Five Stages

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Bush Administration, conservatism, Republican Party, U.S. Attorneys

You’ve no doubt heard of the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). I’ve come to realize something like that goes on among righties whenever a new Republican scandal washes ashore. I propose that the five stages of reaction to a scandal are:

1. Ignoring
2. Belittling
3. Blaming the Media
4. Evoking Bill Clinton.
5. Boredom

That last stage allows the sufferer to return to stage 1 and ignore the issue. Also note that righties don’t necessarily go through these stages in order or even one stage at a time.

This is a working hypothesis; I might choose to revise the list in the future. Let me know what you think.

Anyway, I’ve been surfing about looking at reaction to the U.S. attorney scandal to find examples. Here we are:

Macsmind is at Stage 2, Belittling:

Business as usual folks, nothing to see here. Fact is that they weren’t doing their job (note this was suspected democrat voter fraud – like that never happens) – so (for those slow of mind) that means bye, bye.

John Hawkins of Right Wing News is even deeper into Stage 2, if that’s possible:

So basically, this whole non-scandal scandal is over one guy who was dragging in feet in investigating voter fraud. Yet, the White House is taking it on the chin.

In our current model, “belittling” is just a nudge away from “ignoring.” The bloggers are noting that something happened, but they mentally edit out parts of the story; such as, the lack of evidence of Republican allegations of voter fraud and the fact that some of the purged attorneys were pressured to bring indictments against Democrats before the midterm elections.

For example, see this March 7 story about former U.S. attorney John McKay of Washington State, who was pressured by a congressman about voter fraud allegations in the election of Governor Chris Gregoire, and also accused by the White House of “mishandling” an investigation into the alleged fraud.

Asked if his failure to convene a grand jury in the election probe was the reason he was denied a judgeship, McKay said he did not know.

But he said he was confident he and his staff had handled the case properly, adding that there was no evidence of voter fraud despite widespread complaints by Republicans in Washington state and the nation’s capital.

“Frankly, it didn’t matter to me what people thought,” McKay told a House Judiciary subcommittee. “There was no evidence of voter fraud.”

No evidence? A mere technicality. The Dems must be guilty because, well, they’re Dems.

Sister Toljah
and the Flopping Ace seem to be at Stages 2 and 3 at the same time. This is the Ace:

They were not doing their job. Their appointments were stripped.

But the left and our MSM want to bombard us with the appearance of evil.

Now, one could argue that “blaming the media” and “belittling” are pretty close to the same thing, and maybe I should roll them into one stage. But sometimes “blaming the media” can be so much more. Remember Jamil Hussein?

Mascmind and Dan Collins at Protein Wisdom are at Stage 4, Evoking Bill Clinton, recalling the Great Purge of U.S. Attorneys by Janet Reno in 1993. I explained here why that isn’t relevant.

Mr. Hawkins also provides a fascinating twist on Stage 4:

What they should be doing is exactly what the Clinton Administration would be doing in a situation like this, relentlessly and savagely attacking the other side, calling it a political witch hunt, and telling the public that this is exactly why we can’t have bipartisanship in Washington, because these jerks keep pulling stunts like this.

This whole thing is a big joke, but because the Bush Administration is still, STILL, for the most sticking with this “new tone,” mush and letting the Democrats use them as punching bags, the joke is on the Bushies.

In some cases “evoking Bill Clinton” means just the basic “Clinton did it, too” excuse, which is the foundation of all conservative ethics. Righties seem to think that Bill Clinton is the measure of all morals, and that they can’t be accused of doing anything wrong if Clinton did the same thing. But Mr. Hawkins’s post is a lovely example of psychological projection, either conscious or unconscious. David Neiwert at Orcinus has written some great posts on this, such as here and here. So “evoking Bill Clinton” describes a wide and complex range of behaviors.

James Joyner skipped to Stage 5:

For whatever reason, I’ve had trouble mustering an interest in the brouhaha over Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez’ firing of some U.S. attorneys for “political reasons.” It’s been the topic of much discussion in the blogosphere and the halls of Congress but just hasn’t inspired me to write anything.

Front page stories in today’s NYT and WaPo, which have inspired another mini-surge in blog outrage, continue to leave me yawning.

