Preparing for the Witch Hunts

Now that the 2012 election cycle is underway — Let’s discuss this New York Times editorial, “Try Something Hard: Governing.” It suggests to Republican that if they go overboard with obstructionism over the next two years, as they promise to do, it will hurt them in the 2012 elections.

Steve M points out
that, contrary to what the editorial says, the Republican Party paid only a small price for the excessive Clinton-era witch hunts in the 1990s.

Republicans lost a few seats in ’98 — but they kept both houses, and did so again in three straight election cycles, and they kinda-sorta won a presidential election in 2000 that, based on peace and prosperity, should have been a Democratic blowout. And they won the White House again in 2004. Do I really have to recount all this? Excessive investigation did very little damage to the GOP in the Gingrich years — and creating a sense of multiple scandals (involving Gore and money as much as Clinton and sex) surely helped keep Gore out of the White House.

My sense of things is that while much of the country found Gingrich, Lott, DeLay, etc. etc., highly annoying, they also bought a large part of the propagada they were selling, especially after the Monica Lewinsky/Paula Jones episodes.

However, the United States of the 1990s was a very different place from the United States of the 2010s. Remember when some pundits were calling the 1990s the “age of complacency”? The economy was pretty sweet, and few were imagining rabid jihadists behind every bush. So what if Congress did little else but investigate the president? What else needed to be done?

The crew about to take over the House of Representatives promises to make the Ken Starr inquisition seem like a respectful little inquiry. As the editorial says, we’re in for endless tooth-and-claw politicking but little or no governing for the next couple of years. Their first priority is destroying the Obama administration, and they may succeed.

However, I’m not sure the American people will react to the witch hunts now the same way they did in the 1990s, for a couple of reasons.

First, as hard as they went after Clinton in the 1990s, the president remained popular. Were it not for the fact that they actually caught Clinton with his hand in the, um, wrong cookie jar, so to speak, I think the witch hunts would have backfired on the Republicans much more than they did. As disciplined as he is, I very much doubt President Obama is going to hand the GOP anything nearly as tangible to use against him.

Second, people are not complacent now. In fact, in my lifetime I can’t think of a time in which people were less complacent than they are now.

I think the Democrats should prepare a simple talking point — something like “Republicans in Congress need to stop politicking and start governing” — and be prepared to repeat it incessantly. The solid Democratic counteroffensive should be that Republicans are a bunch of clowns who are not serious about government, which has the advantage of being true.

19 thoughts on “Preparing for the Witch Hunts

  1. If peopel were not complacent, they would have turned out for the recent elections. They clearly did not. Perhaps people are mired in hopelessness.

    • tom b — I don’t think it was complacency that kept people from turning out. It was, I suspect, more of a sense of futility.

  2. I’m not so sure. I agree that I think people are probably less complacent than at any time since the late ’60’s early ’70’s. However, I’m not sure how much these endless coming ‘investigations’ will reflect badly on Republicans.
    When time are bad, people want to see people in power punished. During the ’90’s, time were good, and the blind pursuit of Clinton over anything and everything until somthing could be found seemed like a witch hunt to a lot of people.
    Obama’s biggest, or certainly one of his biggest, mistakes was in not properly handling the rich and powerful people who caused the economic debacle. People wanted to see them punished badly. To have them lose their jobs, money and prestige, maybe seeing some sort of symbolic heads on pikes, or scalps on belts – not literally, of course. For whatever reason, Obama and his administation didn’t do that.
    Now, what I’m afraid of, is that when Issa, and his Beevis and Butthead cohorts start investigating, the scalp people may be happy to see on a belt could be Obama’s. Remember, people want to see people in power punished. If not on Wall Street, maybe the White House, now that the mid-term punishment has been doled out. Now, add a pinch of ‘liberal backlash,’ a healthy share of racism into the mix, and the ability of Repbulicans to sell the twisting of reality, and I’m not so sure the public will see these as witch hunts – unless they become entirely unhinged, which is completely within the realm of possibility.
    maha, as for your point, “I think the Democrats should prepare a simple talking point — something like “Republicans in Congress need to stop politicking and start governing” — and be prepared to repeat it incessantly.” It will be tough when the remaining Blue Dogs* jump right in to give the bipartisan cover that Broder, and the other Dumb and Dumbers, in the MSM crave.
    As the economy continues to tank, unaided by the Republicans in office because it will hasten their return to power, the ‘Cirque du Republique” will be a welcome diversion from the real work of economic analysis on the 24x7x365 Cable News. It’s too bad that FOX probably provides its hosts and guests with limo’s, because it sure might be fun to see how many of the clowns could fit in a stretch limo.
    I hope I’m wrong about all of this, and that the people will see through it. It’s just that I’m getting more and more pessimistic by the day. Please feel free to tell me where you think I’m wrong. I’m the first one that wants to hear that.

