The Scandal Trifecta That Isn’t
By Doug Porter
After five years of waiting and hoping, Republicans of the Tea Party persuasion have finally reached a hysterical critical mass. Here, they’re saying, is the proof of what we’ve been trying to tell the public all along—that the President of the United States is unfit for office.
Yesterday, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann hijacked a press conference with Senator Mitch McConnell that was supposed to be a pity party for some tea partiers who were allegedly targeted by the IRS, by announcing that her constituents were demanding impeachment.
As Brian Beutler at TPM noted, “You could hear the crunch of McConnell’s intestines turning to ice from across the capital.”
The mother of all these ‘scandals’, Benghazi ran into trouble yesterday as Republicans were fingered in the national news media for mischaracterizing leaking two isolated tidbits from classified emails. The unnamed ‘Congressional GOP sources’ belief they could get away with such a deception was undone by the Obama administration’s decision to release more than 100 pages of previous classified emails.
CBS News Reporter Major Garrett went on the air to call out the leakers for twisting the truth in an effort to make the State Department and the White House look bad. I’d be willing to bet the leaks were connected to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
As the New York Times noted in an editorial today:
The tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, never a scandal to begin with, has devolved into a turf-protection spat between government agencies, and the e-mail messages Republicans long demanded made clear that there was no White House cover-up.
Our own Congressional clown Darrell Issa is now facing his own quandary on the Benghazi front. His hopes of having former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, who oversaw an internal State Department review of last year’s attacks on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, testify behind closed doors were dashed as they demanded a public hearing.
Now Issa won’t be able to twist and then leak their testimony. I’m thinking he’ll call the hearing off rather than face these guys in public.
Another Narrative Falls by the Wayside
Then the IRS ‘scandal’ began to unravel as the Inspector General’s report was released.
From the New York Times:
The Internal Revenue Service, according to an inspector general’s report, was not reacting to political pressure or ideology when it singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny in evaluating requests for tax exemptions. It acted inappropriately because employees couldn’t understand inadequate guidelines.
That Damned Freedom of the Press Issue
And the Republican leadership is having trouble pushing back on the final part of this scandal trifecta, as many of the rank in file legislators in the party are uncomfortable with the circumstances surrounding the Justice Department’s probe of the Associated Press.
While everybody’s on board with calling the seizure of phone records ‘outrageous’, Republican members of Congress have been less than committal about supporting any form of press shield law. The administration’s pushback, which has included frequent use of the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘national security’ poses a potential pitfall for any future campaigns. Then there’s the inconvenient fact that many GOP legislators are on record talking tough about investigating the leaks connected with the AP story.
Tea Party Nirvana?
While the Tea Party types may think they’ve reached nirvana, history should give them pause for concern. From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:
Once this appetite is whetted, once the conspiracy theories get moving, this isn’t something party leaders will have an easy time turning back. And Congressional Republican leadership is actually far weaker today than it was in ‘98 and ‘99 when you had Newt Gingrich (admittedly already weakened) and Tom DeLay as Majority Whip.
In 1998-99, Impeachment turned out to be a real disaster for Republicans. They actually managed to lose House seats during the president’s sixth year in office during a reasonably big sex scandal. But it wasn’t like this was a mystery or unexpected. If you were watching polls, monitoring what was happening in the country, it was pretty clear that this was the last thing the country wanted. A lot of Republicans could see that too but the demand from their core supporters in their districts was simply too much to resist. DC also managed to convince themselves that this was – in political terms for the GOP – a good idea.
Obviously, it wasn’t.
The Real Scandal at Hand
All this blustering and posturing does serve to distract public attention from the real harm the GOP continues to do to the economy and the actual functioning of the federal government.
They’re hoping that nobody will notice the over one hundred nominees for government posts that Republicans have managed to send into political limbo. From Sunday’s New York Times:
Republicans have resumed an effort to hold up many of the president’s choices, often by burying them in paperwork. One tactic that has become a favorite is submitting hundreds of written questions that the nominees are obliged to answer.
Ms. McCarthy [EPA] received nearly 1,100 written questions from Republicans, according to White House records. Mr. Perez received 200. Jacob J. Lew, who was confirmed as Treasury secretary in February, got 395. (By comparison, Henry M. Paulson Jr., who served as one of President George W. Bush’s Treasury secretaries, received just 81 questions: 49 from Democrats and 32 from Republicans.)
