At a time when the GOP’s narrative of the intrusiveness of government and the fruitlessness of bureaucracy seemed most relevant, Obama’s approval rating ticked up a few percent. Every conservative pundit is muttering, ‘What gives?’ a dozen times a day to him or herself and wondering what they’re doing wrong. At the risk of helping Laura Ingraham, I’ll tell them what they’re doing wrong.
They are more obsessed with demonizing Obama than really implementing any kind of reform–be it with the IRS, privacy protection for citizens and journalists or drones. Why? Because their cure for government cannot be government, even recommending a leaner, more efficacious form of government, given the Norquist narrative they’ve constructed, inconveniently requires government to fix government. Scandals are easy fodder for the opposing party’s base, but what they really are, or can be is an opportunity to both shake the faith of supporters and snag independents who needed a last straw before becoming NObama-ers.
Big Government is a pretty easy target for a conservative, but Obama is an even bigger target. After all, there are still a lot of people who love their Medicare but hate Obama in their bones. But translating these particular scandals (which are indeed real scandals) into more enmity for Obama has proven difficult for a few reasons.
First of all, anything linking Obama directly to the IRS scandal has thus far failed to materialize, and while I think liberals should be right with conservatives in their wish to see heads roll at the IRS lest they condone a double standard that made the Bush v. Gore ruling fair game, this seems to be an IRS scandal, not a White House scandal. Period.
Another reason is just plain crying wolf. If every institutional failure or infraction within 50 miles of D.C. is a ‘Watergate’ for which Obama must be directly responsible–you are not reporters, you are alarmists. Neither Fox nor Romney could convince the public that Benghazi was a scandal. I think it would be reasonable to argue it was an oversight. It would be reasonable to argue that the nature of the attacks was obscured in press reports, but that’s not news–it’s politics. Outside of Washington we are free to be outraged when beguiled, but in a town that’s half lobbyists and half lawyers, everyone offers a version of the truth that is advantageous to their purpose. Republicans should be less keen on to raise the subject of gross oversight on terrorist attacks given their own record.
Hypocrisy is the third issue; a sin of which either party is guilty. If you are less interested or outraged about the AP scandal and the way the FBI is planning to leverage the data Google has mined from its users than you were about the Patriot Act, you’ve got no right calling anyone a political opportunist. If you can’t apply the rule in either case, you don’t care about the rule. What is most bothersome is not FOX’s assumption that Obama colluded with the DOJ and IRS, but that so little mainstream media attention can be spared for actual White House policy. FOX wants to catch Obama with his hand in the cookie jar and as far as we know they have only falsely accused, but the without the buzz of a scandal the true crimes go unnoticed.
Obama has played extraordinarily well the role of reluctant preserver (and in some cases augmenter and diversifier) of methods with which the U.S. combats terrorism. The use of drones under this administration has skyrocketed, and while they are at times preferable to other means of martial engagement, their use has been normalized in the armed services and in the minds of Americans to the point of humdrummery. Democratic politicians and voters are too easily assuaged by his speeches, which implore indirectly (at us?, the House and Senate?) that we close Gitmo, hamper executive power, etc., and then are followed up with no real action. To quote Louis C.K., (skip to 6:10) when it comes to foreign policy and immigration reform, liberal values are simply Obama’s ‘little believies’ or ideas he claims to espouse, yet seldom carries out.
There is still hope however, because in the wake of Scandal Madness 2013, a marginal majority of Americans got wise to the fact that a bunch of overzealous scandal-sniffing ‘botch’-dogs overplayed their hand.
Big Government is a pretty easy target for a conservative, but Obama is an even bigger target. But translating these scandals into more enmity for Obama has proven difficult.