Republicans are howling for President Obama to name a special prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party groups. The president should call their bluff.That has to be a joke, right? Sadly, it doesn't seem so, as the rest of the column is devoted to the premise that Obama can diffuse Republican notions of scandal by appointing a special counsel to do some serious work getting to the bottom of it all, and somehow the nationally famous penis-chaser "Kenneth Starr" would be a fine upstanding someone to do that job, allowing the rest of government to get back to the business of governing. (All right, now I am seriously thinking the entire column was put up as a ruse, an Onionesque parody of what the dumbest imaginable bastard in all of politics might put up as an opinion column, in which case: Well played, indeed.)
The president should announce that he has told the Justice Department to appoint an independent investigator with bulldog instincts and bipartisan credibility. The list of candidates could start with Kenneth Starr, who chased down the scandals, real and imagined, of the Clinton presidency.
Ken Starr and the unending hunt for something, any something at all, that would require impeaching the opposition-party president was the exact moment all of American politics went to hell and stayed there. Politics was always partisan: The Starr investigation made it stupid. Politics was always stupid, at least on the outskirts: The Starr investigation turned the stupidity into a mainstream and celebrated thing. It canonized conspiracy-peddling as the defacto Republican method of governance. It gave a podium to every liar, crook, asshole, ambulance chaser, tin foil hat aficionado, and black helicopter watcher, and all the top-name Republicans in Washington came up to give them a big, sticky hug. It was one of the first things that was supposed to be worse than Watergate, and in a very real way, it was. Watergate and Iran-Contra were actual crimes conducted by sitting administrations. Whitewater was the attempt to bring down an elected president regardless, cart before horse.
It started off with obscure Arkansas land deals, wound its way through fringe theories of Hillary-as-murderer or Bill-as-drug-trafficker, and eventually settled in on a sexual favor as being the thing that was reason enough. It was the ur-outrage that plotted out how all future outrages would be plotted and peddled in Republican circles. It was retribution for Watergate and Iran-Contra, two monstrous acts by Republicans, via the industrialized construction of a new "scandal" as payback. What it was really about never mattered, and blew with the winds, and nobody blew like Ken Starr and his leak-o-matic investigation of anything and everything that crackpots brought to his ear.
It was, as I said before, the exact moment all of American politics went to hell. The press, in a constant attempt to prove their own fealty to anyone who would piss anything that the public would pay a quarter to read, slit its own wrists on a daily basis to let what was left of their integrity drain out. The GOP moved from any pretense of being policy-minded into an all-outrage, all-the-time model channeled first through Drudge and later turd-polished by Fox News into the vapid, nonsensical, eternally shouting propaganda that now defines all of conservatism. It was the very moment the sound and the fury started to signify nothing, and then less than nothing.
After the episode, though, even Republicans distanced themselves from Ken Starr. The impeachment business itself ended as a flop, a humiliation for the GOP, and was met with retribution from an angry electorate that wasn't keen on being played for the dimwits and chumps the GOP apparently thought them to be. The one group that Starr never seemed to lose favor with, though, was the pundit class. The same walking balloons of tittering media nothingness that pumped the "scandal" through all of its varied, silly iterations never did seem to internalize the lesson or feel shame over it. Even now, the old hands seem wistful. Remember back when we didn't have to do anything but wait for the phone to ring with the latest "leak?" Remember when we all got to talk about sex on the teevee and, for once, pretend we were serious? Remember that, the one time in history when our only true talent, the only thing we were ever truly good at, gossiping about pointless drivel with no pesky policy implications or choices to be made or facts to look up, was the driving force behind our very lives—no, our very professions? Remember when Bill was the root of all evil, and Hillary was the scheming mastermind behind eighty percent of everything that ever happened—back when scandals were good, and by that I mean, not so goddamn boring?
Sometimes, when the wind is still, you can still hear them wistfully sobbing for those good old days. Still, though, you almost never saw someone bring up the name Ken Starr after that with an actual, serious proposal that he be brought back to do all of that nonsense again. Even in the worst, most vapid hollows of the press, that's a new one.
To quote Peggy Noonan, who blew a gasket on the I.R.S. in the Wall Street Journal, “This is not about the usual partisan slugfest. This is about the integrity of our system of government and our ability to trust, which is to say our ability to function.” If that’s the case, both parties should stand aside and let a special counsel determine if what happened was criminal, or just dumb. Meanwhile, we have some governing to do.Good God.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005—Karzai Shoots Back:
|After being the subject of a critical story emanating from Washington regarding the drug trade in Afghanistan, Afghani President Hamid Karzai shot back:
President Hamid Karzai today demanded justice for Afghan prisoner abuse by American interrogators, and he blamed the United States and Britain, not his government, for the slow progress of anti-drug efforts in his country. He also said he would ask President Bush for greater control over Afghan affairs as part of a longer-term strategic partnership.
On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin on why there aren't more "safe rooms" and basements in homes in "Tornado Alley." More GunFAIL & passive voice. A note from alpaca farmer on one of the key arguments once made against a Utah bill to mandate alerting parents of armed teacher in their kid's classroom. And the guy quoted in support of armed teachers, whose argument rested on the extra protection of the permitting process, once lobbied to repeal the permitting requirement entirely! Plus, he's actually been on my GunFAIL list before! Moving on, more facts about tax-exempt political groups, and discussion of a possible "nuclear option" on filibusters.