Republicans are hoping people won’t notice the President’s policies are contributing to the most rapid deficit reduction since World War II. From Sarah Jones over at Politicususa:
Here’s a real bitter irony for the GOP. At the same time as their ideology took an ugly beating in the reality department, the man they are determined to destroy has a better record at deficit reduction than any of their recent Presidents. In fact, government spending under President Obama has grown at a slower rate than it did under any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to Bloomberg (that’s over 50 years ago, if you’re counting). Ironically, this fact is due in part to their own obstructionism and President Obama’s endless compromises with them.
And Republicans are hoping people won’t notice hundreds of thousands of defense furloughs announced this week because of the Republican-imposed sequester, which will continue to be an ever-increasing drag on economic growth.
Then There’s ObamaScare
“We’ve got 70 new members who have not had the opportunity to vote on the president’s health care law. Frankly, they’ve been asking for an opportunity to vote on it, and we’re going to give it to them,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters last week.
That’s right. Your tax dollars were hard at work yesterday as the House voted for the 37th time to repeal or de-fund the Affordable Care Act. From Think Progress:
Last year, CBS News calculated that the number of hours spent on 33 repeal votes — then roughly 80 hours, or two full work weeks — cost taxpayers an estimated $48 million. Since then, Republicans have held three more votes (another $4.5 million) and will add another $1.5 million with their latest.
At a time when lawmakers have implemented $85 billion in across-the-board cuts on top of$1.5 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, no dollar can be spared. And the country has serious health-related needs that could use funding.
And because there is no activity on Capital Hill that he won’t use as an opportunity to get his name in the press, Rep. Darrell Issa decided to start up a Twitter buzz about the repeal vote by starting the hashtag:
He kinda lost that internet battle, and the best part was the official White House Twitter response:
It’s. The. Law.
A New Low (not a price!) for Walmart
Jesus Bernal and his family lost their Lakeside home and everything in it last week when a brushfire swept through their neighborhood. They literally escaped with the clothing on their backs.
Now Channel 10 News is reporting that the El Cajon Walmart refused to honor a Red Cross issued MasterCard pre-loaded with $600 when he attempted to buy clothing for his four children.
Bernal said he wanted to use that money for his children because he didn’t want the weight of the loss to rest on them.
“Needs for the day after, things we needed to send them to school, underwear, socks, the main things that they needed,” he said.
Bernal went to the Walmart location where the Red Cross told them to go.
“I went to customer service, I gave them the Red Cross card and she said she could not help me,” said Bernal.
He was turned away and was told he did not have the proper paperwork to go with the card. But the Red Cross told 10News that paperwork does not exist.
“I lost everything that night,” said Bernal. “I needed to get a few things for my kids, for my family, not to get it … it was hard for me.”
The store manager told 10News “she had no idea about the issue and she plans to talk to her employees.”
Major Geek Alert – Starship Century Symposium at UCSD
If you are some unaware that there is a new Star Trek movie (good advance reviews) coming out this weekend, this story won’t interest you.
The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination on the UC San Diego campus is opening this month, honoring the late author and innovator.
Tuesday and Wednesday next week UCSD will be hosting a “Starship Century Symposium”, devoted to an ongoing exploration of the development of a starship in the next 100 years.
Scientists will address the challenges and opportunities for our long‐term future in space, with possibilities envisioned by Freeman Dyson, Paul Davies, Peter Schwartz, John Cramer and Robert Zubrin. Science fiction authors Neal Stephenson, Allen Steele, Joe Haldeman, Gregory Benford, Geoffrey Landis and David Brin will discuss the implications that these trajectories of exploration might have upon our development as individuals and as a civilization.
The symposium is, alas, already fully booked. But it will be offered via live streaming video at http://imagination.ucsd.edu.
On This Day: 1954 – The Supreme Court unanimously ruled for school integration in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. The ruling declared that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal. 1963 – Joan Baez headlined the first Monterey Folk Festival in California.1973 – The Senate Watergate Committee began its hearings.
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bob dorn says
A new book out by George Packer is describing the unwinding of the American experiment in self-governance. Of course, the great majority of people in the United States are not convinced the Republicans — and some Democrats — mean to dismantle the non-violent processes of government but it’s clear the policies, and even laws, of the United States are being ignored by people who’ve been elected to office.
