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Monday, May 20, 2013

A Vanishing Opportunity to Turn the Tables on the GOP

Politico called last week a "political gift" for Republicans. The convergence of three controversies had a fading political party drooling. Of course, Benghazi was an entirely made up conspiracy theory, the IRS story may or may not be scandalous but doesn't involve the White House, and seizing phone records from the AP is the sort of thing Republicans can actually get behind in their never-ending War on Terror.

Still, the press went a little nuts with the stories on an otherwise slow news week and Republicans began to believe the hype. Wall-to-wall coverage of these three stories merged into one rat king of story and the nation was transfixed. Completely and utterly transfixed.

Or were we?

CNN: President Barack Obama comes out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady, according to a new national poll.

But a CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation's capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously.

According to the survey, which was conducted Friday and Saturday, 53% of Americans say they approve of the job the president is doing, with 45% saying they disapprove. The president's approval rating was at 51% in CNN's last poll, which was conducted in early April.
So Americans take these issues seriously, but not seriously enough to change their opinion of the president. "The CNN poll is in-line with Gallup, which also indicated a very slight rise in Obama's approval rating over the same time period," the report continues. "And Gallup's daily tracking poll also indicated a slight upward movement of Obama's approval rating over the past week. But as with the CNN poll, it was within that survey's sampling error."


The only polling that shows the President taking even a hint of a beating over this stuff is the right-leaning and historically inaccurate Rasmussen. So of course, that's the one all the wingnuts are running to -- poll trutherism still runs deep on the right. For them, the accuracy of polling is measured by how well the findings repeat what you want to hear. Other polling the right is ignoring shows people are following their "gift" of a scandal bouquet at "at levels below historic averages" -- suggesting the stories aren't as gripping as the sensationalist press and desperate Republicans would like them to be. I'd say the trio was running out of steam, but I doubt it ever had a full head of steam to begin with.

Now would be the time to take these stories away from the GOP and turn their scandal around on them. If you want an example of a political gift, take the story that Republicans edited emails relating to Benghazi and leaked them to the press. This should be a huge scandal for Republicans; they were caught lying to keep their sinking Benghazi controversy afloat, which does double damage. First, they were exposed while trying to frame the administration and the State Department with counterfeit emails, which is bad enough on its own. But second, it proves that Benghazi is BS, which is more damaging to them -- after all, if the story was solid, you wouldn't have to lie to prop it up.

But the administration is not taking advantage of the GOP's tremendous misstep. And I'm at a loss to explain it. If you get the chance to take control of the narrative, then you take control of the narrative. That should be chiseled into a massive stone monument in the White House basement. They can't make these stories go away, but they can outshine them. If the media moths are drawn to the flame of a trio of "scandals" the GOP is hyping, you just build a bigger bonfire right next to it. Republicans just handed them the match. Contrary to what CNN's pollsters think, the GOP has overplayed their hand here -- drastically and potentially catastrophically -- but someone needs to call them on it. The press isn't, the White House should.

The opportunity is quickly fading. Already, this is turning into a scandal for ABC News, who published the false information, instead of for the Republican Party who leaked it. Yes, ABC's Jonathan Karl is a rightwing tool who was more than happy to aid the cause by reporting the party's BS. But it is, in the end, the party's BS -- not ABC's nor Karl's. The fault for the lie is with the liar, those who knowingly repeat the lie are merely henchmen. But if this media scandal narrative goes on for much longer, Republicans will be -- for all intents and purposes -- let off the hook for a deeply dishonest and shameful act of politically-motivated fraud. It may even be criminal, since it's akin to forgery. It is, without a doubt, a moral failing at the very least. It's an act unbefitting a party in this democracy and another example of how far from the principles of honesty and integrity the GOP has wandered.

But as to why the White House isn't running with it? You got me. Maybe they were just riding out last week, afraid the story would be buried by all the hype, and will pick it up today. But that doesn't seem to be happening. Meanwhile, it's just sticking out there -- a big festering obvious boil on the GOP's butt. There has to be some reason why the administration doesn't reach out and give it a swift kick, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what that reason could be.


[cartoon via Truthdig]

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