The Jeff Gannon affair is brewing into a bit of a mini-scandal for the Bush White House -- really, it's hard to imagine anything more embarassing to that crew than the notion that they had given press credentials to a gay male escort so that he could shill for them in the media. And yet, it still hasn't quite fired the popular imagination: it's getting some press, but it's still being soft-pedaled and getting a bit of a collective shrug from the public. And on some level, I'm not surprised: it just doesn't feel like the right scandal to break this Administration.
There's seems to be a sort of "steam-engine time" for White House scandals, and they take the right collective gestalt to turn into a feeding frenzy. Watergate was the right scandal to bring down Nixon, because everyone was primed to believe that he was a ruthless crook. It's unsurprising in retrospect that the Lewinsky mess tarred Clinton so badly, because everyone believed that his morals were rather loose, and many believed that he was a bit dishonest.
So here's a question: what would be the scandal that could really damage the Shrub? He's a tougher target than many, since so much of the country has practically beatified him; OTOH, his Administration is getting to be so rich in potential scandals that there are certainly lots of targets. More specifically, the question is what sort of scandal would be the right one to *focus* on. They're providing so much raw material that it breeds a sort of scandal-fatigue. It seems to me that we need specific war drums; what should they be saying?
Second question: when would be the right time for such a scandal to break? "As soon as possible" is *not* the obviously correct answer -- at the moment, we're early in the election cycle, and there is lots of time for stuff to blow over. Would the most propitious time for a scandal be next year, in time for the midterm congressional elections? Later yet, to tar Jeb, or whichever other puppet they put into the next presidential race? Or does it in fact make sense to try to lame this administration early?
This question feeds back into the first one, because it goes to goals. Getting Bush out of the White House is no longer the primary objective -- it's going to happen in four years regardless, and probably can't be accelerated. (Anyone who thinks that impeachment is a likely option is living in a political dreamland: the Republicans are still much too disciplined to make that mistake until and unless the scandal is truly breathtaking, and it's hard to hit that level these days.) The far more important goal, I believe, is to break the power of the neo-cons and the religious right, preferably to discredit them politically.
Mind, I'm not proposing anyone make something up -- the Dan Rather debacle during the Presidential election demonstrated how dangerous that particular game is. But as I said, we currently have an astonishingly target-rich environment: just in the past year there has been an endless stream of revelations, any one of which would have horrified people even ten years ago. But the left continues to be utterly inept in leveraging this into real political capital.
Which, I suppose, goes to the third and fundamental question that underlies all of this. Say you were a cold-eyed political strategist for the left, with a mandate to destroy the neo-cons -- the nemesis of Karl Rove, essentially. Throw out all considerations of what is right and just, and get down in the mud that the right is so effectively slinging. How would you go about it? Would you focus on one scandal, or a succession of them, or is that the wrong tack entirely? Would it be best done with a clear strategic plan, or opportunistically?
I'm entirely content to hear counter-arguments, that the cynical approach is fundamentally flawed. But I am starting with the premise that the body politic is quite sick right now, with some pretty skilled, clever and ruthless demogogues doing a remarkably good job of pulling its strings. (The image of a vomiting puppet is somehow viscerally apt.) Calmly holding the moral high ground has not, so far, been terribly effective in getting them out of power. So I'm trying to understand what the alternatives are, and generally a get feel for how this cyberpunk-age political science (which may be nothing more than a return to some older models, deep down) really works. Facts and speculation are both welcomed...