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The Bright Side of the Scandals

There are so many scandals currently swirling about the White House, each with so many convoluted subplots, that even the most avid enthusiast will find it hard to keep up with the latest twists. As much as we’ve been enjoying the spectacle, especially the hilarious answers being offered up by an administration unaccustomed to hard questions, following all the developments is proving so exhausting that we’re thinking of switching to “Breaking Bad” or some other trendy episodic television series.
The scandals are so numerous, and the damning details so voluminous, that there is some concern among the administration’s critics that their effect will blunted. Some worry that with each scandal vying for news space and attention none of them will get the attention nor provoke the outrage that it individually warrants. Others worry that the stories are so constant the public will soon come to regard such abuses of governmental power as normal, in much the same way that they’ve become accustomed to trillion dollar deficits or Obamacare. Yet another theory, more compelling to us, holds that the stories are distracting attention from more consequential scandals such as trillion dollar deficits and Obamacare. No one on the right seems confident that anyone will ever be held responsible, that any meaningful reforms will be enacted to prevent such outrages in the future, or that the opposition to the administration will even gain a political advantage from all the muck.
Despite being temperamentally inclined toward such pessimism, we are cautiously hopeful that the revelations of all the scandals will ultimately have some beneficial effect on the nation’s politics. Despite a virtual declaration of war upon them by the Justice Department the media still aren’t covering any of the scandals with the same screeching indignation that they brought to the non-scandal of George W. Bush’s 30-year-old Air National Guard records or the celebrification of Valerie Plame, which would be too much to hope for, but a surprising amount of attention is being paid. At this point even the most determinedly uninformed Americans have heard enough snippets of stories to sense that something is awry, and they’re not hearing anything reassuring. Occasional editorial efforts to assure that the public that the scandals are of no importance have the same curiosity-inducing effect of a policeman telling passersby that “here’s nothing to see here,” and the administration’s claims that the needless deaths of four Americans in a far-flung Libyan consulate happened a long time ago, that the president’s chief of staff didn’t want to bother the president with the news that the Internal Revenue Service was harassing his political enemies, and that the Attorney General was righteously offended by the warrants he’d signed to treat investigative journalism was a criminal conspiracy are not likely to satisfy anyone but the most loyal partisans.
What’s more, the general impression to be gleaned from all the noise is that the government is not to be trusted, neither for competence nor honesty. This sobering realization, which has been a bedrock assumption of conservatism since at least the days Edmund Burke, will inform the debate on any number of issues. Although it is possible that the Congress will pass a bring ‘em on immigration reform bill under the cover of the scandals, those paying attention will be more likely to heed the skeptical voices noting that the amnesty proceeds the long-awaited border enforcement and other promises intended to reassure the conservative majority. The shocking abuses of the IRS will strengthen the arguments against Obamcare, which hands unprecedented powers to the rogue agency, and should revive efforts to replace the irreparably corrupt tax system with something flatter and simpler. The brazen attempt to silence dissent in both the IRS and Justice Department scandals will also embolden both the Tea Party and the press, maybe even lessen their bitter rivalry, and it can be expected that even more whistle-blowers will free to come forward with even more revelations.
Perhaps it’s too much to hope for, but we can’t help thinking that maybe those phony “green jobs” programs with their million-dollar-a-job price tags will be looked at with a newfound skepticism, and even the trillion dollar deficits that they’re adding to will be reconsidered. A long, hot summer of scandals slowly trickling into the news will lead nice into the 2014 election season, and if the conservatives don’t take advantage it will be their own fault.

— Bud Norman

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