Scandals And Proportionality

As primary season heats up, we will be subjected to decisions by our media betters about what constitutes a scandal. Much of the logic is based on the notion that a given scandal tells us something about the true nature of a candidate; sometimes is does, sometimes it doesn’t. Outsourced to Paul Waldman, who is discussing Warren’s Native American ancestry ‘scandal’ (boldface mine):

Even if you think Warren shouldn’t have bothered with the DNA test, answer this question: So what? I mean actually answer it. See if you can complete this sentence without sounding ridiculous: Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test is extremely important to the question of what sort of president she would be and deserves endless discussion because ___.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that we must never speak of this again. But when we do, it should be with the understanding, and the explicit discussion, of the fact that this is both utterly disconnected from anything having to do with the presidency and something Republicans will try to use to distract from anything resembling a real issue.

Coverage such as this that fails to acknowledge those facts is doing President Trump’s work for him. And I know there are liberals now saying, “I used to love Warren, but after that DNA thing, I don’t know . .. “, I would argue that their doubts are the result of this coverage, not the cause of it. It’s all too reminiscent of 2016…

But just as with Clinton and the emails, we’re going to see this trivial matter be elevated to the most important thing we have to talk about when we talk about Warren, through a cooperative effort between Republicans and the news media. The latter will say endlessly that it “raises questions” about Warren while seldom specifying what those questions are, because the questions are so stupid. Questions such as, “Can someone who got criticized for taking a DNA test find a way to address climate change?”, or “If Warren made a PR misstep with this DNA test, does that mean she won’t be able to assemble congressional coalitions to pass major legislation?”

Warren will be blamed relentlessly not only for the disingenuous criticism of Republicans but also for the very fact that reporters will keep asking her about this just as they kept asking Clinton about her emails, an endlessly recursive cycle of coverage and condemnation.

That this will play out against the backdrop of the most corrupt presidency in our lifetimes, presided over by a candidate whose copious and highly relevant character flaws were addressed only superficially in 2016, makes it all the more appalling….

But that will never happen to Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test, which will be hashed and rehashed and re-rehashed every day of her candidacy. We will never be allowed to stop thinking about it, and voters will be convinced that it is absolutely essential to the question of whether Warren would be a good president.

I really don’t think anyone believes that Warren secretly wants to turn the U.S. into a Native American-led dictatorship. With Trump, it’s clear that both his personal failings, his narcissism, and his constant illegality are important to understanding how he would govern. But many of the supposed ‘scandals’ really don’t say much about the candidate other than no one is perfect. Political gatekeepers need to be reminded of this.

Added: Frank Rich ‘thinks’ Senator Gillibrand’s question about whether to eat with her fingers calls into question whether she is “contrived and opportunistic.” Given her change on a bunch of issues, that’s a fair question. How to eat chicken without offending your hosts does not raise this question. Fucking moron.

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2 Responses to Scandals And Proportionality

  1. It all comes down to: if you’re a (GOP) man, you can get away with just about anything. If you’re a (DEM) woman, ANYTHING you do is suspect. ANYTHING. Your personal history. Dancing while you were in college. Eating chicken with your fingers. Emails. ANYTHING AT ALL.

    I used to work in the NY Assembly. The man I worked for, the chief of staff for the NY Assemblyman, just got a HUGE promotion under Cuomo. I did most of the writing when I worked for him. I was told over & over again what a great writer I was. But I was also told … by the Assemblyman for whom we both worked … that I had “no future” in politics because of my “lurid past”. So I didn’t continue. What was the point? There’s plenty of pictures of me dancing … & most of them show me unclothed. Hey … when I was a young girl, I was broke & that was the only job I could find. I think I am quite alike a lot of women in that respect.

    I think about that all the time. I was the “best writer” ever to work for that assemblyman. But I had “no future”. Because of my so-called “lurid past”.

    The older I get, the more I want to leave this country, which I never thought would happen. I am not leaving, of course, at my age that’s impossible. But I am disgusted. Disgusted.

  2. paintedjaguar says:

    It’s very true that a lot of these media driven “scandals” are just peccadilloes or deliberate misapprehensions inflated to pseudo-significance up with a lot of hot air. But Hillary’s use of a private server to transact government business was quite different. Her actions were a calculated attempt to avoid both public scrutiny and legal accountability. Like Nixon’s response to Watergate, her attempts to avoid prosecution and political damage included outright lying to both authorities and journalists. The Podesta emails disclosed by Wikileaks, which also are commonly grouped with “her emails”, provided more evidence of Clinton’s dishonesty, arrogance, financial corruption and political collusion.

    Again as with Nixon, as well as Reagan and Bush I, Hillary only avoided prosecution by dint of political influence. And certainly, “it’s clear that [her] personal failings, [her] narcissism, and [her] constant illegality [were] important to understanding how [she] would govern”. It’s a shame that Hillary apologists are still trying to rewrite recent history and confuse public understanding of events. Repeatedly citing what really was scandalous severely weakens whatever argument Waldman was trying to make.

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