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Hullabaloo


Monday, May 31, 2010

 
Catnip

by digby


The Village press is always very creative about justifying their love of gossip and enabling of Right Wing Noise Machine propaganda. But this article, from Politico is awe-inspiring:


“I’m sure there’s substantial precedent for an administration to subtly suggest to a potential candidate, ‘Maybe you’d like to step aside.’ But [the fact that] this controversy involves a former president who just happens to be married to a member of his Cabinet just moves this to a whole different level,” Rozell said. “Clinton’s administration was involved in a number of ethics controversies and investigations just like this. ... This looks like a rookie administration type of mistake.”

A good part of Obama’s appeal to the Democratic electorate in 2008 was that he didn’t carry the baggage of scandal that rival Hillary Clinton and Bill did. Obama and his aides actively sought to stoke that perception by repeatedly insisting on full transparency from the Clinton camp and making pointed legislative proposals like mandating disclosure of all donations to presidential libraries and all lobbying for presidential pardons.

At the time, the Clintons maintained that the “whiff-of-scandal” standard was deeply unfair when there was no substance to many of the charges leveled during the Clinton years. They also grumbled that Obama was aligning himself with right-wingers who built an industry of accusing the Clintons of everything from real estate scams to murder.

Now, Obama aides find themselves complaining that their White House is being tarred by unsubstantiated allegations and erroneous legal conclusions...


So, you see, the Obama administration is asking for the unfair, unsubstantiated "whiff of scandal" standard to be applied to them because they pointed out that the press always used the unfair, unsubstantiated "whiff of scandal" standard against Bill and Hillary Clinton. And because the Clintons complained about it, they apparently still deserve it too, judging by the opening lines of the exact same story:


Bill Clinton’s picture is again a fixture on cable news.

Republicans are sternly demanding a special prosecutor.

And legal commentators are bickering over the finer points of federal criminal statutes on bribery and graft.

It feels like 1997 — but it’s 2010. And Barack Obama can’t be happy.

The use of Clinton as the conduit to offer Sestak an advisory board position is like catnip for cable television and for Republicans who have plenty of experience painting the former president as ethically challenged...

Notice the passive voice. No agency. The whole thing is just happening magically, reporters are merely reporting --- what other reporters are doing. The news is the news.

This Sestak scandal may very well never go anywhere. The truth is that most of them don't, if you define "going somewhere" as culminating in an official investigation, resignation or the like. If you look at the litany of scandals during the Clinton years you can see that there was a new one each week, some took off, some didn't. But that isn't the point. They will throw anything at the wall to see what sticks, some things will, some won't --- but the cumulative effect of these accusations and the press's willingness to help pursue them is a sense of unease, suspicion, finally fatigue and an eagerness to just have it over with. The administration, I mean. That was the main hurdle for Gore in 2000, and it contributed greatly to how close that race was. Bush's entire campaign really came down to "returning honor and integrity to the White House" which was, for a lot of people, a very simple decision. They were sick of all the scandals and even if they didn't think Clinton was guilty of anything substantial, they blamed him for making the right wing hate him so much and couldn't stomach the idea of another 8 years of keening hysteria from the noise machine. (It's not an accident that Democrats only had the presidency for 12 of the 40 years before Obama.)

The press contributes to this phenomenon by chasing every last story as if it were unique, requiring reporting and investigation regardless of what they know to be the underlying dynamics at play. And regardless of the outcome, the validation of the "questions" alone validates the overarching narrative the noise machine is creating.

And they can always find someone "impartial" to blame the victim, so they don't have to take responsibility for any of it:

[S]ome impartial observers said Obama’s promises to rise above typical Washington shenanigans are sure to give added life to even the slightest claim of impropriety.

“He has established an impossibly high standard for political Washington,” Rozell said. “Now he has to live with the consequences of being called out on it.”
It's a game of cat and mouse. Too bad about the country.


Update: It should be noted that there are people quoted in the story who say the Republicans are trying to go "back to the future" and resurrect the bogus scandal culture of the 90s. The problem with that analysis is that they don't seem to realize that it never went away. Just ask Al Gore or John Kerry. Obama managed to avoid it during the 2008 election because Clinton was in it for most of it and the right didn't know who to focus their fire on. They were confused through most of it. Although they tried mightily to tar him as a secret Muslim and terrorist sympathizer it only stuck for a majority of Republicans, not the nation as a whole. And also the Village press resisted the impulse to feed that one because the right forgot that these scandals must have juicy elements of both tabloid trivia and crude corruption in order to gain any traction among the beltway crowd. They love conspiracies, but it needs to be of the shallow political variety for the chatterers to really sink their teeth into it.


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