Republicans Cry Wolf on Fake Scandals


USNews & World Report–Thomas Jefferson Street Blog

May 22, 2013 RSS Feed Print

I have to confess that I am the only Washington political junkie who has not watched the series “Scandal,” or even the much acclaimed “House of Cards.” Maybe that makes me not competent to comment on what is going on in Washington these days – IRS, Benghazi, Associated Press reporters tracked. I hope not.

What we are seeing on the nightly news or emanating from Capitol Hill is so far from a “scandal” I find myself in an Alice in Wonderland world. (A Mad Hatter tea party?)

The word scandal does not even fit – this is not Teapot Dome, this is not Spiro Agnew, this is not Watergate, this is not Iran Contra. The 24/7 news cycle has taken the confluence of events and the ease with which congressional hearings become show trials and blown this all way out of proportion. After all, the definition of scandal is “an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.”

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]

But we have seen a version of this movie before. We saw it during the Clinton era. Investigations, special prosecutors, hearing after hearing, attack, attack, attack. What did we end up with after Whitewater, Hillary’s billing records, Vince Foster, Monica Lewinsky, impeachment? Zip.

Once again, Americans are bombarded with the word “scandal.” And the words that go along with it: “cover up,” “conspiracy,” “corrupt.” The trouble is there is no scandal; there is no issue remotely resembling Watergate.

In an attempt to identify organizations that were hiding their donors, garnering tax-exempt status and claiming the “social welfare” mantle, staff at the IRS included key words that targeted the tea party. Big mistake. But blame Obama and the White House? Please. The IRS also targeted over two-dozen liberal groups. All these political campaign groups should never have been given status as tax exempt, social welfare organizations. That is the real scandal.

[See a collection of editorial Cartoons on the IRS Scandal.]

And how long are we going to investigate Benghazi? Again, no conspiracy, just the usual interagency competition, confusion and rush to get something out without jeopardizing an ongoing investigation.

The sad fact is that the steady drumbeat is eroding the public’s trust and leading to greater cynicism. Just as we are emerging from a horrendous recession, have to deal with real disasters in our heartland and need to focus on rebuilding, some in Congress want to do more tearing down of Obama and his administration. It is crassly political and it exploits the word scandal – but it is not even close.

The Republicans are beginning to resemble the boy who cried wolf just a few too many times.