Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Losing Track of What Really Matters

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There's no denying it. We are living under one of the most troubled administrations of the past century.

It now appears that the Obama administration deliberately LIED to the American people about the tragic terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya last September.

And, after three years of secrecy, Barack Obama's IRS just admitted to targeting and harassing conservative grassroots groups because of their political ideology!

Scandals are dominating the news, even the elite media I patronize. The mass media must be foaming at the mouth. FOX News should probably check their blood pressure.

All of a sudden, it seems, there is a confluence of seemingly unrelated events that look bad for the Obama administration: the Justice Department snooping on phone records of Associated Press reporters, the Internal Revenue Service singling out Tea Party groups for special scrutiny, the Department of Health and Human Services soliciting health care providers for financial support for state health insurance exchanges, and the deaths of four diplomats in an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. The events may individually be anything from unfortunate outcomes to administrative lapses to actual malfeasance either at low or high levels. I'm getting no vibes from politicians' responses; perhaps one could get a hint from the degree of expressed outrage, but as the right's amps are stuck on "11" this never varies anyhow. One clue is the existence of multiple congressional hearings. In the 1980s Iran-contra scandal--now, there was a scandal for you!--the convictions of Oliver North and others were thrown out on appeal because their trials had been compromised by statements at congressional hearings. Ever since, then, you can pretty much figure that if Congress is holding hearings they're not expecting anything criminal to result, just some political embarrassment.

I don't want entirely to dismiss the importance of the issues involved, particularly of the creepy business with the AP, although the unremitting outrage does get to looking fake, particularly when it comes from the throat of Senator Mitch McConnell, who tries very hard to act sincere, but just can't pull it off, or former Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum (above, with "Donate Now" button). And the news media, as The New York Times's Frank Bruni argued yesterday, find political fallout everso entertaining, even moreso than what substance the scandals themselves possess. (See also Larry Sabato's 20-plus year-old book, Feeding Frenzy.)

BUT! None of this gets at the core issues in this blog: issues of economic opportunity, environmental sustainability, and living with diversity that are going to determine whether and how we Americans are going to be able to live together in the years to come. If you're going to get outraged about Sibelius putting the arm on health care providers, spare a little anger for members of Congress and state government officials who are doing whatever they can think of to prevent people from getting health insurance. Or companies that crush unions in this country while they allow their products to be manufactured in death traps in Bangladesh. Or those who complain of government ineffectiveness while thwarting any effort to make it function. Or the sustained disinformation campaign on climate change. Or politicians who can't fix our immigration mess because they're afraid of offending angry xenophobes. Or haters who cry out against gay marriage and adoptions even as more and more children are being raised in single-parent families.

I'm not claiming that these are the only issues we should talk about, only that critical matters like these get swept under the rug while we're fulminating about who knew what and when did they know it. That may be fine with McConnell, Santorum and their ilk, who show no interest in any of my issues other than hostility towards anyone or anything that tries to address any of them. Which in turn leads me to suspect, much as I dislike conspiracy theories, that the manufacturers of outrage have a hidden agenda at work here.

Obama may get roughed up in this collection of scandals. That's his problem, not mine. But the real losers in all this are the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, the "other" and the environment. Again.

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