My parent’s generation had its Nixon. Now my children’s have theirs, even if many of them still are in denial about it.
Presidential administrations, both Republican (e.g., Harding, Nixon) and Democrat (Clinton, Obama) have been soiled to the point of grievous damage or even premature ending by scandals of their own doing, arising ultimately from the hubris of power. Some of those scandals boil up from below, should be relatively minor if contained at the source…but instead get hushed, covered up or minimized as unimportant in order to further one’s own aims, or for appearances sake (re-election, maintaining a legacy).
The ongoing IRS and Benghazi scandals epitomize this. Even if the president didn’t know what was happening (a technically plausible idea but one of increasing unbelievability), the culture he set led to scandals such as this, as well as Fast and Furious, which placed tons of guns into the hands of Mexican criminals by knowledge of those involved.
As with most politicians of either party, the person at the top seldom knows everything about everything. In reality, it’s impossible. So what happens? You as the head honcho can choose to fill your administration and advisory board (cabinet and otherwise) with some ratio of:
1) Field-tested experts with deep understanding and experience of the areas they lead, and who are not afraid to tell you what you don’t want to hear sometimes, because they are steeped in reality instead of ivory-tower academic theory, or
2) an ultimately, corporately destructive combination of sycophants resulting from
a. ambitious, compliant yes-men and yes-women, regardless of “experience”, who tow the company line and do what they’re told, and
b. ivory-tower academics with no real-world experience whose theories line up perfectly with your ideals, making them de-facto yes-men (and yes-women), and who reinforced your visions of Utopia through the perceived power of the letters “PhD”, which is one of the few privileges that you as man-in-charge don’t have.
This president clearly went hard for option 2(a and b) and constructed his administration accordingly, with only token exceptions for appearance’s sake or continuity (Robert Gates as holdover Defense Secretary, a wise choice which unfortunately didn’t last).
It’s easier to deal with underlings who tell you what you want to hear…until the sh_t hits the fan because somebody down there did something very politically inexpedient and it threatens either your re-election chances (if first term) or legacy (if second term). Remember–with most politicians, and especially these, it’s all about appearances! At some point, and we don’t know when yet because of the lack of promise transparency, the president does learn of the systemic rot spreading through his administration. Then what?
Well, if the great majority of popular media (except for one cable channel with a website and a well-known headline aggregator) is in bed with your administration, acting as willingly facile sock puppets, no problem…the sh_t only gradually hits the fan, if at all, and you can systematically marginalize and dismiss those who raise uncomfortable questions as fringe lunatics and conspiracy theorists. Again, it’s all about appearances…make the nuisances disappear, or stick dunce caps on them and send them to the hidden corner by portraying them as whacked-out irrelevancies. Then when the heat gets even hotter, to the point a few rogue reporters employed by your media-conglomerate bedfellows start getting uncomfortably suspicious, throw some agency underlings and such reporters under the bus and portray the higher-ups as the ignorant innocents. [“The buck stops here”? How quaintly Trumanesque!] Meanwhile, spin that spin and talk that double talk!
This strategy works great for maintaining image, as long as noble whistle-blowers are kept under control, lower-tier alternative media (who are doing some authentic investigative journalism) are kept marginalized in the public eye, and until some of those big-media sock puppets come to life and realize they’re being played too. That seems to be starting to happen, barely, as manifest in the arising (what took so long?) of at least subtly damning reporting in otherwise at-command outlets like CNN, ABC and New Yorker.
Even then, the typically Democrat-sympathetic media mouthpieces shunt what should be major national headlines at the top of the main page down the site, somewhere in smaller font than the latest sordid local crimes or celebrity ordeals, relegating nationally enormous implications to secondary or tertiary status out of editorially protective habit. After all, the willingly manipulated don’t always realize instantly that they’re being used more than they bargained for. It takes time…but the flames in Obama’s kitchen of scandal are starting to get too hot even for some of the media.
If you think we’ve learned all there is to know, that more ugly events aren’t going to come to light, that more scandal isn’t around the corner, that existing scandal doesn’t go deeper than what you’re being told now, then you’re still living in Utopian dreamland. Whistle-blowers will continue to emerge. Damning documents will continue to be leaked; after all, this bunch is good at leaks. New hotspots of corruption easily can come to light.
Then, at some point, the bulk of We the People begin to realize that some of what was condescendingly dismissed by the Administration’s minions as “conspiracy theories” turns out to be true! Ruh-roh, Scooby Doo…there goes what little trust in governmental higher office that was left.
None of this had to happen if he who rode to office on a mantra of truth and transparency had lived up to that ideal to its fullest literal extent. Alas, he was and remains a lawyer and pure politician, one with no prior executive, economic or military experience. We the People thereby reap the seeds we sowed by electing, as suckers for a good sales pitch and out of collective societal guilt, a smiling face bearing ideological gifts and tantalizingly vague promises of “hope and change”, delivered as a semi-messianic message that turned out as false prophecy, backed by wretchedly inadequate qualifications for the job other than a striking level of TelePrompTer-aided eloquence.
Guess what, grasshopper: roughly 53% of America has been played for fools. Now we all pay the price for that twice-made choice of style over substance, and will do so for years after this administration, septically sick with scandal, has whimpered to a pathetic close.
I don’t celebrate this; it’s bad for the nation. I actually don’t want any presidency to go down this way. But given the apparent periodicity of these ordeals, perhaps it’s a necessary level of cleansing that we all have to go through every couple of generations or so, governmental illnesses we suffer in order to recharge our national immune system’s healing powers and set us back on a better path. I wish I knew why.