More astute Republicans are well aware that their so-called “scandals” can end up damaging them more than President Obama — just as the impeachment of President Clinton wounded the GOP in 1998.
“Watch the way the Republicans are handling today’s controversies and it’s easy to see how their tactics could backfire again,” Bloomberg‘s Ramesh Ponnuru wrote Wednesday.
The very next morning, Ponnuru’s warning began to come true, as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus lost one of the ardent critics of the Obama administration’s handling of these scandals, The National Journal‘s Ron Fournier.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Priebus suggested the president was engaged in “lawlessness and guerrilla warfare.”
“Based on what we know so far, it is incorrect to say the president is ‘in the middle’ of ‘lawlessness and guerrilla warfare.’ It is also irresponsible,” Fournier wrote. “And it’s bad politics.”
Republicans are counting on the sheer volume of their investigations to eventually chip away at the president’s approval ratings, but they’re likely overestimating — as they did in 1998 — both their case and ability to sway the public’s opinion. And not just because “They’re attacking the president where he’s least vulnerable at a time when they have minimal credibility.”
Even worse, Republicans are likely to taint necessary investigations — like those into reporters as co-conspirators in espionage — with such rabid politicization that any actual discussion will be worthless.
The GOP’s problems begin with the fact that the story they’re trying to tell about the president makes no sense.
“The scandals can’t demonstrate that Obama’s true dictatorial streak has finally been revealed while simultaneously supporting the idea that they’ve shown him to be too weak to control a government that has run amok,” writes The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent. And even if they decide on a narrative — today they’re leaning towards Obama being a tyrant — each so-called scandal ultimately contains issues that undermine conservative ideology and expose their hypocrisy.
Ultimately, the Republicans’ biggest problem is that it’s obvious that they would not consider any of these “scandals” to be scandals if a Republican were in the White House.
Would the right-wing media be blasting a Republican for using bad talking points about a 9/11 terrorist attack to avoid criticism? The Bush administration used bad talking points about a 9/11 terrorist attack to start a war.
But surely they would take on the IRS if political opponents were being targeted! “Under George W. Bush, it went after the NAACP, Greenpeace and even a liberal church,” writes Salon‘s Alex Seitz-Wald.
And press freedom? “These leakers!” Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes told a reporter in 1998. “I think they should all be executed and tortured.”
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