Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 29, 2010

'TIME TO MOVE ON'.... One of the more annoying angles to the Sestak "story" was the underlying dullness. In any political "controversy," there are best-case and worse-case scenarios when measuring severity and consequences. When it came to the Sestak allegations, under the best-scenario, the story was meaningless. Under the worst-case scenario, it was still meaningless.

It was one of those rare stories in which news outlets played along, knowing full well that the entire matter was manufactured silliness.

And now that the story had run its course, those who know what they're talking about want to put a period at the end of already-obvious sentence. Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics officer under George W. Bush, took a look at the information released yesterday and told Greg Sargent that it's even clearer now that there's nothing of interest here.

"Based on the information disclosed from the White House, it's even more apparent that this is a non issue," Painter said. "No scandal. Time to move on."

Sam Stein talked to Steve Bunnell, who led the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, and has seen more public corruption cases that practically any lawyer in the country. He not only said the Sestak matter passes the smell test, he told Stein there's nothing to smell.

"I looked through it," Steve Bunnell of the firm O'Melveny & Myers, said of the job-offering related document released by the White House on Friday. "I don't see anything criminal about what happened. Basically you are talking about political horse-trading, which strikes me as an inherent part of democracy. There is nothing inherently bad about it unless you think politics and democracy are bad."

Bunnell added, "I don't understand what the big deal is."

Join the club.

Stepping back, it's also hard to miss the trend -- conservatives become convinced they've stumbled onto some wildly important "controversy," work themselves into a tizzy, and look pretty silly when the facts come out. Remember how excited the right was about the Gerald Walpin firing? Or the time conservatives were convinced that the White House was closing car dealerships based on owners' political contributions?

Kevin Drum had a very good item a year ago, arguing that there's nothing especially wrong with far-right activists watching the administration like a hawk, doing what the opposition is supposed to do. There's certainly something to be said for this -- if conservatives want to hold elected officials' feet to the fire, more power to 'em. It's what being politically engaged is all about.

The problem is, these folks keep crying "wolf" without thinking it through. Conservative bloggers and talk-radio hosts are constantly finding scandalous schemes and outrageous abuses relating to the White House, all of which appear pretty foolish soon after. As a result, it's easy to start ignoring them.

Maybe the right can start being a little more selective?

Steve Benen 8:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Oh, I disagree...there IS something totally fun to watch here...Darryl Issa has no fear of presenting himself as a total Asshat and it is most entertaining...even more so given how inept our media reps are in actually pressing him on just WHAT is illegal about this little storm he is trying to expose...it is a RIOT!!!

Posted by: Dancer on May 29, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

It's become a food chain, self-perpetuating.
Opposition researchers create a scandal.
Lazy correspondents--given the choice of hitting the street and doing some reporting, or transcribing the feed from Drudge--will always choose the latter. Cut, paste, tweak the grammar and hey, what time are you taking off for the Cape?

(Media Whores Online--the name's out to pasture, but the idea is more valid than ever.)

Posted by: Steve Paradis on May 29, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Why would the wing-nuts bother being more selective? The MSM takes any paranoid delusion the right throws at them and makes it into a front page story. The, when it is revealed to be a non-issue, the mea culpa is buried somewhere in the classified section. There is NO INCENTIVE for the right to stop manufacturing scandals. None.

Posted by: tommybones on May 29, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

I would like to offer advice to these high priests of culture as well . Then reflecting on the sagacity which wells up inside of me , the landscape somehow seems less than before my sacred opinion is rendered .
So until the excess of bile is reintergrated into something less disintegrating my opinion is ,

"The problem is, these folks keep crying "wolf" without thinking it through. Conservative bloggers and talk-radio hosts are constantly finding scandalous schemes and outrageous abuses relating to the White House, all of which appear pretty foolish soon after. As a result, it's easy to start ignoring them."

If the idea that repeating foolishness "Makes it so" , despite its root stock in deception and angst via our coming savant savior Luntz , and may find the satisfaction it seeks in its grim future , very well . It certainly won't be able to find it in the shame that covers those of us Americans who share in its obscenity , because of the well known inability for these savants to feel anything aside from their insane lust for power , let alone shame .

Posted by: FRP on May 29, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Foolish, yes. But also useful, no matter the "facts".

Because, when folded into a fund raising letter, along with all of the other outrageous abuses of the Constitution that the Obamination engages in on a daily basis, it is sure to produce the desired result.

As a progressive I am bombarded with pleas for money from Move On, Sierra Club- and Joe Sestak, on an almost daily basis. The emails always contain dire threats to our way of life if we don't fight back- immediately!

The truest words in the English language seem to be "Follow the Money".

