The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, January 17, 2014

There There

As the Obama presidency grinds on, significant domestic policy failures, incompetence, mendacity, and foreign policy incoherence have become a national embarrassment. Maybe that's why many supporters of this president have gravitated toward incoherence themselves. In denial of a long list of significant leadership problems, Obama's supporters in his party and the media have gravitated toward fantasy thinking—that all is good, that debt doesn't matter, that the President is succeeding, that big government is the best way forward, that our foreign policy has some strategic coherence, that ... well, you get the picture.

As an all too typical example, let's consider progressive writer Paul Waldman and his claim that what makes the Obama presidency so remarkable is the lack of scandal. He writes:
If you ask many Republicans, they'll tell you that Barack Obama himself and the administration he leads are deeply, profoundly, fundamentally corrupt. It isn't just that they have the wrong values or the wrong policy priorities, but rather that they are practically a band of criminals bent on destroying America and unconcerned about what violations of law and morality they commit as they cut a swath of misery and destruction across our nation.

For some on the right—the cynical politician, the carnival-barking radio host—these ideas are a tool to use in a partisan game. They understand that the picture is an absurd one, but they also know it's useful in keeping the rabble roused. But for many others, from ordinary voters to Republican lawmakers, it's something they sincerely believe. So five years into this presidency, where do we stand with the scandals that were supposed to lead to Barack Obama's downfall? The truth—no doubt a painful one for Republicans—is that there's almost no there there. Or more precisely, what we have are a number of disconnected screw-ups and errors in judgment, most of which are not even worthy of the name "scandal." Given the last few decades of history, and given the size and scope of the federal government, that's quite an achievement.
There's "no there there," huh? In many posts on this blog, I have provided more than enough "there" that clearly and thoroughly refutes Waldman's ridiculous contention. I won't repeat the facts here.

But it worth considering his claim from the point of view of what we don't know. In virtually every Obama scandal (and yes, these are true scandals) the profile has been the same.

A scandal (e.g., gun running to Mexico, Benghazi, the IRS, the AP investigation, the NSA, the lies surrounding Obamacare) surfaces, the vast majority of the main stream media reports bits and pieces and then goes into defensive mode:

- after a day or two, the story is called a political witch hunt,
- almost no probing investigative journalism takes place,
- the important questions are completely disregarded (e.g., how far into the administration did the coordination of the IRS bullying go? why did the administration knowingly lie about the underlying cause of Benghazi? why did Obama repeatedly lie about Obamacare?)
- the story is quickly buried on the back pages, and finally
- the story disappears from the media's reporting.

The media's complicity is aided and abetted by the administration's stonewalling and mendaciousness. Curiously, the media refuses to probe the stonewalling and works very hard to disregard the lies ("misspoke" is often the operative word).

Contrast this, for just a moment, with the media's wall to wall coverage, enthusiastic investigations, and "breaking news" on Bridgegate—a local political story about political payback and pettiness in the administration of a governor who might run for the presidency, and who spent more time answering probing media questions (at least there were probing media questions) about his scandal in two weeks than Barack Obama spent in two years.

People like Paul Waldman live in fantasy, not because they're stupid, but because it serves their need to continue the fiction that this president is competent and honest. Just because questions remain unanswered does not mean that salient (and potentially damaging) answers don't exist. Stated another way, if the Obama administration has nothing to hide, why not stop the stonewalling and come clean on all of the "scandals" that Waldman thinks don't exist.

But that won't happen. With the help of his trained hamsters in the media, true scandals evaporate into the mist of memory, allowing people like Waldman to print revisionist arguments that the scandals never existed in the first place.