I find myself thinking of this quote from Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride a lot lately. It is overused, I know, but it works so well.
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
The word I’ve been hearing a lot lately that fits Inigo’s observation is “scandal”.
According to Merriam Webster, the word scandal is defined as
2 : loss of or damage to reputation caused by actual or apparent violation of morality or propriety.
The #1 definition was a religious one.
We’ve all heard the Republicans and their stenographers, the press, say the word “scandal” about a million times in the last couple of months. But do any of these issues really qualify as a “scandal”? I say NO.
The Benghazi Scandal That Isn’t
American embassies and consulates have been attacked many times in our history, particularly in dangerous areas. Bob Cesca did an amazing job in compiling the attacks on America during the Bush administration. Here is a portion of that post.
January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.
June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected with al-Qaida attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51.
October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic offices bombed as part of a string of “Bali Bombings.” No fatalities.
February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed.
May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al-Qaida terrorists storm the diplomatic compound killing 36 people including nine Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb.
July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two people.
December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaida terrorists storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are killed.
March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers. (I wonder if Lindsey Graham or Fox News would even recognize the name “David Foy.” This is the third Karachi terrorist attack in four years on what’s considered American soil.)
September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded.
January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities.
March 18, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two.
July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed.
September 17, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an American student and her husband (they had been married for three weeks when the attack occurred). This is the second attack on this embassy in seven months.
I’m racking my brain trying to remember a “scandal” coming from any of these attacks.
The idea that changing “talking points” to not tip off the terrorists responsible for the attacks was some sort of massive conspiracy to make the President look good is just ridiculous. We shouldn’t forget that this “scandal” started with Mitt Romney putting his foot in his mouth during the campaign and since then, the GOP has doubled down on it many times. They were so sure that it was the one thing that could take the President out, if only someone would listen. The real reason that Republicans are trying to create a “scandal” where there is none is because they can’t accept that they got their asses kicked again by President Obama. It’s one giant case of sore-loseritus. The next step is for the Republicans to ask for a “do over” or a “mulligan” on the 2012 elections. Get over it, you lost. And a free tip for you Republicans, Americans don’t like sore losers, you look like fucking weasels.
And remember, the media and the GOP are calling this an “Obama scandal”. First off, there IS no scandal there. There was no violation of “morality or propriety” by anybody, let alone the President. There hasn’t been any connections to the President at all. With the release of the emails that Jon Karl of ABC News was duped about (being generous), that show that the White House let the agencies involved fight over the infamous talking points, this whole issue should be but a bad memory. And my god, they were freaking talking points. Talking points that were prefaced by Susan Rice in the following way.
“Let me tell you the– the best information we have at present. First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing. And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired. But putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is…”
What exactly is so hard to understand about this, unless you just don’t want to understand…then it is understandable. :)
The AP And Fox News Leak Investigations
The second non scandal being exploited is the justice department subpoenaing phone records in both the AP case, where a spy who had infiltrated AQAP in Yemen was revealed and the James Rosen/Fox News case, where a spy in North Korea was compromised as well. The press is going nuts about this and in my opinion, have shown their asses. It has brought out all sorts of indignation from the press and has elevated the first amendment to mythical status. Just so we are all on the same page, here is the first amendment.
1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And to further clarify, here is the definition of “abridge”…
2. to reduce or lessen in duration, scope, authority, etc.; diminish; curtail: to abridge a visit; to abridge one’s freedom.
3. to deprive; cut off.
The arguments I keep hearing, mostly from the left, seem to imply that the press is untouchable and has absolute freedom to print whatever they want, with the first amendment as their cloak of invincibility. I can just picture Alex Jones repeating it to himself in the mirror, just before going on air to tell us how the FBI was responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings. The press needs to step back and take a look at who is in their midst and reevaluate this “freedom” they assign to all who call themselves the press.
In a great debate about this subject, Gabriel Schoenfeld made some excellent points. (Warning PDF) I recommend reading the whole transcript.
We cannot disclose all of the methods by which we track terrorists. We cannot publicize the vulnerabilities of our bridges and tunnels and buildings. We have an absolute duty to conceal things like the blueprints for nuclear weapons or the formulas for substances like aerosolized anthrax. But equally at stake is the character of our democracy. We live in an open society, and secrecy is antithetical to the democratic idea. Secrecy can be used as a cover for corruption and wrong-doing. […]
But even as we have a press that we want to be delving into state secrets, it must do so under the rule of law. That is the press must be vulnerable to prosecution when it violates the laws governing secrecy. […]
The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no aw abridging freedom of speech or the press. But, of course, we live with numerous abridgments of free speech and free press, all widely accepted by the public and upheld by the courts. We can’t libel one another. We can’t engage in false advertising. And of course, it’s forbidden to yell, “Fire” — falsely yell, “Fire” in a crowded theater like this one. Now, Congress has enacted several statutes that criminalize the publication of state secrets. The Espionage Act was mentioned but one might also point to the Atomic Energy Act that makes it a crime to publish classified material pertaining to the design of nuclear weapons.
