SHOCKED! Shocked, I Tell You!
[Updated below the fold]
What a week! And, I have to agree with Jay Carney, it’s actually been a good week, if for no other reason than its entertainment value. Scandalpalooza has downtrodden Republicans floating in a purple haze of political fairy dust and, history teaches us that when the GOP has magic on its mind it becomes rather spectacularly self-destructive.
By the end of a week of Republican non-stop merrymaking, Prince Rebus and “You’re a Mean One, Mr Gingrich” are the sole, sober voices of reason. Say what you will about Newt, but he does have decades worth of first-hand knowledge of the inner workings, serial miscalculations, over-reach and bumbling blunders that have carried the GOP to its present-day level of uselessness.
So it is that Prince and Newt are the grownups desperately calling cabs for the less inhibited partygoers before they start spewing a skinful of Impeachment Punch all over the rotunda.
In one of those cabs, we find Peggy Noonan belting out “those were the days, my friend” spliced with “we are in the middle of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate” and “the South shall rise again.” [I added that last part; it seemed to fit]
Admittedly, it’s been a while since Peggy Noonan made any sense to me. At first, I thought she was cleverly speaking in tongues. But Peggy’s Catholic and they generally frown on that kind of melodrama.
Nowadays, I tend to agree with Charlie Pierce:
God put her [Noonan] on this earth to make Maureen Dowd look sane.
That makes more sense to me.
In another cab, we have Michael A Needham whose true genius has only just recently been unleashed by his elevation to Starfleet Commander of Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of Jim Demint’s Conservative Boys Club, the Heritage Foundation. Basking in the media’s “white hot” focus on Scandalpalooza, Needham addressed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor advising them to lay off the governing and fan the media flames for all they’re worth:
. . . it is incumbent upon the House of Representatives to conduct oversight hearings on those actions, but it would be imprudent to do anything that shifts the focus from the Obama administration to the ideological differences within the House Republican Conference.
To that end, we urge you to avoid bringing any legislation to the House Floor that could expose or highlight major schisms within the conference. Legislation such as the Internet sales tax or the FARRM Act which contains nearly $800 billion in food stamp spending, would give the press a reason to shift their attention away from the failures of the Obama administration to write another ‘circular firing squad’ article.
I have to wonder how the interests of actual constituents figure into this equation.
Having a low-info base is both a blessing and a curse . . . it can mean that it’s oh-so-easy to snooker the poor rubes into hyperventilating over the conservative outrage du jour but, on the other hand, if something subtler than “See Dick run” comes along it has to be “clarified” and writ large for it to penetrate their tiny tricorn-covered domes. Since Benghazi lacked an easily identifiable “smoking gun,” Republicans created a 3D printout, of their own, loaded with some dry ice.
All of Benghazi-Gate depended heavily on the President doing what a Republican President [and “REAL MAN”] would do: refuse, by gum, to cough up the White House emails. Republicans on those super-special “Eyes Only” House committees counted on being a select few to actually peruse the emails, take copious notes and spin gold out of dryer lint. And the American public would just have to take their word for what they found. Lo and Behold! they found exactly what they were looking for: Grounds for Impeachment! Word.
But, as usual, the Kenyan Usurper played the Outside-the-Box gambit, waited patiently for the prevaricating to commence, then released the damn emails for all to see [and compare to the GOP version]. Ooooh! tough break, GOP. Hoist by your own improvised explosive device!
Likewise, the AP “scandal” is a big fat nothingburger that has already faded into a dud story about the Department of Justice actually doing what 31 Republicans demanded they do: find out where those leaks are.
And the IRS? Well, aside from the shocking revelation that the agency that administers our rococo tax code is just as baffled by their job as John Q. Public, this scandal has no legs either. This one has more to do with total confusion in the backwash of Citizens United and the dash for “every middlesex village and farm” to create its own PAC.
If we look very closely at the situation, we might find that the truth lies somewhere in the top-heavy in-boxes of underpaid federal workers doing their best to provide bottoms-up support for our ricketiest of bureaucracies, on an austerity budget.
Waiting in long lines can sometimes feel like discrimination, but, really? Annoying? yes. Predictable? Oh yes, indeed. Sinister? hardly.
[I, personally, just finished wrangling with the IRS for six years over $6,000 they erroneously believed I owed them. My accountant and I responded to reams of forms with reams of evidence. Three times, in all, the IRS sent me a notice saying that the mistake had been corrected; followed up, twice, by increasingly threatening demands (for the tax bill they’d just said I didn’t owe) climaxing with a tax lien notice.
HAPPY ENDING: the whole thing has been vacated and I have an official apology, with a cherry on top.
Now, I’m a lesbian, but am I claiming this was a hate crime? No. If I were a loony conspiracy theorist could I? Sure, sky’s the limit.]
I must admit, though, that it provides me with no end of entertainment to watch drips like Mitch McConnell publicly pump up the outrage perpetrated on the poor TEA Party by the diabolical Obama, while clandestinely cackling over the notion that some Obama administration apparatchiks have unwittingly granted him, and many of his RINO cronies, a campaign dream-come-true by tying up the TEA Party political machine in miles of red tape.
Meanwhile, back at the Oval Office, polls out just this morning show Obama’s approval rating actually improving to 53%, after a week of Scandalpalooza, while his Republican nemeses shriek impeachment from their confinement in the shallow end. Despite the fact that Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said, “It’s been a bad week for the administration,” and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) reports that her constituents badger her every weekend with calls for impeachment, a lot of interesting things are going on, nonetheless, in the real world.
For example, immigration legislation keeps trudging methodically toward bipartisan approval in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure “has strong support of its own in the Senate,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D-MN)., a member of the panel [who didn’t mention being pestered by her Minnesota constituents to impeach the President]. Meanwhile, in the House, a bipartisan group reported agreement in principle toward a compromise on immigration, which would become a notable second-term domestic achievement for Obama.
Ernest Moniz, the president’s nominee for energy secretary was actually confirmed unanimously by the Senate. And Republicans are showing signs that they might allow confirmation of Sri Srinivasan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Also, a House committee approved legislation to prevent a spike in interest rates on student loans on July 1. Loosely supportive of a White House-backed proposal for future rate changes to be based on private markets.
So why do the remaining sane people of the GOP allow this zany, often embarrassing, political circus to take up valuable time in the center ring? Mostly because it’s all they’ve got. If America isn’t interested in tax cuts, 18th century social and fiscal policy, hating on the black guy or shooting Hillary in her ladyparts, then the GOP is pretty much all washed up. It’s come to this highly imaginative, arrested development acting-out that will most likely play out over a very long four years.
For the rest of us, it’s time to make the popcorn, tap a keg and kick back while Republicans attempt to go way too far on fumes, breakdown somewhere between Kansas and Oz and have to hitch-hike back to the Beltway.
At the same time that I was hammering away at this piece, my sister-blogger, VixenStrangely, was putting her own spin on roughly the same observations and coming to similar conclusions. By dumb luck, I posted here before Vixen had a chance to cross-post from her eponymous blog. Blogger’s Code says you don’t double-team a fellow-bloggers’ play, so Vixen graciously held back. But, you really should read Vixen’s post, too, because two heads are always better than one [plus, she makes some really good points that didn’t occur to me]. Brava, Vixen.