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[A concerned reader – who is also a close relative of mine – emailed me regarding my last post, about the  vacant, ephemeral nature of the recent scandals, and the Ezra Klein article I used to support my assertions. In the email he expressed some doubt as to the veracity of Klein’s claims (I believe the phrase used was “full of shit”), and made it clear that it was crazy to claim there had been no wrongdoing in any of these instances. The email got me thinking and made me want to better clarify the original post, in something like an addendum.]

In my previous post, I definitely didn’t mean to imply that there was no wrongdoing at all – there were some IRS agents in Cincinnati who were certainly in the wrong in way overstepping their discretion prerogatives, and perhaps some of their superiors as well for allowing it to happen, and there were some employees of the Justice Department who clearly violated black and white regulations that are meant to protect the press. I can barely tell what the Benghazi debate is even about these days – there was a question of why the main embassy could not fulfill a request to spare four soldiers to help the consulate ahead of the incident, but its not clear that would have made any difference, and anyway the main accusations have shifted from the actual incident to what the White House said about the incident, like whether the word terrorist was actually used, for example, so I suppose there might be some low level bureaucratic wrongdoing there.

My overall point was that, based on current information, the impropriety of any of these scandals didn’t even expand to the White House, much less Obama himself. The question of his involvement needed to be asked at first, and it has been, and the evidence has shown the administration had little to do with any of it. Many pundits have taken this defense as an opportunity to slam Obama for the opposite sort of conduct, saying that he is too aloof, too uninvolved, too uninterested in his own government, which may have some amount of merit, but the way the argument came about does a lot to denigrate its credibility, and to what level it exists at all it is a separate issue (and it’s not just the right taking up this argument, but some on the left too – here’s an example, and here’s another one).

I think the focus surrounding these scandals stems from the premise that some people dislike Obama so much that they think he must be guilty of everything he is accused of. There are plenty of worthwhile things to criticize the man for, without saying every worst fear about him must be true, as some in Congress have done. People can keep looking, and even hoping, for something to go catastrophically wrong with his presidency, but this isn’t it, and my bet is that his presidency won’t go down in anything but overreaching, maybe arrogance, and mild neophytism.

As of today, even Newt Gingrich and some other top Republicans have offered a similar argument to what I was trying to say, and on NPR no less (here).

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was front-and-center during the Republican-led impeachment of President Clinton in 1998, is cautioning his GOP colleagues about the risk of appearing to be too eager as they dig into the scandals now dogging the Obama administration.“I think we overreached in ’98 — how’s that for a quote you can use?” Gingrich told NPR’s Mara Liasson for a story on Friday’s broadcast of Morning Edition.

And:

Gingrich’s view about how Republicans should proceed echoes those expressed by other GOP leaders in a piece published Thursday evening by Politico:“Republicans are worried one thing could screw up the political gift of three Obama administration controversies at once: fellow Republicans.“Top GOP leaders are privately warning members to put a sock in it when it comes to silly calls for impeachment or over-the-top comparisons to Watergate. They want members to focus on months of fact-finding investigations — not rhetorical fury.”

The Politico article contains another an interesting perspective. It looks like even most Congressional Republicans (and even a Fox News pundit) agree that the calls for Obama’s resignation and the comparisons to Watergate are preposterous, an example of overreaching. And that was my main point: these scandals are largely a result of overreaching in an effort to condemn Obama by people who hate him, and contain far less actual wrongdoing and effectual substance than is being claimed.

So much hope was alive mere days and weeks ago. So much possibility. A low thrum of murmuring was audible up and down the corridors and streetcorners of Washington, DC, the quiet voices of people hinting, proposing, suggesting, that the GOP…no, no, not yet. It might be scared away. Shadowed figures whispered in dark corners, “Could it be?” “Yes, it could.” “Maybe, just maybe.” The echoing clap of shoes moving in an empty parking garage; trenchcoat-ed forms, and tinted windows moving briskly through the street. Anything too loud and the possibility might be scared away – it was hard enough to believe it could be real these days. Secret meetings and backchannel reconnaissance. Penthouse suites and smoke-filled back rooms. Could the GOP have really learned something from the drubbing they took in 2012? Could they be preparing to make – gulp! – changes? Maybe, it seemed, just maybe. Yeah, we all enjoyed our trip to Crazytown, but now it’s time to re-pack the station wagon, load up the kids, and drive back to Reality, USA. It could be happening! There was so much hope! I was so (cautiously) optimistic!

And then this happened…

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Republican Party honchos who huddled here for their first big gathering since the election devoted lots of time talking about the need to welcome Latinos and women, close the technology gap with Democrats and stop the self-destructive talk about rape.

But the party’s main problem, dozens of Republican National Committee members argued in interviews over three days this week, is who delivers its message and how, not the message itself. Overwhelmingly they insisted that substantive policy changes aren’t the answer to last year’s losses.

No, of course not. Just the message. It’s just an image problem, that’s all. Nothing wrong at all with any of our backwards-ass, regressive, and puritanical policies, or any of the voter-alienating Attila-the-hun candidates we’ve been running. Just give ’em a good spit-shine and we’re good to go!

Moderation, at least at this stage, is no virtue at the RNC.

Hell, virtues aren’t a virtue at the RNC.

“It’s not the platform of the party that’s the issue,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Friday after being easily reelected to a second, two-year term. “In many cases, it’s how we communicate about it. It is a couple dumb things that people have said.”

In all seriousness, if this is what he actually thinks, this is scary. This is kool-aid-drinking self-delusion at its finest and most complete. I’m assuming, however, that it’s actually an attempt to downplay the problem, a ploy to make them look not as out-of-control. But the thing is, if you’re on a plane that’s going down, and that plane just lost its first engine and second wing, and there’s a big gaping whole in the side that people are being sucked out of to certain death, and you’re clinging for dear life to a seat-back as your legs are pulled towards the opening, and your hair is on fire, and if at that moment you calmly say, “well this is not a good day,” with no hint of irony, you begin to look unavoidably psychotic, and people will start backing away from you slowly.

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Tax Day Protest

Many people across the political spectrum – myself included – have spent the past few weeks hoping, surmising, and even expecting that one result of this election, perhaps the most important result of this election, is that it may have delivered to the right a wake-up call. That the drumming they received in state houses, legislatures, on the Hill, and in the White House would bring about some new thinking, that more prescient members may come around to the idea that they must as a whole stop doing so much to appease the radical fringe – currently in the form of the Tea Party (one lone but germaine example of which is here, and the subject is also covered quite well in David Corn’s book Showdown) – and halt these elements from dragging the whole party further right, which continues to alienate voters. That they may decide in order to win elections, in order to continue to influence events and remain relevant – and in order to stave off the emergence of a third party, as has been suggested in some circles – they might need to go after voters other than upper-class white men (if there’s one thing we should have learned from this election, it is the importance of minorities). They might decide, “it’s time for Republican elected leaders to stand up and to repudiate this nonsense [of the extreme right wing], and to repudiate it directly,” says Republican strategist Steve Schmidt (on Salon.com). They might think, as Newt Gingrich put so eloquently:

“For the conservative movement and the Republican Party to succeed in the future (and while they are not identical the two are inextricably bound together) we will have to learn the lessons of 2012. An intellectually honest and courageous Republican Party has nothing to fear from the current situation.”

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