I wrote in January 2006 that “When cornered, righties will either fall back on “Dems” (or “Clinton”) “did it too,” or else feign boredom. (Yawn. So Washington is corrupt. Who cares?).” It’s where they go when their only other option is admitting the truth.

It is worthy of note that the bulk of the Right Blogosphere only recently moved out of Stage 1. You know a Republican scandal is getting long legs when that happens.

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16 Comments

  1. ray  •  Mar 13, 2007 @2:17 pm

    While it may not be relevant here, they do tend to smear the source. It may overlap a bit with Belittle, but I do feel it’s different enough to merit it’s own step.

  2. maha  •  Mar 13, 2007 @2:24 pm

    Well, “smearing” goes on all the time, whether in reaction to a scandal or not. It’s kind of like “breathing” to a rightie.

    See also the Bush Policy Decision Flow Chart.

  3. Swami  •  Mar 13, 2007 @2:59 pm

    # 2 on the list could be tightened up with belittling/ minimizing label.
    Looking back at Abu Ghraib I recall Rush Limbaugh’s initial defence of that horror as being nothing more than a campy boys will be boys incident – a fraternity hazing type situation. Why would people get so uptight over a silly incident like placing womens underwear on some guys head.? sheesh.. guys just having some harmless fun and everbody gets bent out of shape. Come-on, folks…. let’s get real here.

  4. biggerbox  •  Mar 13, 2007 @4:07 pm

    There’s also the Denial thing they do with making contrary arguments with assertions of incorrect, irrelevant and often completely made-up evidence – essentially the playground ‘Did NOT!’ retort. I guess it might be classed as a subset of Belittling, as it often does come with a rude comment about how the person with the accurate evidence doesn’t know what he/she is talking about.

    Perhaps there should be a stage called Befogging?

  5. Cranky Daze  •  Mar 13, 2007 @4:16 pm

    The neocons seem to miss the irony in falling back on Bill Clinton as justification for their own misbehavior. Using “Clinton did it” as if it were the ultimate standard for all political actions ignores the fact that they went after Clinton like a pack of rabid pit bulls from the very beginning. Now they’re whining like they gave Clinton a pass on everything he did.

    It’s similar to the talking heads on cable news who love to say that the Democrats approved the war in Iraq, competely ignoring that as the minority party in Congress, the Dems weren’t in a position to approve much of anything….not to mention their apparent lapse of memory that the votes to allow Bush to go to war AS A LAST RESORT came from Democrats and Republicans alike, and were based on the lies told by Junior and his cohorts.

  6. maha  •  Mar 13, 2007 @6:40 pm

    Good suggestions. Swami is right about “minimizing.” And I love “befogging.”

  7. marijam  •  Mar 13, 2007 @8:01 pm

    maha says “In some cases “evoking Bill Clinton” means just the basic “Clinton did it, too” excuse, which is the foundation of all conservative ethics. Righties seem to think that Bill Clinton is the measure of all morals, and that they can’t be accused of doing anything wrong if Clinton did the same thing. But Mr. Hawkins’s post is a lovely example of psychological projection, either conscious or unconscious. David Neiwert at Orcinus has written some great posts on this, such as here and here. So “evoking Bill Clinton” describes a wide and complex range of behaviors.”

    Boy, ain’t that the honest to Gawd truth.

  8. Kevin Hayden  •  Mar 13, 2007 @9:02 pm

    Excellent stages, but I’d one at the end.

    8) Onset of Puberty: features large group circle jerks at the sight of Ann Coulter, wedgie parties and flopsweat at the thought of pending high school.

  9. SamFromUtah  •  Mar 13, 2007 @9:55 pm

    Maybe there should be an optional “cashing in” step, though that might be considered an especially nasty variant of belittling/minimizing. “Club Gitmo” comes to mind.

  10. moonbat  •  Mar 13, 2007 @10:05 pm

    Let’s not forget Distraction, or Faux Outrage, which occurs when It Gets Too Big to Ignore. Fr’ example, the All-Anna Nicole Smith, All-The-Time marathon we were recently treated to, or The War On Christmas from a few months ago was the perfect smokescreen (for the dense) to mask what’s really going on.

