Sunday, May 19, 2013

Relentless Republican outrage and the fake scandals that failed to bring down Barack Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Another fake scandal.
It wasn't really such a bad week for President Obama, just a bad week for President Obama according to a Beltway media establishment desperately looking for some excitement and more than willing to go right along with the ongoing Republican assault on everything the president does.

The point is, while it was a week of annoying scandalmongering, and surely incredibly annoying to the White House, what really happened is that the Republicans pushing the scandals along with their media enablers were finally exposed as a bunch of frauds. Consider:

Benghazi: This has long been over, but Republicans won't let it rest. They thought they had a smoking gun in leaked White House e-mails that suggested political interference in post-attack talking points, but the story, after the White House released the full e-mails, is now rightly about how Republicans altered those e-mails and how ABC News was played and/or in on it. End result: Republicans look bad.

IRS: Conservatives freaked out and Republicans ultimately blew their load. The IRS could and should have handled their investigation of Tea Party groups with greater care, but there's no scandal. Obama didn't order any sort of Nixonian investigation of his enemies and the IRS invesigates the tax-exempt claims of groups across the spectrum. End result: Obama found a scapegoat in the IRS commissioner, which is a shame, but it's clear the IRS did nothing fundamentally wrong. Republicans don't look bad as much as they look hypocritical.

AP: The federal government's subpoenaing of the media organization's phone records may be the only real scandal here, and initially the Beltway media were up in arms, but there's no one really driving this one other than Obama's critics on the civil libertarian left (e.g., Glenn Greenwald, and I tend to agree with them). Everyone knows that this sort of thing has gone on for a long time (Patriot Act, anyone?) and everyone knows that Obama has maintained much of the Bush-Cheney national security state. And Republicans have no interest in defending the media from the left. They're not saying anything because they agree with the Justice Department. End result: Obama and Holder deserve criticism, but this one's done.

Oh, but Republicans are as desperate as ever to try to bring down the president (as well as the person they see as their likely nemesis in 2016, Hillary Clinton). Indeed, what this week proved is not that the president is being brought down by scandal (given that these are faux scandals pushed by Republicans and sensationalized by their media enablers) but that Republicans have nothing but obstructionism and outrage to hurl in his direction. His approval numbers are fine, Obamacare is becoming the law of the land, and while they've successfully blocked him in Congress (e.g., voting down the extremly popular Manchin-Toomey background check gun bill) their electoral prospects remain dim. They tried for four years to tear him down. This is just more of the same. It's all they've got.

Just consider how the week ended, with conservatives freaking out over Obama's request, at a Rose Garden news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, that a couple of Marines hold umbrellas for them. It's like he asked them to sodomize each other while performing an abortion and setting fire to the American flag.

Now, it's really no scandal at all:

"Marines are always out getting rained on. That's sort of what we do," said Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marines spokesman. A request from the president to a Marine who serves at the White House, however, would be an "extenuating circumstance," he said.

Flanagan also pointed to Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which states that members of the Marine Corps shall "perform such other duties as the President may direct."

But that isn't stopping Republicans from going ballistic -- because, again, they're desperate, because they have nothing else but this relentless assault of (mostly faux) outrage. They're losing so badly on the substance, on real issues, that they have to make shit up to try to bring him down. Like getting a Marine to hold a fucking umbrella.

The media, with their non-existent attention spans and myopic sense that the here and now is forever, kept telling us that it was a horrible, terrible, brutal week for President Obama. But was it?

It's easy to get lost in the fog, but what this week revealed, again, is that his enemies are pathetic and dishonest, that the media (or at least some prominent parts of it) are stupid, and that the president has an agenda to move the country forward while Republicans are paralyzed by anger, fear, and outrage, because they just can't stand the fact that he's in the White House and one of their own isn't, because they can't just run roughshod over the country with their right-wing ideology.

Ultimately, these fake scandals too shall pass. Even Benghazi. But they'll be replaced by others, all with the same mouth-frothing outrage on Fox News and throughout conservative media. Republicans failed this week, as they've failed miserably throughout Obama's presidency, but it's who they are and it's all they've got, and failure isn't about to stop them.

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