Posted by: DAY on May 29, 2010 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

There is an endless supply of these manufactured outrage stories from the right wing. Their knee jerk partisan approach makes them pounce on anything without thinking it through or doing the research. One of my all time favorites is the flap over the logo of the Nuclear Summit that President Obama held earlier this year.

Remember, the logo supposedly resembled the Islamic crescent? It only took Jon Stewart of Comedy Central to make the right wing look like idiots. The logo of course depicted an atom. Hilarious.

From Media Matters:

In recent days, Fox News and the conservative media have seized on the official logo of the Nuclear Security Summit to claim its image "looks like" an Islamic crescent. However, as Comedy Central's Jon Stewart noted, "the inspiration for the logo is actually the Rutherford-Bohr Model of the atom that we all learned about in high school."


Posted by: Ladyhawke on May 29, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't that particular , aggressive , act which got a certain sandaled figure hung ?

Posted by: FRP on May 29, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Remember when defenders of Rovian tactics - even the Plame outing - would always complain about "the criminalization of politics."? (Meaning, outsiders making what they considered innocuous - because their own did it - a criminal matter. This is not to be confused with the actual criminalization of politics, meaning to make it more criminal in nature as we've seen happen before.)

Ladyhawke - sadly, you can't say "we all learned in high school" anymore. The anti-intellectual Right don't want to remember science and history etc. they were taught (esp. in socialist public schools.)

Posted by: Neil B on May 29, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

The right will use any pretext to hog the media coverage. The Sestak kerfuffle allowed Rove to pontificate, Issa to rise from his hole in the ground, etc. Being selective means being sensible about issues. I have seen no indication that will happen. Soon the Republicans will be like Lindsay Lohan; their only talent will be their ability to generate publicity.

Posted by: Mudge on May 29, 2010 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

The reason the right keeps doing this is because the media has an endless fascination for "scandals" pushed by the right wing. It's about the only thing the noise machine is good at - noise. Endless, loud and incessant noise.

The rightwing gains because it feeds its own paranoia and narrative that Obama is a "Chicago thug" who ruthlessly uses and abuses people and wants to impose socialismfascism on the country. More $$$ for the machine.

Despite the media's fascination with the non-scandal I knew from the beginning it would never take off with the public at large because the story the right was telling was just too complicated and the counter-story was just too easy. The right wants you to believe that Obama conspired to bribe Sestak to stay out of the race, and it's some complicated "quid pro quo." Their problem - Sestak didn't get out of the race. He faced no consequences. Nobody broke his legs or threatened his family.

The counter-narrative is that the WH offered Sestak a job which he turned down to run for Senate. It's pretty simple. The non-controversy had the added benefit of making Sestak look good. Toomey must be cursing the noise machine right now.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope on May 29, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

The Right manufacturers scandals because they would NEVER criticize the Obama Administration's continuation of the Bush Administration's stripping away of civil liberties, escalation of the Afghanistan war, refusal to prosecute war crimes committed by the Bush administration, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and so much more. They like to dangle shiny objects to distract the American people (sadly very easy to do), and the Left isn't immune to the same kinds of behavior when it suits their purposes.

Posted by: winddancer on May 29, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is that the drip, drip, drip of "these Democrats are all crooks" leakage that seeps out into the public begins to fill a bucket of doubts about them, no matter how insignificant or meaningless the individual droplets may be. Right now, I find it hard to find anyone who doesn't roll their eyes in disgust anytime you mention the word "Democrat" or "Obama." "All crooks," is the common refrain. Even the birther story is gaining traction. And this is in northern NJ, where Dems are usually strong.

Posted by: walldon on May 29, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

As others have pointed out, the problem is not the right wing 'watchdog' groups manufacturing a controversy. There are a number of left wing radical groups that do the same thing. The problem is the MSM picks up the right wing groups message and repeats it to the world at large. Often without bothering to vet the story properly (the Blumenthal silliness that came from opposition research).

Posted by: Thorin-1 on May 29, 2010 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

The only thing that I have to say is that this is a "non-story". All the Republicans and the media want is to distract the people from the real issues. And just maybe it will help them take over the PA Senate seat. Throw anything at the Obama Administration regarding corruption hoping that it sticks. AFTER ALL C-SPAN EVEN HAD A QUESTION OF THE DAY REGARDING THIS ISSUE. C-SPAN HAS BEEN LEANING RIGHT LATELY WITH ALL OF ITS INTERVIEWS AND SUBJECT MATTERS.

Posted by: AZWildCatsRWings on May 29, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Au contraire my friends, Fox news told me different this morning . At the Gym with banks of TEEVEES and the story seemed to have slipped off the radar ..EXCEPT for Faux. The lead story with the full Darryl Issa clip and the crawl Sestak job offer They poison minds each and every day.

