Jonah Goldberg, in his latest G-File, has a brief rundown on “Scandalclipse” (in-between details of sharing a pantless drive through Cleveland with Samir the taxi driver and some thoughts on why Elizabeth Warren should throw her faux-Indian war bonnet into the ring):
Have you noticed that basically the only way this White House can get out from under one scandal or controversy is by getting crushed by another? The White House was reeling from the VA scandal, which is why they rolled out the Bergdahl news. They didn’t expect that the Bergdahl story would become so controversial; fortunately they were rescued by the June 6 news of thousands of immigrant children showing up at the border. Hey, quick question: I can’t get my kid out of an airport without her getting messy. Isn’t it strange that all of these kids seem to show up, after a 1,000-mile journey looking so spiffy? Anyway, the immigrant-kid story was pretty brutal for the White House; fortunately they were rescued three days later by the news that ISIS had taken Mosul. The “Who Lost Iraq?” narrative isn’t great for the White House either, which is why it might have been a relief when the IRS announced on June 13 that they lost Lois Lerner’s e-mails.
In an article a year ago in the New York Post, Glenn Reynolds added up the IRS scandal alongside the Obama administration’s other debacles, including Benghazi, its journalist-snooping scandal, and Kathleen Sebelius’ shakedown of the healthcare industry before asking, “Tired already?”
I don’t blame you, and I haven’t even mentioned the Pigford scandal, involving payments out of the Treasury’s “Judgment Fund” as part of a settlement scheme that seems rather iffy, even to The New York Times.
I’m reminded of the old “dense pack” missile-basing idea from the 1980s: The idea was to put missile silos close enough together that if one was hit by an atomic bomb, the mushroom cloud would protect the other silos from incoming attacks.
Likewise, it’s argued, by bringing all these scandals out at once — the IRS scandal actually first hit the news thanks to a question planted by IRS official Lois Lerner — the Obama administration may have a few bad weeks, but ensures by the sheer proliferation of scandal that no one of these will get the attention it deserves.
That might work, if you think of scandals as things that, like Watergate, knock out a presidency. But most don’t. The proliferation of scandal in most administrations — think George W. Bush or Bill Clinton — is more like acid rain. There’s no knockout, just an erosion of popularity and clout.
It’s sort of like the old 1980s video game, “Missile Command,” where the number of warheads raining down from the skies starts off slowly and, by the end, increase exponentially, to where even the Flash couldn’t move fast enough to fend them all off, and the player’s cities are eventually all leveled in a hail of radioactive mushroom clouds.* Similarly, the Obama administration long ago cynically calculated that the media will be happy to cover for their party leader, which they fought so tirelessly to elect and re-elect, and if not, well, more scandals, corruption and foreign policy disasters work better to overwhelm the news cycle than fewer.