicted, some convicted... and all covered by a pardon from Bush the Elder when he left the White House in 1992, effectively putting a lid on the whole thing.  THIS mess, where Iran Contra was an intentional willful act of criminality, is worse than an mid-sized level of incompetence and a small-sized level of fine-tuning press releases like Benghazi?

Here's the perspective: Benghazi is tragic, yes.  People died, especially those who had a genuine interest in stabilizing an unstable war-torn nation.  But it is NOTHING compared to the attacks on the Constitution and rule of law like Watergate and Iran Contra were.  Benghazi is nothing compared to financial criminal misdeeds of Teapot Dome, or ABSCAM, or the Savings and Loans collapse, or the various scandals of the Grant administration.

I admit to bias here.  I'm a backer of Obama, and I am wary AND weary of the yelling and screaming about him by the goddamn wingnuts these past five years.  There are, yes, calls for Obama's impeachment.  Never mind the fact that the Far Right had been struggling for years to find anything to impeach yet another Democrat they despise - remember Solyndra?  Other than the Breitbart crowd, most don't - and now act like they've finally got an excuse to break out the Impeach Stick.

Part of me is actually glad the Far Right is pushing this as a major scandal.  The concept of "over-reach" still seems beyond their comprehension.  If they try to take this to the people, they're going to find out that everyone's skeletons on the issue - especially Congress's role in killing off funding for embassy security - will be on the table.  And that Congress - already less popular than some diseases - is not going to get a lot of sympathy from the average American on that.  And the last time they tried this during a mid-term season, the Far Right got their asses kicked.

That said, the stuff about the IRS investigating Tea Party funding issues... that could be an embarrassment for Obama.  Except for the fact that the Far Right is already over-reaching on this...

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