Ezra says the scandals are falling apart
I don’t know that I fully agree with Ezra Klein on THIS STUFF, but he’s one of the brightest young pundits around, and what he says merits consideration:
Things go wrong in government. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Sometimes it’s rank incompetence. Sometimes it’s criminal wrongdoing. Most of the time you never hear about it. Or, if you do hear about it, the media eventually gets bored talking about it (see warming, global).
But every so often an instance of government wrongdoing sprouts wings and becomes something quite exciting: A political scandal.
The crucial ingredient for a scandal is the prospect of high-level White House involvement and wide political repercussions. Government wrongdoing is boring. Scandals can bring down presidents, decide elections and revive down-and-out political parties. Scandals can dominate American politics for months at a time.
On Tuesday, it looked like we had three possible political scandals brewing. Two days later, with much more evidence available, it doesn’t look like any of them will pan out…
1) The Internal Revenue Service: The IRS mess was, well, a mess. But it’s not a mess that implicates the White House, or even senior IRS leadership…
2) Benghazi: We’re long past the point where it’s obvious what the Benghazi scandal is supposed to be about. The inquiry has moved on from the events in Benghazi proper, tragic as they were, to the talking points about the events in Benghazi. And the release Wednesday night of 100 pages of internal e-mails on those talking points seems to show what my colleague Glenn Kessler suspected: This was a bureaucratic knife fight between the State Department and the CIA.
As for the White House’s role, well, the e-mails suggest there wasn’t much of one…
3) AP/Justice Department:. This is the weirdest of the three. There’s no evidence that the DoJ did anything illegal. Most people, in fact, think it was well within its rights to seize the phone records of Associated Press reporters. And if the Obama administration has been overzealous in prosecuting leakers, well, the GOP has been arguing that the White House hasn’t taken national security leaks seriously enough. The AP/DoJ fight has caused that position to flip, and now members of Congress are concerned that the DoJ is going after leaks too aggressively. But it’s hard for a political party to prosecute wrongdoing when they disagree with the potential remedies.