I’m pretty sure that if all the House and Senate members were assembled in one vast cavern I couldn’t find more than 20 or so I’d feel comfortable having represent me.
Starship Century Symposium sounds terrific – but unfortunately it’s filled up and registration is closed. Seems life today spins on being connected – networked. How does one do it – the magnitude of my daily email volume has reached levels of white noise. A concept Arthur C Clarke warned us about. (See his first work of fiction “The City and the Stars”).
Andy Cohen says
It’s strange how when the IRS targeted liberal groups–including a church– we barely heard a peep about it. But now that it’s Tea Party/Conservative groups, it’s the “biggest scandal since Watergate” (unless Benghazi’s the biggest scandal since Watergate…..or the AP scandal). As Rachel Maddow says, IOKIYAR (It’s OK if you are a Republican). Targeting liberal groups, it’s just the IRS doing their job. Targeting conservative groups, now, well, that’s all political retribution!
BTW, they weren’t “targeting” Tea Party/Conservative groups, they were investigating whether or not they really met the tax exempt requirements. And it wasn’t ONLY Tea Party groups, there were a few liberal groups in there, too. And, it should be noted, the ONLY group that was denied tax exempt status was a liberal group based in San Francisco. All Tea Party groups, after extensive review, were approved.
Second, I can’t for the life of me understand why the fact that the Republicans deliberately altered the content of the Benghazi emails for context to change the entire complexion of what was there before releasing them to the media is not a bigger story. You want a scandal? Sounds to me that that’s the biggest scandal of them all!
It also seems highly likely that the source of the altered emails was San Diego’s own Darrell Issa–either from his Congressional office or from the staff of the House Oversight and Govt. Reform Committee, which, as Doug noted, he chairs. This would, of course, mean that Issa’s greasy palm prints are all over it. But nobody seems to care. He’s going to get away with it as if it’s no big deal. That’s a problem for me. Because if it were Democrats who did something like this, the Republicans would be screaming bloody hell!
John Lawrence says
On the news tonight, they were explaining where the line was drawn for 501(c)4 organizations in terms of political activity. Of course they’re supposed to be “social welfare organizations” but in reality most of them are political. Lobbying is considered OK. The line is you can’t say “vote for candidate X”. Other than that almost anything goes.
We have been discussing this very topic in terms of the SDFP becoming a 501(c)3 or 4 organization. Basically, what I said was true: you don’t have to worry about political activity (including lobbying) or fundraising. You just can’t say “vote for Joe.”
john eisenhart says
For local issues the Free Press is generally an excellent source. However national or internationally reporting, editorials a lot is missing.
The tragedy is the Free Press is locked in a false paradigm of left vs right and self- censorship. The fact is Bush , Obama, Clinton, etc… are the same sock puppets. As Ralph Nader points out its a choice between tweedle dee or tweedle dum. Funding of Al Qaeda directly or indirectly in Libya and now in Syria, Executive ordered assassination of suspects, the prosecution of gov’t. whistle blowers (Army Pvt. Manning, CIA agent John Kiriakou) , the chilling information gathering on AP journalists, surveillance of every communication by Americans -phone, internet, license plate reading, street cameras-, Minimal EPA rules regarding fracking , blocking Single Payer health care system and going with the health care industry’s written Obamacare, massive funding on the false war on terror via black ops, Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, etc…, continued implementation of the Patriot Act, bailout of corrupt banking and lending corporatation…need I continue???
How can you support anything the Obama administration is peddling. Its a continued buffet of lies. Certain journalist: Glen Greenwald, Russ Baker, Greg Palast, Seymour Hersch carry on the progressive movement.
Andy Cohen says
At some point you have to govern according to the reality you live in, not the fantasy you wish you lived in. Single payer was and still is a pipe dream that never would have gotten past the laughter stage, so Obamacare really was the best we could do at the time. And I don’t know about you, but I happen to think that the world is a much better place without Anwar al Awlaki and the other top Al Qaeda officials. Unless you think they should have been left alone to carry out their business unfettered.
John Lawrence says
I agree with Andy. The difference between Republicans and Democrats is the farthest it’s ever been between Tweedledum and Tweedledee in 100 years. You really see no difference between Obama and Mitt Romney or Obama and Rick Perry or Obama and Michelle Bachman or ….??