Desperately Seeking Scandal

In an intriguing, but sad, way, the interests of the Republican Party and the interests of Big Media met, as a triad of quasi-scandals seemed to explode over the White House last weekend. Both the GOP and Big Media need at least the appearance of scandal, thus we have before us, night and day, the appearance of scandal.

Republicans, of course, want to destroy President Obama’s presidency completely, a job they started on January 20, 2009. Big Media, of course, wants to prove to Republicans that journalists, often accused of putting their liberalism and love for Obama over their professional duties, will help right-wingers bring down this president at the slightest hint of trouble.

So much for the “liberal media.” As coverage the past week or so demonstrates, there isn’t, and never was, any such thing.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, the general thrust of the conversation among the talking heads was that Obama was very close to making a Nixonian exit from the scene, what with all the “scandals” surrounding his presidency. On Morning Joe on Wednesday, the general thrust of the conversation among the talking heads was that Obama was not being Nixonian enough, in that he should fire everyone and his brother who had the slightest connection to anything the government might have done wrong. He needed to show how mad he was over this stuff, by God.

Get it? One day Obama is attacked for being Richard Nixon. The next day he is attacked for not being Richard Nixon.

So, what happens? Late Wednesday President Obama obliges the throngs of Republicans and journalists on his trail by firing (uh, “asking for his resignation”) the one guy who apparently had nothing to do with the IRS mess when it actually happened, the agency’s acting director, Steven Miller. “It is important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward,” the President said.

Okay, now that Mr. Miller has been duly sacrificed, let’s see how confidence going forward is being restored. President Obama’s long-time political enemy and chief saboteur for the GOP, Mitch McConnell, had this to say after Steven Miller was given the left foot of fellowship:

If the President is as concerned about this issue as he claims, he’ll work openly and transparently with Congress to get to the bottom of the scandal — no stonewalling, no half-answers, no withholding of witnesses. These allegations are serious — that there was an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the administration disagreed with, in the middle of a heated national election. We are determined to get answers, and to ensure that this type of intimidation never happens again at the IRS or any other agency.

“These allegations are serious–that there was an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the administration disagreed with, in the middle of a heated national election,” McConnell said, as if it weren’t he who was making those “allegations,” as if it weren’t his party who was claiming, without even the tiniest bit of evidence, not to mention proof, and without the slightest hint of embarrassment, not to mention shame, that President Obama pulled a Richard Nixon and used the IRS last year in order to keep Mitt Romney from becoming president.

Meanwhile, Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee and one of the most virulent Obama-haters in the country, issued the following Tweets after the Miller dismissal:

priebus tweets

Priebus told fellow Obama-hater Sean Hannity:

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that these folks hated the tea parties—the President called them “teabaggers,” he said he wanted to punish his enemies. That’s what he’s all about.

Yep, that’s our Obama. He’s always trying to punish his enemies, except when he’s golfing or dining with them.

In any case, unless we soon see President Obama boarding a helicopter, after resigning from office, and heading back to Chicago with his pigmented tail between his legs, nothing, absolutely nothing, will quiet down Republicans, who use Big Media to prosecute the President for crimes neither he, nor anyone as far as we know, have committed.

Just one example of how Big Media helps Republicans do that is ABC News’ Jonathan Karl. He was caught—by a former ABC News guy, Jake Tapper, who is now at CNN—inventing a quote in a piece he did on the Benghazi emails, a piece that made it look like the White House was involved in some sort of cover-up of what happened in Benghazi, which just happened to be what Republicans have been claiming since the Benghazi tragedy happened last year.

Not only did Karl pretend he had actually seen the original emails, others on the air at ABC reported it that way too. (You can read the details here.) Now that the emails have been made public (Republicans had them months ago and knew there was nothing incriminating in them relative to the White House), we see that there is exactly no way to claim that Obama, or anyone at the White House, was trying to scrub the “truth” from the infamous talking points that Susan Rice used on those infamous Sunday talk-show appearances so long ago.

It was mostly the CIA , in the person of its deputy director, Michael Morell, who watered down those talking points to the point that David Petraeus, who at the time was actually leading the CIA, said,

Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this.

So, where does Susan Rice, who was smeared repeatedly by Republicans, go to get her reputation back? She might have become Secretary of State, the ultimate job in her diplomatic profession, were it not for the incessant attacks on her character by Republicans in Congress, not one of whom have apologized to her for their disgraceful behavior.

And when does ABC News apologize for misleading reporting, reporting that conveniently supported unsupportable charges made by Republicans?

My hope, and it is only a very faint hope, is that after all the overreaching and misreporting and hysteria related to the the three let’s-pretend-they-are-scandals-even-if-they-might-not-be issues involving the IRS, the attacks in Benghazi, and the Justice Department’s snooping around in the telephone records of Associated Press reporters, that the public will quickly turn off the next Republican who wildly waves his or her hands on Fox or any other cable news channel, claiming our President had done bad things to the country.

I said it was only a hope.



