Are We Having Fun Yet?

At the end of a piece for Slate examining the genesis of Scandalmania 2013, Jacob Weisberg makes an observation that may prove to be the key to the duration of the “crisis:”

The final requirement of a successful scandal is that it be less boring than what people would be talking about otherwise. Here, Benghazi and the IRS are up against implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Round 17 of the budget battles, and a stalemate over immigration reform. Washington is desperate for diversion. But it’s going to have to try harder—these scandals aren’t any fun.

No, they really aren’t, particularly when compared to earlier Big Scandals. Watergate had a fascinating cast of odd and colorful characters, the strangest of whom turned out to be Richard Nixon himself once the tapes he megalomaniacally made of his every word were forced into the public domain by the Supreme Court. Iran-Contra was inherently exotic (as was typified by the tale of the Bible and chocolate cake delivered to Tehran as gifts from Ronald Reagan), and generated such insta-stars as Fawn Hall, the document-shredding-secretary and swimsuit model who became the first “celebrity guest” to appear at the White House Correspondents Dinner. The Clinton Scandals obviously had a constant lurid backdrop of trashy sex behind all the legalese.

Perhaps it will turn out “Benghazi whistleblower” Gregory Hicks has a rich and mysterious backstory. Maybe some of those stonewalled 501(c)(4) applications or mind-numbing IRS questionnaires contain hidden treasures of tabloid material. But at this point, the real grabber about the “Obama scandals” is that they are scandals involving the Obama administration. As we are often told, they are exciting to Republicans because they confirm what they already think they know about the 44th president’s perfidious nature. That’s not enough even for a bad mini-series.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.