"Smell Test" Scandals 101

"Smell Test" Scandals 101

by digby

I was watching that Daily Show clip with Bill O'Reilly and realized that it was probably important to remind everyone about how these things work. Clearly the wingnuts think they have something and if things go according to their plan, they might be right.

Here's a little primer I wrote sometime back about "smell test" scandals:

These are patented Whitewater-style "smell test" stories. They are based on complicated details that make the casual reader's eyes glaze over and about which the subject has to issue long confusing explanations in return. They feature colorful and unsavory political characters in some way. They often happened in the past and they tend to be written in such a way as to say that even if they aren't illegal they "look bad." The underlying theme is hypocrisy because the subjects are portrayed as making a dishonest buck while pretending to represent the average working man. Oh, and they always feature a Democrat. Republicans are not subject to such scrutiny because a craven, opportunistic Republican isn't "news." (Neat trick huh?)

No single story will bring down a candidate because they have no substance to them. It's the combined effect they are looking for to build a sense overall sleaziness. "Where there's smoke there's fire" right?

The major media has never copped to their role in the tabloid sideshow that politics in the 90's became. They have never copped to their part in elevating Bush to the status of demigod and running beside him like a bunch of eunuchs waving palm fronds during the lead-up to the war. Even today we see them pooh-poohing the significance of a federal trial that exposes them for whores to Republican power.

(That last was about the Plame scandal.)

I think the character of this one is broader than a character attack against President Obama. People like him personally and there isn't a lot to work with there. What to do with this scandal is advance the idea that government spending is inherently corrupt. It's a neat trick after their years of cronyism but they understand the press very well and know this is exactly the kind of "fleecing of America" story they can pull off the shelf and run with without having to think too much. Before long it will just be a shorthand for "Obama scandal" and they'll be off.

And it fits in quite well with this newer tactic:

No government shutdown. No workers forced to take unpaid furlough. No additional blow to our struggling economy. Another crisis averted. Right?
Not quite.
Congressional Republicans may not be replicating the disastrous shutdown strategy of their Newt Gingrich-led predecessors from two decades ago, but they are slyly executing the next worst thing: forcing our government to lurch from one near-crisis to the next.

The summer debt limit deal only kept our government open until the end of this month. Today's deal only keeps the doors open until November.

The only thing uncertain about what will happen in November is what penny-ante excuse will Republicans come up with to make the next compromise take as long as possible and rattle as many nerves as possible.

Why do congressional Republicans bother with this charade?

Because instead of getting blamed for brazenly provoking completely dysfunctional government, the GOP is betting that subtly creating barely functioning government will frustrate the public while deflecting the blame towards the President.
Congressional Republicans know that taking the government to the brink of shutdown every few months will do nothing for the people but keep the lights on, at a time when the public is demanding bold action to solve the jobs crisis.

Making government look impotent and silly serves the anti-government agenda of the modern Republican quite nicely.

These are the same Republicans that cried "Uncertainty!" every time that the last Democratic Congress tried to solve a tough problem that weighed down our economy, like rising health care costs or reckless banker behavior.

Yet now they actively try to sow uncertainty whether our government will be able to pay its debt obligations or keep its doors open.

The more they make the government look like a hopeless, corrupt clown show, the better off they are. I'm not sure how you fight that. I expect it would be a bit easier if the Village media weren't so anxious to jump on every manufactured tid-bit from the right wing noise machine, but I've pretty much given up on them. They are addicted to phony corruption scandals. (The real ones, not so much.)