Commentary | Is “scandal envy” the reason behind the non-starter Benghazi brouhaha and high-school shenanigans that supposedly comprise the massive Gen. Petraeus scandal?
The question of scandal envy was considered this week in a Salon-carried American Prospect piece centering on the Benghazi debate and Petraeus handwringing, a study in continual attempts by his opponents to paint President Obama as inept, incapable, sympathetic to a number of factions supposedly hostile to the American way of life, or just flat-out illegitimate.
The scandal envy suggestion seems, at least to many on the left, as a plausible explanation for why a series of allegations seem to be so damning to some and so head-scratching to others. (To put it delicately, diffusion of coverage on … certain news outlets … may also be in part to blame.) And as an openly left-leaning individual myself, I share the befuddlement many liberal pundits and newsmen and women seem to express in working out, even now, how Obama may have “ignored” Benghazi or why we are supposed to be so angry that four Americans were tragically killed in an attack on a diplomatic entity in a dangerous zone — a circumstance that is tragic, but not a surprise.
For weeks during the election, seemingly unlinked stories on The Inquisitr were beset with comments circling back to the non-sequitur. Like the appearance of the tides or the rise of the sun, if President Obama made an appearance on a campaign stop or got a hug from a baby, commenters would rail, “Well, WHAT about BENGHAZI? What did he know and when did he know it?”
And even now, as the Benghazi “scandal” has been in the news for weeks, many lefties have no idea why this is seen as a coverup on the right rather than a a surprise attack on our consulate that was not, at first, something we fully understood. On last night’s Real Time With Bill Maher, Maher lamented that he had, in the course of the controversy, remained unable to tease out any possibly scandalous angle. And in a post-election, broad sense-making rant, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow stated simply: “Benghazi was an attack on us, not a scandal by us.”
The Petraeus issue as well seems so imprecisely framed as an Obama administration failure rather than what it so clearly appears to be — a man who, unrelated to the Presidency’s dealings was none too skilled at hiding his own personal indiscretions and an inevitable eruption of mistress jealousy. But what did he know and when did he know it? We’re only asking the hard questions here.
It’s not as if, contrary to right-wing dogma, Obama is beyond reproach with the left. He’s been pilloried for enforcing federal marijuana laws, the NDAA, continual and imprecise drone strikes that lack “surgical” accuracy, the successful absconding with American wealth by Wall Street scam artists — I could go on. The idea that Obama has escaped scrutiny simply does not hold up when examined even loosely.
Which is where scandal envy seems a fitting explanation for the continual insistence that a series of minor news blips are somehow evidence of a grand Obama administration conspiracy to … well, we’re not sure exactly, but it’s probably bad and involves Muslims, Marxism, the Black Panther Party and “Chicago thugs.” What did he know and when did he know it?
Paul Waldman explains:
“So what’s going on here? I can sum it up in two words: scandal envy. Republicans are indescribably frustrated by the fact that Barack Obama, whom they regard as both illegitimate and corrupt, went through an entire term without a major scandal. They tried with ‘Fast and Furious,’ but that turned out to be small potatoes. They tried with Solyndra, but that didn’t produce the criminality they hoped for either.”
“Obama even managed to dole out three-quarters of a trillion dollars in stimulus money without any graft or double-dealing to be found. Nixon had Watergate, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Clinton had Lewinsky, and Barack Obama has gotten off scott-free. This is making them absolutely livid, and they’re going to keep trying to gin up a scandal, even if there’s no there there. Benghazi may not be an actual scandal, but it’s all they have handy.”
And Bush — Bush rode into office on a horse named Scandal, in the most ambiguous election in recent memory. He followed that act with a massive intelligence failure leading to the deaths of 3,000 Americans on American soil, an investigation resultant that was notable only in that the 9/11 Commission later observed they’d been continually blocked in seeking answers.
Still, we had a war in the unrelated country of Iraq, trashing our international credibility by lying about “weapons of mass destruction” and barging in to the tune of 4,500 more Americans needlessly dead as well as an untold number of Iraqi civilians. Hurricane Katrina then hit, and a bungled response led to 1,800 more Americans dead. The deficit soared and the economy crashed, leaving millions out of work.
And “scandalously,” the current administration has yet to clear the smoking ruins a scant four years on. Aside from that, Obama himself is frustratingly scandal-free. Not a single “bombshell” against him has borne fruit, no blabby interns or tax cheating or dubious investments or even a devastating weather event a week before the election managed to tarnish what has to be the cleanest record in modern political history.
Ultimately, it seems outside a core audience of a certain newschannel, the attempt to make cake out of water for Benghazi has been unfruitful. But it would serve viewers well to consider a single question when such allegations arise — to what end and who would this serve?