Posted by: John R on May 29, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Why would the wing-nuts bother being more selective? The MSM takes any paranoid delusion the right throws at them and makes it into a front page story. The, when it is revealed to be a non-issue, the mea culpa is buried somewhere in the classified section. There is NO INCENTIVE for the right to stop manufacturing scandals. None.

That's exactly it. Because the MSM buries the "rest of the story" where we find out that they really were crying wolf, the wingnuts lose no cred.

Other instances: remember when Obama was going to come and confiscate everyone's guns? Or when he was going to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine and force Rush Limbaugh off the air? (Hell, that wasn't just fringe wingnuts, either: Establishment wingnut George Will repeatedly pressed the Fairness Doctrine story.)

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on May 29, 2010 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

No, they will not be more selective. They are a cancer on the body politic and are slowly being poisoned by their own waste. And as the become more and more marginalized by their own behavior, they will redouble that very behavior, thereby ensuring their own demise. As they become more shrill, the rest of the country will become more immune to their cries. And when the noise stops one day, we all will look around, surprised at what true calm sounds like.

Posted by: Rook on May 29, 2010 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Someone ought to send a memo to the geniuses at NPR then, because yesterday while listening to WBUR they reported several times that the "job offer whether paid or not is illegal."

Since the early 2000s I regret more and more each day every dime I ever donated to public radio.

Posted by: karen marie on May 29, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Virtually everything "reported" by the media anymore is in the form of a horse race; how an event will favor one side or the other in political terms, rather than the details of the event itself.

Posted by: qwerty on May 29, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

I use the right wing as examples to my teenage kids as to why you can't scream bloody murder about every little thing you don't like. After awhile, most people ignore you. And worse, it is possible that they might actually come up with something worthwhile someday and they will still be ignored.

Posted by: sublime33 on May 29, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Issa, who has been on a quest to find something against Obama since the day he was sworn in was really salivating when calling it corruption on the Ed show!

Posted by: JS on May 29, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing showed the fundamentally broken nature of the modern media as when the other networks came to the defense of Fox News in the face or relatively restrained criticism from the administration.

Here is a network that is running a nakedly partisan propaganda operation that is stealing market share from the others. Yet when the President's spokesperson says that the President will treat interviews with Fox as if he was speaking to the opposition, the rest of them play along when Fox acts as if the administration is trying to put them out of business.

Posted by: tanstaafl on May 29, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Though I will say that it was especially hard to remain calm about reports a few weeks ago that the White House press corps was "as made as they have ever been" about the treatment they were getting from the Obama administration. Particularly when the "straw that broke the camel's back" was apparently the failure of the White House to alert the pool reporters in time for them to get pictures of Obama attending one of his daughter's soccer games.

Keeping in mind that this is the same White House press corps that remained silent when an uncredentialed hack was repeatedly called on to offer-up softball questions to President Bush while veterans reporters like Helen Thomas were routinely ignored.

One is also reminded of the way they enthusiastically embraced the "travelgate" scandal early in the Clinton administration. Apparently, the liked the previous head of the White House travel office because he was so good at arranging special accommodations for them during overseas trips. That was more important than the fact that he was taking kickbacks from the charter service and violating standard accounting procedures by commingling his peronal accounts with those relating to the travel office.

After all, what does it matter if their bosses are getting ripped off as long as the press corps gets all the special treatment it has become accustomed to?

Posted by: tanstaafl on May 29, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the corporate media promotion of manufactured scandal serves two purposes.
Short term they hope for increased ratings that scandal always brings.
Long term it supports the corporate media false equivalence positions.
Both sides do it.
All politicians are essentially alike.

Posted by: thebewilderness on May 29, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Mmmm, This might be an opportunity to get rid of that slimy Rahm,,, It would be easy to stick the $#!^ on him then roll his head.

Posted by: cwolf on May 29, 2010 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Maybe the right can start being a little more selective?"- Benen

Maybe the media can stop giving credence to foolishness. Infotainment and stenography pass for news journalism. If the MSM knew how many have just stopped watching or paying attention to their tripe they might reconsider actual journalistic news but that would mean knowing your subject rather than just trying to look good or gain access.

But if that happened corporate news would have to fire everybody.

Posted by: bjobotts on May 29, 2010 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Well, CNN is still running with it as "Breaking News", as in "Breaking News: Sestak offered a job", which was quite funny even if you knew it was based on bullshit. Makes it sound like he's never worked before.

It staggers the imagination how America's best and brightest youth is going to be made interested in a career of public service, after watching the freak show this past 12 months. More and more, politics is failing to attract any but the terminally lazy (who feel like the only part of work they like is payday), the hair-fluffing grandstanders who crave attention and the under-the-radar private-sector criminals.

Posted by: Mark on May 30, 2010 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

If Fox can start a war, why can't they start an impeachment?

Posted by: Marc on May 30, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK
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