Friday, June 28, 2013


Jonathan Chait is prematurely declaring victory, in a post titled "Remember the Obama Scandals? That Used to Be a Thing":
Do you remember how all-consuming the "Obama scandals" once were? This was a turn of events so dramatic it defined Obama's entire second term -- he was "waylaid by controversies," or at least "seriously off track," "beset by scandals," enduring a "second-term curse," the prospect of "endless scandals," Republicans "beginning to write his legislative obituary," and Washington had "turned on Obama." A ritualistic media grilling of Jay Carney, featuring the ritualistic comparisons of him to Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler, sanctified the impression of guilt.

It has come and gone, having left barely a trace. To be sure, the Obama scandals live on in the conservative world, where the evidence of deep corruption and venality grows stronger and stronger. But that is merely the confirmation of suspicions of "Chicago politics," ACORN and so on, that predate recent events and don't require any particular facts to survive.
The scandals have "left barely a trace"? Really?

I agree that the acute phase of this period of scandal -- or at least of the pre-Snowden scandals -- is over. But there are lingering effects, and Obama may not completely recover. And the NSA story continues to evolve.

Now, I agree that there doesn't seem to be much juice left in the Benghazi story. Benghazi never meant much outside the community of Obama-haters; non-haters couldn't figure out what the hell they were supposed to hate Obama for doing with regard to Benghazi, so they never linked Obama to it at all.

But the NSA story is just the opposite. I think people are having trouble grasping the details of it, but they're resolving their confusion in favor of thinking that Obama's behavior has been more blameworthy than it actually is. So you have Mick Jagger getting laughs in concert by saying,
"I don't think President Obama is here tonight, but I'm sure he's listening in."
You have this circulating online -- possibly the first Net-based anti-Obama joke that's actually funny (click to enlarge):

Yeah, these are just jokes -- but the notion that Obama's an evil snooper, personally listening in on calls and reading e-mails, is getting to be embedded in America's subconscious. Even if people don't believe that literally, it's seriously damaging.

The IRS story (and, to a much lesser extent, the AP/Fox story) were table-setters for that, of course. The IRS story is supposed to be over -- but the right doesn't think so. I yield to no one in my willingness to mock Peggy Noonan, but I don't know how to rebut what she writes today:
A breathlessly exonerative narrative swept the news media this week: that liberal groups had been singled out and, by implication, abused by the IRS, just as conservative groups had been. Therefore, the scandal wasn't a scandal but a mere bungle -- a nonpolitical series of unhelpful but innocent mistakes.

The problem with this story is that liberals were not caught in the IRS dragnet. Progressive groups were not targeted....

According to a House Ways and Means Committee source, only seven of the 298 cases flagged by the IRS for extra scrutiny appeared to represent progressive causes. Not one of the seven was subject to harassment or abuse. Of the seven, only two were even sent follow-up questionnaires after their applications for tax-exempt status were received. Neither of those two was asked inappropriate or invasive questions. And all seven saw their applications approved.
Maybe there's fatigue surrounding this story, and maybe everyone outside the right -- for good reason -- thinks Obama has nothing to do with what happened at the IRS anyway. Maybe most people, being apolitical, don't give a crap what happens to political activists of any kind. But I'm not sure we can completely wash our hands of this if the extra scrutiny was so disproportional.

And Benghazi may be dead, but there's a chance it may become undead next year:
Benghazi security team nails $3M book deal

... Twelve Books, which announced this week it signed a deal with four members of the elite security team from the annex of the US Embassy in the Mideast town, is paying a $3 million advance....

The book by the authors -- whose names were not released -- is scheduled to be released in 2014....
Twelve is not part of the wingnut media. Twelve is an imprint of Hachette's publishing division, which includes the likes of Little, Brown. Twelve's books are mostly apolitical; among political types, it's published Ted Kennedy's memoir and a book by Henry Waxman, and its righties don't get much further right than Christopher Buckley and Christopher Hitchens. (Twelve's most successful book is probably Hitchens's defense of atheism, God Is Not Great.)

So, yeah, this probably won't be a right-wing hit job. Or maybe this is a case of a non-wingnut publisher looking for a little of that sweet, sweet wingnut cash. (Action-filled military memoirs are big sellers these days as well.)

But what I find most striking is the advance. Three million bucks is a huge advance in the book biz. That's what publishers pay when they're certain they have a blockbuster.

So what the hell is in this book -- which is coming out in 2014, the year of the next midterms?

(Chait via Memeorandum.)


UPDATE: Charlie Pierce fisks the Noonan column. But it's not just her throwing around those numbers, so I think the meme is still alive.


Greg Hao said...

The Peggy Noonan bit that you quoted, I'm not sure what the context is. I read over at Charlie Pierce/Esquire yesterday or the day before about a report from the IRS IG that states that their report to the House Ways and Means committee was to focus only on republican/conservative groups. So maybe that's why these 7/300 liberal/progressive groups were accidentally pulled in?

Greg Hao said...

Pierce cover this today as well:

Chris Andersen said...

You really can't spend a lot of time worrying about the lingering effect of the perpetual right-wing smoke blowers without giving them at least something of what they want: a distraction.

I take my cues from Obama himself: the best way to deal with the distraction is to create a better distraction.

Victor said...

Uhm... Steve... I suspect that you answered you own question:
"... Twelve Books, which announced this week it signed a deal with four members of the elite security team from the annex of the US Embassy in the Mideast town, is paying a $3 million advance..."

Probably because they know the "bulk-buy" rates from Wingnut Welfare groups, and have a clue about the individual 'walk-up simpleton' purchases.

These are going to be books aimed at morons with a bit of discretionary money, and the IQ's of house-plants.

And with the Reich Wing Wurlitzer pumping away, pushing any book, it's BOUND to sell more than %3 Million in total.