Or the COMINT Act which makes it a crime to publish classified information pertaining to cryptography, or code breaking, or the Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a crime to publish the identities of undercover CIA officers and other intelligence officers of the U.S. government. Now, these laws are all in obvious tension with the First Amendment, but no court has ever struck them down. And it is a statement of fact, ladies and gentlemen, the proposition under debate here to night, the freedom of the press does not extend to state secrets, is inarguably true. Valid laws are on the books that criminalize the publication of certain state secrets.
Walter Pincus wrote a great piece that is reminiscent of real journalists of days gone by. Definitely go read that one, if you haven’t already. Here is a small excerpt from it.
Whoever provided the initial leak to the Associated Press in April 2012 not only broke the law but caused the abrupt end to a secret, joint U.S./Saudi/British operation in Yemen that offered valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. […]
Hitting targets in the United States is one of AQAP’s goals. In association with Saudi intelligence, the CIA inserted a Saudi who convinced AQAP that he wanted to be a suicide bomber. Eventually he was outfitted with Asiri’s newest device, which he was to use on a U.S. aircraft. After the device was delivered to U.S. officials, someone or several people leaked the information to the AP.
As journalists and politicians focus on what they say are too- broad subpoenas for records of 21 phone lines for AP offices and individuals, what’s lost is the damaging and criminal leak.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s initial comment to reporters last Tuesday that “it is within the top two or three most serious leaks that I’ve ever seen” has been rejected. Journalists have heard that over the years.
This is different.
The AP was working on a story where lives really could be at risk. Also at risk were the relationships between U.S., Saudi and British intelligence.
In the weeks following the AP story, both congressional Democrats and Republicans demanded a crackdown on leaks, with House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R- Mich.) saying his committee would formally investigate the issue. However, both the CIA and the Department of Justice said they would not cooperate with any such inquiry.
Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for the appointment of a special counsel to launch an independent inquiry into the leaks. They went as far to suggest that information was being leaked anonymously by administration officials to help the president win reelection.
I remember this very clearly. The righteous indignation in Washington D.C. was off the hook. Republicans demanded that the White House get to the bottom of this and in response to the grandstanding, Eric Holder appointed a prosecutor to look into it, recusing himself because the crazy GOP started pointing fingers at him as the possible source of the leak…adding a new layer of stupidity to the accusations.
The IRS “TARGETS” Political Groups
Personally, I like the IRS. They’ve always been very helpful to me whenever I’ve called them. When I screwed up once out of ignorance, they waived a fee of over a thousand dollars. Good people, IMO. I imagine I’m quite alone in thinking that, but I’m just going by my personal experience.
The IRS non-scandal introduces another word, “target”, that has been morphed into one that needs an accompanying “dunt duh duhhhh” stinger! OH MY GOD, the IRS “targeted” groups for investigation and they singled out groups with “tea party” and “patriots” in their names for special scrutiny. These groups were trying to get tax-free status of the (c) (4) kind, which means you don’t have to disclose your donors. Because, you know, donors don’t want people to know they are helping with “social welfare”.
The problem with this non-scandal is that they didn’t really “single” out those groups, but liberal groups as well. And previous administrations also “singled” out certain groups like the NAACP, Greenpeace and even a progressive church, but no one elevated it to a “scandal” for some odd reason.
Should it be easy for a group with a political name to get 501 (c) (4) status? If I were tasked with investigating whether a group qualified for the “social welfare” status, I might start by looking for groups with political sounding names. I’m just saying. It might be a good place to start, anyway. And none of these groups whining about it were denied that status. Granted, writing cramps suck and having to fill out all that paperwork to prove you are a ‘social welfare” organization, when you really aren’t, is probably a mother fucker to do.
Republicans are desperate to find something to create a scandal out of. It really has to suck for them that President Obama is a moral, responsible, caring and honest man who has set a new standard for patience, acumen and poise. It has to just drive them nuts, while they ignore David “diaper boy” Vitter, Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford and Larry “wide stance” Craig. It takes a special kind of denial to live in their world.