  1. (Exhausted) Duane, I will dig and scratch to the last, but — there is no hope. As a nation we are fools: bloated with Budweiser, cracked out on violent video games, in need of automatic weapons for each member of the family over two years old, loving the Rosemary’s Baby offspring of Jesus and Ayn Rand, eternally willing to let the most corrupt of the corrupt from banker to pulpit do our thinking for us. The Press sold out long ago. We cannot win. Americans are too lazy and too stupid to even deserve to win — to enjoy the mythological American Dream. I cannot stop believing in justice and equality and grace, personally — but nationally? Fawgidaboudit!


    • I sympathize with your despair, General, and with Duane’s, but can’t agree with the “stupid” part. The problem, I submit, is with an American culture that has morphed into something different from what we wish it were.

      Joel Stein of Time Magazine has written a cover essay on the matter, entitled “The Me Me Me Generation”. It is about the Millennial generation, those who were born roughly between 1980 and 2000 and who are rightly labeled “lazy, entitled narcissists”. These people haven’t changed physically from what other generations are, but having been raised in relative affluence most of them have become what the children of rich parents always were. We are seeing the unintended consequences of prosperity, something that has always been a relative term, and of the absence of any overwhelming external threat that might make pols actually cooperate.

      Stein is not altogether pessimistic because he recognizes that underneath the narcissism lies the same package of meat and brain that has always been there. But I am not reassured. Culture, like creatures, evolves and, like you General, I don’t like where it has taken us.

      Next week I will be attending a graduation ceremony – my granddaughter is graduating from . . . elementary school into middle school. OMG, what have we become?


  2. ansonburlingame

     /  May 16, 2013

    The LAST thing I want to see, hear or read about is IMPEACHMENT, or other attempts to “bring down a presidency”. Anyone old enough to have endured Watergate would be crazy to want to take the whole country through such turmoil again, or an actual impeachment trial, as in the Clinton Presidency.

    Ever since 1973, when a “small break in” became a national disaster, we have been innudated with “second term crises” in every Presidency. Democrats and GOP presidents have suffered from such things, ever since Watergate. As well in EVERY case it was the cover up or the allegation of cover up that caused grave harm to administrations. “It depends on what is, is” becomes the norm rather than glaring exception once the wolves come out to hunt, from BOTH sides of the aisle.

    In my view, the AP and IRS scandals will be contained within ONE agency (for each scandal) and no presidential downfall will result. Benghazi however is much more a multi-agency deal and there is NO DOUBT in my mind that grave even gross political spin was applied to that national crisis. When does inept, even untrue spin, become a cover up?

    Solution? TELL THE TRUTH to the American people. We the people are big enough to forgive misjudgments. Benghazi is FILLED with all sorts of misjudgments, all over the place.

    Stop defending such misjudgments, tell the truth and let’s get on with governing a country, effectively and together.



  3. Michael D. Gaden, BSNE, MBA

     /  May 16, 2013

    I heartily endorse the last part of your last statement, Mr. Burlingame.

    I fail to see any evidence that anything more than ineptness and bureaucratic bungling was present in the so-called Benghazi incident. After ten years in the USN as both an enlisted man and an officer in the nuclear power program, neither ineptness or BB surprise me in the least, even where matters of life and death are present.

    What if the truth about Benghazi has been told? How would you know one way or the other, with your attitude that “there’s something fishy there”?

    It seems to me that the logical class of questions that you and others are asking can only be satisfied by a confession of guilt – they are of the nature of the old chestnut “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

    If you can come up with better questions, you will probably get better answers.


  4. ansonburlingame

     /  May 16, 2013


    If you were a “nuke” in the Navy for ten years, then I assume you saw the occassional incidents in the propulsion plant along with reading the “incident reports” that went all the way to Rickover’s desk and copies to “God and everyone else” in between.

    Each one of those incident reports, and I was involved in hundreds of them at various levels, including signing the damn things as the CO, were HARD to write and tell the truth. NEVER did I submit an incident report or write one for my own skipper where I tried to “spin” anything. TELL THE TRUTH, no matter how painful was the lesson learned and do it ALL THE TIME.

    EVERY incident report, required when anything went “wrong” in the nuclear plant, HAD to have a primary cause designated at the top of the report. You had four choices. Personnel error, material failure, procedural failure (the “book” told me to do the wrong thing) and Design failure (the system or component was improperly designed to do what it was suppose to do)

    NEVER did I ever write, see or hear of a procedural or design primary cause in hundreds or thousands of such incident reports. Only material failures, some, and personnel errors, many, were designated as the primary cause of wrong happenings.

    Remember the infamous CHV-21, a frequently operated valve to charge water into the nuclear plant. That valve would leak from time to time and have to be replaced. Clear material failure, or even design failure of such a frequently failing valve, right. WRONG! Not in Rickover’s Navy.

    The cause of the frequent failures was operators overtorqueing the valve and causing seat damage. They (enlisted operators) wanted to be damned sure the valve did not leak and cause additional action on their part later one. Some would even use crowbars to really shut it, tight. No wonder the valve leaked after such abuse, later on. And THOSE failures almost always HAD to be personnel error, not material or design failure. And certainly not procedural failures as the procedure told the operator exactly what torque to apply when operating the valve.

