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.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.