    Similarly, yesterday’s troll posting, about Sandy Berger = Karl Rove (aka “They All Do It”) is in a similar vein.

  11. Swami  •  Mar 13, 2007 @10:53 pm

    How about larding with irrelevancy? I recall many instances of reading comments in postings about Bush’s warrant less wiretaps where the righties would incessantly make references to Muslim beheadings.
    I like befogging category..a similar exercise would be what I call squidding. A classic example of squidding would be the support the troops argument, although support the troops is not a scandal, the technique is easily applied in all situations where obscurity of the real issue is desired. It’s both a defensive and offensive maneuver simultaneously.. a staple for the more sophisticated righties.

  12. Jim in Raleigh  •  Mar 13, 2007 @11:38 pm

    You might also consider the classic six stages of a project immortalized on a wall at Lockheed in Burbank, CA in the late 50’s/early 60’s.
    1. Awarding the contract – Putting the inmates in charge of the asylum.
    2. Solving small problems – Convincing the gullible there’s nothing here to see.
    3 Panic at insoluble problems – The smokescreen is being breeched and the gullible are beginning to questioni authority.
    4. Search for the guilty – Blame the MSM, Clintons, liberals, etc. It has to stick on somebody other than US.
    5. Punishing the Innocent – Now that we have a plausable target make sure it sticks. [Note: The alternate plan is for a sacrificial lamb from within to assume ALL responsibility; absolving everyone else.]
    6. Awards for the non-participants – Freedom medals to all the survivors.
    Seems like maybe steps 4 and 5 aren’t working so well anymore.

  13. Gordon  •  Mar 14, 2007 @7:49 am

    I think the 5 stages translate pretty directly (grief, after all, is the reaction to loss, which can be, say, loss of prestige).

    Denial = ignoring or “don’t be ridiculous, nothing happened, nothing to see here”.

    Anger = belittling, lashing out at the media, the vast left wing conspiracy, George Soros, Bill Clinton, or some backstabber.

    Bargaining = “Clinton did it too”, “everybody does it”, “so and so is worse” (which implies the unstated, “OK, I’m bad”).

    Depression only comes out on Charlie Rose or BookTV, as they indulge, years later, in self-analysis (usually beginning with “if only…”, followed by some incarnation of the tooth fairy).

    Acceptance is never, ever news.

  14. republicanSScareme  •  Mar 14, 2007 @1:35 pm

    I like your idea, but I think you are restricting your concept when to tie it to the “Five Stage of Grief” idea. I’m more enclined to think of it as the ‘Endless stages of grief because you’re a Republican and can’t think clearly’ idea.

    For example:

    A Republican is caught, red-handed with his hand in the cookie jar. A nearby citizen yells “Look, everyone, he’sstealing!”

    The Republican responds:

    “So what, everyone does it! People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones! Let’s not start pointing fingers now! Can’t we all just be friends? Let’s not go on any witchhunts, now! Get over it, stupid! Politics!!! Look, a flying saucer!

    I am a published illustrator. Contact me.

  15. bill  •  Mar 15, 2007 @5:29 am

    The stages are good, but it is missing one of the most important elements…Boasting or Bravado or Bluster. This is an attempt to jujitsu a controversey with its own momentum from a negative to a positive, the opposite of belittling. Careful because the user will try to quickly claim victory while you are stumbling around trying to decide what weakness in the argument to attack! In this case the argument is; Heck yea Bush ousted those attorneys, he appointed them so they work for him. Its his right to fire them as he wishes. Another one is, you bet we are gonna torture, terrorists don’t obey any Geneva conventions. So wouldn’t we be stupid to go into a fight with our hands tied? Last example is, we have to cut the social safety net like welfare, just look at how much harm these programs do to the poor, it makes them lazy and unable to provide for themselves.

  16. dzman49  •  Mar 15, 2007 @9:59 am

    On 1 & 2, I think it was Andrew Sullivan’s site where I saw a comment about historical reaction to Repub scandal at “The Corner” that matched your schema:

    First, silence (1. Ignoring)
    Then, joking (2. Belittling)

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