I caught a few minutes of Fox News this afternoon. Supposedly straight news anchor Bret Baier explained that the resignation of acting IRS chief Steven T. Miller was just political theater because he was going to step down in June anyway. And then Charles Krauthammer added that it just wasn’t credible that a few low-level IRS employees would take it on themselves to give special attention to tea party groups. That, of course, makes no sense at all. If you were charged with checking 501(c)(4) applications and you saw a huge increase in applications from tea party groups, you would very easily think, “Maybe I should look into all these tea party groups.” Krauthammer’s argument assumes that IRS employees are a bunch of buffoons who can’t think for themselves. But that’s his (very typical) conservative prejudice. It isn’t close to reality.
But what struck me about the segment was not that, as usual, Fox News was spouting typical partisan nonsense as if it were news. It was that Fox News was saying just what I said they would say. And as I said, most of it would be true. At least, what Bret Baier said was true: it was political theater. Where I went wrong was to think that conservatives would care that Steven Miller had nothing to do with the scandal, except, you know, to fix it. I guess it isn’t the job of Fox News to report, you know, news. It’s just their job to attack the president, and they had enough for that in the fact that Miller was going away soon anyway.
What boggles my mind about all of this is, if anything, Fox News is being less hysterical than most of the Washington press. To some extent, I suspect this is just because the Fox News staff are relishing it; they think this will go on and on—maybe even bringing down the president—so there’s no reason to rush. Jonathan Bernstein has an excellent article at his A Plain Blog About Politics where he looked at all the excitement on Tuesday about this “important” collection of scandals. A good illustration of this is from last night’s The Daily Show:
When I saw this I was very angry. What Stewart is saying is that because there is a scandal about the IRS and the Associated Press, even if it doesn’t actually have anything to do with the president, that makes Benghazi a real scandal. This is the sort of nonsense that I expect The Daily Show to lampoon. But in its way, Jon Stewart and company are very much a mirror of Washington. And really: I’m getting to the point where I don’t even want to watch it; the aggravation is not compensated by the comedy—the comedy itself getting rarer and rarer, replaced by knowing observations. I don’t need The Daily Show to point out the foolishness of the politics; I get that all day long.
Anyway, according to Bernstein, the mainstream news sources have today figured out what I’ve been arguing all along: what scandals? He is quick to note that we just don’t know what is going to happen to these scandals. And I agree. It could turn out that Obama was bribing those IRS workers to go after his enemies—just like Richard Nixon! But it is much more likely that what is really happening is what I’ve been saying all along: the more we know, the less there appears to be a scandal.
That’s not to say that there aren’t really important issues associated with each one of the supposed scandals. My article Scandal?! is probably the best thing I’ve written this month and it discusses exactly that. But as for any scandal that involves President Obama breaking the law or using his office for undue advantage? That’s just nonsense. It’s a 1% chance at best. Mark my words: by this time next week, only Fox News will be covering this stuff with any amount of passion.