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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Definitions of “Scandal”

How much longer do we have to endure the specter of “scandal” created by the champions of scandal: the Republican Party? 

Take a quick look at the Republican candidate for Lt. Gov. of Virginia, Bishop E.W. Jackson, and a few of his better-known scandalous quotes:

1. On gay people: “Their minds are perverted, they’re frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally and they see everything through the lens of homosexuality. When they talk about love they’re not talking about love, they’re talking about homosexual sex.” “Homosexuality is a horrible sin, it poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things that we can think of…”
2. On Planned Parenthood and the KKK: “Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was. And the Democrat Party and the black civil rights allies are partners in this genocide.”
3. On liberals and the KKK: “Liberalism and their ideas have done more to kill black folks whom they claim so much to love than the Ku Klux Klan, lynching and slavery and Jim Crow ever did, now that’s a fact.”
4.  On Obama’s Muslim sensibilities: “Obama clearly has Muslim sensibilities. He sees the world and Israel from a Muslim perspective. His construct of ‘The Muslim World’ is unique in modern diplomacy. It is said that only The Muslim Brotherhood and other radical elements of the religion use that concept. It is a call to unify Muslims around the world.”

Such remarks are a good “fit” with the original definition of the word “scandal” which had to do with the “unseemly conduct of a religious person that discredits religion.”  Asked if Jackson was trouble, another senior Virginia Republican responded, “Oh. My. God. Yes.” The danger, the Republican said, is that “Jackson will bring Democrats to the polls who might otherwise stay home. You just don’t want one candidate to rile up the base of the other side. That’s what you’re trying to avoid.”  
 
Another definition of “scandal” is: “malicious gossip; defamatory or slanderous talk.”  So, in essence, that means that the hearings being held by a third of the committees in Congress are scandalous.  That’s exactly what I mean.  Since every hearing that has been held has included malicious gossip (or ignominious innuendo) and defamatory or slanderous talk on the part of certain members, we can safely say that their rhetoric fits with this definition, and that they, themselves, are the “scandal.”  Let’s take a brief look at one example.

Darrell Issa called Jay Carney a "paid liar" this week.  According to The National Journal, Issa’s aggressive approach is just what the Republican House leadership wants.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor singled out Issa for praise at a closed-door GOP conference meeting on Tuesday. Hours later, Cantor gave him plaudits on national television, saying on CNN that Issa and other GOP chairmen investigating the IRS were doing “a fantastic job.” 

The National Journal continues: Democrats say Issa has prejudiced the IRS investigation by declaring on CNN on Sunday that the targeting “was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters and we're getting to proving it.” Issa, they argue, is following his well-worn path of lobbing accusations first and then searching for evidence to back them up later.  “It’s hard to trust someone who makes assertions on which he has no basis to make [them],” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on Tuesday.

In addition, says the Journal, Democrats complain of Issa’s selective use of evidence to bolster pre-conceived “gut” feelings. On Sunday, Issa released only selected chunks of the transcribed interviews that his panel and the Ways and Means Committee had conducted with IRS officials. And he shared the excerpts on national television before giving a copy to committee Democrats—a breach of decorum and protocol, Democrats say.  Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the oversight panel… before a recent Benghazi hearing, had accused Issa of keeping panel Democrats in the dark about interviews with a key State Department witness, Mark Thompson. “They have leaked snippets of interview transcripts to national media outlets in a selective and distorted manner to drum up publicity for their hearing,” Cummings said at the time.

Basically, Republicans agree, without much dissent, that Issa is the poster boy for their efforts to unearth so-called scandals.  He is helping to forge a tableau of an overreaching, overbearing, and unaccountable executive branch—all without real notable proof that any scandal exists, other than his own scandalous behavior.   In like manner, let us use Issa as the quintessential illustration of the scandalous activity of many Republican committee members and move on rather than citing numerous similar examples from other committees.

Instead, let’s stand back a bit and ask, what do we really have here?  In my estimation, it is nothing more than the imperfections of bureaucracy that are omnipresent, and the lack of clear definition of certain policies that have been assumed to be adequate when they aren’t.  What do I mean?