    And ULTIMATELY, who would Rickover and everyone else blame if CHV-21 had to be replaced (at great expense and time in port) frequently on a ship. Yep, the CO who had failed to train his crew not to overtorque valves!!!

    Most civilians would NEVER understand such a system. And bureaucrats HATE them, such systems of accountability, as well.

    Now, briefly, back to Benghazi. WHO was the miltiary commander on the tip of the spear to render protection and defense for the consulate under attack by terrorists, not a damn video? It was General Ham the Joint MIlitary Commander for that region of the world. Heard anything from him, officially and publicly since Sept 11, 2012. Did HE have to write an “incident report”?? Has anyone read it in public?

    Take your pick, personnel error, material failure, design failure or procedural error when four Americans died and a facility was destroyed by terrorists. Boy would I LOVE to read THAT incident report from an honest and apolitical military commander, if such exists today at the four star level, at least. As well, when I as a CO signed an incident report, big or small matter, NO ONE chopped (changed) it anywhere along the chain of command. It said what it said, from the deck plates so to speak. As well I NEVER was directed to rewrite and resubmit a single one of those damned things for over 23 years of writing them.

    TELL the TRUTH and let the chips fall where they may was the lesson learned long ago.



  5. We know the whole Benghazi memo thing was bullshit. Now we know that the IRS “scandal” was total crap, according to the Daily Kos:

    How long will it be before we find out that the AP “scandal” wasn’t exactly what it appears to be? Probably that one is real, but the joke is that the Republicans are the ones who demanded that the “leaks” be plugged! Obama isn’t Nixon. Not even close.

    As usual, it’s the same old same old, Deja vu all over again. What else is new?


    • King Beauregard

       /  May 17, 2013

      I called it — the IRS was just doing its job, interpreting professed affiliation with a political organization as a red flag, as well they should.

      Well, now that Obama panicked and even grassroots “Progressives” made grave noises about executive abuse of power (because there’s nothing they love more than a circular firing squad), there’s no place to take this except shining a spotlight on ALL 501(c)(4)s. I guess some good could come out of that, if Obama is willing to take the issue by the horns.

      And by the way, some people have said “so how’s this any different than the Bush administration auditing Greenpeace and the NAACP?” The answer is, the Tea Party groups aren’t being audited at all; their applications for tax-exempt status are just being scrutinized. Since the Tea Party Movement exists to run candidates for office, the burden of proof is on any particular Tea Party organization that they aren’t in that particular racket. Either you’re primarily about social welfare or you’re about electing candidates; pick one, and your 501(c)(4) status will follow.


      • But, King, now that the IRS has been publicly pilloried, who will bell the cat? Who will dare to call a PAC a PAC? Seems to me this is Citizens United unfettered from any rule of law. It will be interesting now to see what happens to the IRS budget – will it be cut even further? I think so. This begins a great time for tax cheats of all stripes.


  6. ansonburlingame

     /  May 20, 2013

    To all,

    Except for King B., I hear no one saying what the IRS, at some level, did was “right”. EVERYONE, including the President says what the IRS did was WRONG.

    Great, let’s all agree that the IRS, at some level, did something wrong. Now go find out WHO did the wrong thing(s), take corrective action and get on with governing in other matters of concern to all Americans.

    A CRIMINAL investigation is now underway. I support such an apolitical, criminal investigation. I also refuse to guess the outcome, until a report of the outcome is provided.

    Politicizing the IRS is DANGEROUS, in my view. SOMEONE did just that, it seems, used the IRS for political purposes. Who did it, why did they do it and what are we the people going to do to prevent such in the future? Even the PRESIDENT wants to know such information and has the JOB to be sure it does not happen again, on his watch or anyone else’s watch in the future.



    • Anson,

      There is exactly zero evidence, zero evidence, that there is any criminality involved in the IRS mess. And when John Boehner said someone should go to jail over it, he already politicized it, and politicized it in a big way

      There also is no evidence that any one “used the IRS for political purposes,” as you suggested. No evidence for that at all, at least not at this time. But there is evidence that IRS budget cuts and staff shortages caused the flagging problems that were, it is quite likely, related to trying to get the job done using shortcuts, rather than attempting to target Tea Party groups. Besides that there is plenty of evidence that the IRS did go after liberal groups as well as conservative ones. And besides that, the IRS should shut them all down, those that are not conforming to the statute as written.

      Thus, there is no criminality involved, as far as we know at this time, and no reason to suspect there was criminality or that some wily Democrat was, in Nixonian style, doing it for political reasons.

      There is, though, plenty of politics to be played by Republicans, who sense an issue or two or three they can run on next year.



  7. ansonburlingame

     /  May 20, 2013


    I am being careful with my words related to both the AP and IRS stories. I merely said a criminal investigation had been started. I did not say a crime had occurred. No one will know that until the investigation is completed.

    But again event the President said what the IRS did was WRONG. Do you disagree with that concern on the part of the President?

    When does wrong doing become a crime? When does spin for political purposes become a cover up and when does a cover up become a crime as well. No one knows until the facts are in through competent investigations by law enforcement authorites who are obligated to INVESTIGATE, apolitically, which is what they are doing now.



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