Approaching the Gates of Delirium

While folk in the Beltway debate whether the eroding case for a “triple-play” of scandals adds up to a “narrative” that threatens Barack Obama’s presidency, there’s not much evidence so far that all the lurid talk is changing public perceptions. A new CNN-ORC survey taken Friday and Saturday showed Obama’s job approval rating at 53% (with 45% disapproving), which is higher than his standing in April (51/47), March (47-50), or indeed, last November (51/45 in the last poll conducted before Election Day).

It’s always possible the “story” hasn’t yet sunk in, but we are fast approaching the point where Republicans are going to have to decide whether to pursue these “scandals” past the gates of delirium even if it becomes evident only people who don’t like Obama are upset about them. It’s quite possible they’ll push right on in accordance with the theory that in a “base-dominated” midterm election, convincing their own troops that Obama’s deploying the entire federal government to persecute them while protecting Radical Muslims here and abroad will boost GOP turnout. Another possible rationale for this approach is that it would obviate the very difficult task of coming up with an alternative GOP agenda–particularly one that involves anything other than Senate filibusters and House obstructionism. Still another is that they just can’t help themselves, and/or that insufficient focus on Benghazi/IRS (they don’t seem to quite have their hearts into exploitation of the AP “scandal,” since the “victims” so far are for the most part godless liberal reporters) could actually depress GOP turnout in 2014.

Other polls will come out soon, of course, and promoters of the “scandal narrative” will be standing by with bullhorns at the ready to proclaim it’s having an effect. It won’t take much more than a hint of smoke in the wind to convince the already-convinced that a political conflagration is developing (viz. the current banner Politico headline: “Scandal-shocked House Democrats fear for 2014.”).

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, 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.