It seems that Scandal Mania 2013, after a flurry of activity, has tapered off a bit. The Republican campaign to turn Benghazi into a political controversy fell apart; it seems pretty obvious the IRS matter was a bureaucratic mess that was not orchestrated by the White House; and Republicans don't seem to know quite what to do with the AP subpoenas, which were almost certainly legal anyway.
With no real revelations to speak of, the political world's focus is starting to shift, and polls suggest the public never took a particular interest in the so-called "scandals" in the first place. The RNC this week was reduced to publishing a memo to news organizations, insisting that the controversies really are controversies -- and once a reminder like this is deemed necessary, it's not a good sign.
So why is Scandal Mania 2013 losing steam? Common sense suggests it has something to do with the fact that there haven't been any especially interesting revelations, compounded by the fact that there are no meaningful connections between the allegations and President Obama. On the other hand, Peter Wehner, the White House director of "strategic initiatives" in the Bush/Cheney era, has a very different explanation (via Jon Chait).
The vast majority of journalists are highly sympathetic to a large federal government, and they know where these scandals, if pursued vigorously, will lead -- to a further deepening distrust of government. A new Fox News poll shows that more than two-thirds of voters feel the government is out of control and threatening their civil liberties. Journalists are aware that these scandals have the potential to deal a devastating blow to their progressive ideology, which is why they will downplay these stories as much as they can.
I'd almost forgotten how entertaining Wehner can be.
From his perspective, political reporters and major media outlets pounced in recent weeks on three unrelated stories, combining them in ways Republicans loved, trumpeting unsupported assertions about "presidential scandals" and a "White House in crisis." There was breathless coverage from every major news organization, many of which brushed past the merits of the controversies, and instead pondered what Obama would do to put out the undefined fires.
Then, as Wehner sees it, these exact same political reporters and major media outlets suddenly realized -- all at the same time -- that they actually can't pursue these stories anymore because the "scandals" would be ideologically upsetting. Wehner not only believes this, he felt comfortable putting this thought in print.
As Chait concluded, "So I guess the theory here is that journalists piled on all these stories, then realized there really was tons of evidence of wrongdoing, and they're now backing away because they realize it subverts their progressive ideology. Yeah, that sounds right."
Is it any wonder the Bush White House's "strategic initiatives" never seemed to work out well?