    *First things first, I’d like to change this whole “Blue Dog” terminology. I think we should call them “Red Lap Dog’s.”

  3. No, in the interests of bipartisanship, Obama will offer to help out the Republicans in their impeachment efforts! 🙁  &nbsp  😉

  4. maha,

    Agreed. I feel that sense of futility. But I voted. Straight Dems. Every one of them lost.

    There are several emotions out there: Futility, I voted for Obama in ’08 and it has gotten worse. Also, “I am a Repub or Tea bagger or racist or professional hater, and I voted for an R.”

    I dunno. I’m out of emotions.

  5. Maha — I think you’re right that is was a sense of futility, which includes a component of hopelessness. They aren’t complacent because they are too worried about life and economic security. The Democrats have to keep saying the Republicans are serious about governing, over and over again. Every chance they get, otherwise they will lose the PR/spin war. Herding cats… herding cats, the Democrats need to disciplined and not herding cats.

  6. I think it would be interesting to see the outrage from those same people that sent these republicans to Congress if they shut down the government.

    What no SS checks?
    I don’t think people will forgive them as easily and I don’t think POTUS Obama will cave in to their demands.

  7. “I think the Democrats should prepare a simple talking point — something like “Republicans in Congress need to stop politicking and start governing”

    If only that were possible, I’d bet the message will be more like: The republicans, while we agree with much of their ideas, they don’t seem sincere in implementing meaningful legislation, we are willing to work with the other side, unfortunately many of our friends on the other side seem to be more interested in scoring political points with low information voters rather than working with us to enact meaningful legislation. Hopefully out friends in the leadership on the other side will begin meaningful………………………..

  8. IMO the Strategic mistake made by the Obama adminstration was not to review or prosecute any of the Criminal activities of the previous one. The world has watched this country blatanly break human rights and the the rule of law, which it claims to hold so dearly. The grey area of financial chicanery has also unfolded – still without ANY PERPETRATORS BEING INVESTGATED …
    History will not look kindly on Obama – for he has perpetuated the Bush era shenanigans – thus unwiitingly admitting to the world – THIS IS THE AMERICAN WAY…
    Thus it has seemed very petty when the elections came and the Democrats cried foul that they are not to blame, but should be attributed to the previous administation – WHAT HAD THEY DONE TO TRY TO REVERSE THIS ?
    I would like investgations to take place – as some Bush-era stuff may also come out in the process and the great Healthcare reform also gets exposed – where all we see is Insurance rates going up dramatically.
    Saying investgations will be lead to less governing is all poppycock. I see the productivty so low as it is – somehow all sectors have gained productivity with the use of technology – except our great Congress !! Is twittering all they can learn?

    • … and the great Healthcare reform also gets exposed – where all we see is Insurance rates going up dramatically.

      Not nearly as dramatically as insurance rates would go up without healthcare reform, however. Don’t believe the propaganda just because you don’t like Obama.

      I’m pretty much in agreement with the rest of your comment, though. Some might argue that investigating and prosecuting the criminal activity of the Bush Administration would have been a distraction from doing more for the economy, but I suspect Washington could do more than one thing at a time if it tried. Also, keeping the Right on the defensive might have made it easier to pass more progressive legislation and would have made a whopping difference in the recent election.

      I also strongly suspect that the biggest reason the Bush Administration is being let off the hook is that the net of inquiry would have caught some Democrats, also. Ain’t nobody pure.

