2006/03/19

NSA scandal and past scandals

Harper's Magazine published a piece by Gene Lyons that was later expanded into a book called Fools for Scandal, about how Whitewater started as a land deal in Arkansas and was turned into a scandal that was a constant, draining distraction for the public and that eventually paved the way for the Monica Lewinsky scandalette. The book details several facts that the national mainstream media got wrong. It's not that errors were made here and there and that they essentially did their research in a competent manner, it's that the media consistently screwed up the facts well beyond recognition and always in the same direction, always in a way to make the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, look guiltier than they were.
The main point of the book is that the Whitewater scandal was a created scandal. Republicans didn't simply wait for it to happen, they went out and made it happen. Whitewater itself didn't lead to any significant legal action against the Clintons, that had to wait until Bill made the stupid mistake of getting sexually involved outside of his marriage. Those conservatives who say that he was also immoral to do so, that he should have treated his marriage vows with more respect are entirely correct. The idea however, that that particular brand of immorality required removal from office was and remains in hindsight, a very serious overreaction. Having lived in Norfolk VA from 1992 to 1996, I always thought the conservative dislike of Clinton went way the heck overboard, far beyond any strictly reasonable basis. The bumper sticker that came out very shortly after Clinton took his oath of office "Don't blame me, I voted for Bush", struck me as a very seriously over-the-top reaction.
I'm not suggesting it's perfectly okay to go around "ginning up" scandals, but it does seem to me that for liberals and Democrats to simply wait for a scandal to unseat a president or disrupt his presidency, as in Watergate or Iran-Contra, is entirely too passive an approach. If Democrats have to "nudge" the scandal of the warrantless NSA surveillances, then so be it. Democratic politicians of all ranks and levels should get out and make speeches and write editorials about it, they should ceaselessly explain to the public exactly what the scandal is about, that it is a scandal of immense, historical proportions, that it needs to be dealt with in a serious manner.
The current approach simply proves the Republican talking point correct, the Democrats are simply too wimpy and too scared and too cautious to ever make a serious national security decision.

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