First of all: you can’t run a government accurately, efficiently or effectively when many of your agencies are run by interim directors and deputies.   That is clearly the fault of Senate Republicans who have held up approvals for Obama appointees at alarming rates.  There are still over 1,080 appointments waiting confirmation from the Senate, many of which are appointments to the federal judiciary.  But, among appointments critical to functioning of Executive departments and agencies, we find the following examples:

Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection and Commissioner, Consumer Product Safety Commission
Principle Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology
Under Secretary of the Air Force
Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances – EPA
Under Secretary for management – DOState
Asst. Administrator of Office for Water – EPA
Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services – DOEd
U.S. Governor of the International Monetary Fund
Asst Attorney General for Justice Programs
Administrator EPA
General Counsel Treasury
Secretary of the Interior
Secretary of Energy – DOEn
Secretary of Labor – DOL
Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Associate Attorney General

The IRS is a sterling example of this destructive delaying tactic.  First, Obama had to deal with a Bush leftover appointee, Douglas Shulman.  Then he had to settle for another interim appointment, Steven Miller.  And now that Miller has also resigned in light of the Cincinnati office debacle, another interim appointment has been made (Daniel Werfel of OMB), as the Huffington Post reminds us --because his choice for the permanent IRS director’s position has been delayed in the Senate.  “The Senate has not yet confirmed a full-time commissioner since Douglas Shulman, a Bush appointee, stepped down this past fall.”

Second, you cannot allow policies from one administration to govern the actions of another administration unless those policies have been thoroughly examined, evaluated and adjusted or amended to fit the philosophy and tenor of the new administration.  I fault the Obama administration for allowing certain Bush era policies, established in the context of, or under the influence of 9/11 to have continued without this thorough vetting.  The right-wing obsession with surveillance, hawkishness and control is all too evident in the Patriot Act and subsequent immigration legislation and policy than can be tolerated.  I believe that the balance between the rights of citizens and the necessity of controlling terrorist actions and activities was upset during the Bush years, and should have been modified considerably during an Obama administration.  Instead, for instance, deportations of illegal aliens increased; surveillance procedures at airports were increased to absurd levels, and use of surveillance of phone records and other private communications was continued without much scrutiny until recent revelations. 

Third, this obsessive investigation of so-called “scandals” within the Obama administration is nothing more than Republican revenge for his victory in 2012 at the polls.  This is a vigorous attempt to destroy his legacy, not because he is a Democrat, but because he is a black Democrat.  The bigots and racists have come forth to fight for their white supremacy views so that, essentially, an African-American candidate in future will find it very tough-going in a general election for this highest office.  This is no longer just about President Obama.  It is now about trying to destroy the legacy of inspiration he has already left with young people of many ethnic origins, including African and Hispanic.

Finally, it is important to say that this whole manufactured scenario of “scandals” not only diverts the public’s attention from the real issues of jobs, economy, infrastructure, climate change, immigration reform, gun violence prevention, the shrinking middle class, homelessness, treatment of returning veterans, plus much more. It also tends to skew the vision of voters in terms of the invasiveness of government.  Even though people’s lives are not being negatively affected by the “scandals” (because our government is mainly there for the protection and care of people), unthinking numbers of voters tend to believe that government is “overreaching” or “interfering” or “disrupting” their lives.  This, in spite of the fact that life goes on much as it did before Benghazi, the IRS missteps in Cincinnati, the collection of AP press phone numbers, and anything else that has garnered the unseemly attention of Republicans in the Congress. 

The point is, these so-called scandals are not encroaching on the well-being of Americans.  We are not living in a punitive state where rights are largely ignored, people are arrested for no cause, property is being confiscated, and the government is watching every move.  It just isn’t happening no matter who tries to make it seem so.  Think about it: if government (the Executive Branch) were as evil or as interventionist as Congressional Republicans like to claim, legislators would be the FIRST to feel its effects, because that is what a run-amuck Executive would do – close down the legislature and get rid of all the legislators!!

Take to heart another quite important definition of “scandal”:  “any act, person or thing that offends or shocks moral feelings of the community and leads to disgrace.”  You want scandals; I’ll give you some examples of disgraceful scandals:

Head Start cutbacks 
All the other sequestration cutbacks affecting children, seniors, the poor, first responders, research, veterans, etc.
The attack upon public education, especially teachers
The Ryan Budget, and the vouchering of Medicare
Un-prosecuted denizens of Wall Street
Attack upon women’s health and women’s rights
48 attempts by House Republicans to repeal Obamacare
No serious healthcare proposals by Republicans
Vote by House Republicans to cut funding to support citizenship rights of children of illegal immigrants
Attacks upon Labor and the right to collective bargaining
The defeat of the common-sense Toomey-Manchin Amendment, and all other gun violence prevention legislation, in spite of the fact that gun violence is a major cause of death for children and young people

These are just some of the real scandals in Washington, DC. There are many more disgraceful acts of Republican lawmakers about which we will comment in future.  For now, it is enough to remind ourselves that another scandal is about to hit:  the Congress will adjourn for the “umpteenth” time, in keeping with its intended schedule of just 126 work days during 2013!  Don’t you wish you could get that much time off, not have much to show for when you did work, and get the pay and benefits that Congress members get? 

The so-called “Scandals” in the Executive Branch pale in comparison to the clearly defined scandals being created everyday by a discredited Republican-controlled, do-nothing Congress!