  9. allwarisbad,
    Issa, if I read and remember it right, said that he is not going to exclusively investigate the Obama adminstration. Oh no, but the Bush one, too – making it seem bipartisan. While I’m sure the investigation into Obama will be pretty broad and ongoing, the ones into Bush will not be.
    Here’s the brilliance of what I think he’s doing. He’s going to tie the worst aspects of Bush’s into Obama’s. He’s goint to investigate those programs that Obama decided to continue, i.e., Gitmo, TARP, Iraq (despite the limited withdrawal), and Afghanistan, and try to position the New Republican Party as different from those two in the 2012 Presidential election. Who they will choose is, as yet, undetermined, but there is no obvious individual with ties to Bush running in ’12. Yes, Daniels, but he left long before the economic poo-poo hit the ventilator.
    If this weren’t going to be so tragic, it would be interesting and fun to watch. If this country survives the next decade or two as anything but an ignorant, but powerful, Banana Republic, historians will love to look into the ’90’s and ’10’s as reminders of what a goverment can and can’t do when people are in charge who don’t believe in governing.

  10. Or, make that last sentence read, “… as reminders of what a government will and won’t do when people are in charge who don’t believe in governing.” Either one is correct.

  11. Do not get me wrong, I was a strong Obama supporter and felt that he could make the tough changes that this country needed …
    The disillusioment grew in stages :
    – He took an enormous amount of money from the Wall Street gang
    – My friend in Wall Street told me that Geithner was a very wrong choice to do any reform as he is part of the same cabal – assiduously as a civil servant.
    – Then the Max Bacchus fiasco started where Pharma/HI/Hospitals took the front seat and nurses and doctors were left out and the Public Option got thrown out.
    – Even today, HI is the greatest burden on the economy and will be the biggest cause (after defense) of growing debt – but Universal Healtcare will not be brought in .

    • allwarisbad — and I’m not going to try to talk you out of your disillusionment. I’m telling you to get your facts straight before you make charges. The health care reform bill was not what a lot of us wanted, but there is no reason to think that it will cause health insurance to become more expensive than it would have anyway, and good reasons to think it will bend the cost curb some.

  12. maha,

    Perhaps a misunderstanding? I should have put ” ” around that sentence. I was just postulating what others might be thinking. “It” could be that person’s pet peeve.

  13. maha –
    Can you please explain the real goodness of the Healthcare Plan? Each time I have heard Obama talk about it – he seems to falter – getting down to
    (i)everybody will be covered ( not sure when, but the number of uninsured this year is large than lat year)
    (ii) No pre-existings conditions will apply ( this is contrary to the whole insurance theory – but will accept it as welfare )
    (iii) Dependents upto age 26 covered.
    Is this all ? Or do you have a better insight ?
    The explaination that HI would not be higher with all this is a pretty feeble explaination considering the time and political capital spent in the effort.

    • Can you please explain the real goodness of the Healthcare Plan?

      I don’t mean to be snippy, but I wrote thousands and thousands of words about the health care plan last spring, and I do not have time to provide you with a comprehensive summary. If you are actually interested in not being a tool of the Koch Brothers and other forces trying to kill HCR, the best sources of information for how it works to lower costs and insure most people are Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein, who have written thousands and thousands and thousands more words explaining it and the several cost control measures in it. Congressional budget office projections are that when the entire law goes into effect — most of it doesn’t go into effect until 2014 — it will enable health care coverage to 35 million Americans who wouldn’t have it otherwise, while raising national spending on health care by only 1 percent. Several provisions in the bill act to constrain health insurance costs, so projections are HI costs will not go up as much as they would have if nothing had been done.

      If you want to understand how this works, however, you’re going to have to make the effort to look up the stuff and read it. This is very complex legislation, and I don’t have time to give you individual tutoring. Again, I especially recommend Ezra Klein and Paul Krugman as good sources of information. The Kaiser Family Foundation also has a website set up with a lot of good information.

  14. The only Democrat I could imagine sticking to such a directly honest talking point, and repeating it endlessly (and effectively) is Alan Grayson.

    The next two years are going to be hell, as the Rs do their best to destroy Obama and bring down the country with them.

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