Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 1, 2006
POLITICS: A Taxonomy of Washington Scandals

Continuing this week's theme of writings in other venues, I have a column up at the Weekly Standard this morning on the ten basic types of Washington scandal.

Space and time didn't permit me to do an exhaustive comparative look at the scandals of the Bush and Clinton Administrations, but the bottom line is that the Bush White House simply hasn't been implicated to the same extent in the types of scandals that turn on personal greed, vice and venality. Congressional Republicans, however, have been another story.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Politics 2006 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

The Weekly Standard now! Crank, you're on fire!


Posted by: Mike at February 1, 2006 9:49 AM


Good piece. Very informative and kinda funny too.

But while your characterizations of Category 8, the Foreign-Affairs Scandal, may play in the Weekly Standard, there are those who will object. And I'm one of them!

In such a scandal, you claim the accusee "has acted overzealously or illegally in pursuit of the national interest," then predictably use "the Iran-Contra affair" as an example. In light of (a) the Hostage Crisis of '79-'81; as well as (b) the current nuclear weapons brouhaha, in which you've ramped up the call for war, how can you characterize a covert deal with a terror-promoting state as "in pursuit of the national interest"? If it was so clearly in the US interest, why was it hidden?

Also, regardless of one's conclusions about the NSA/Wiretap case, it's outrageous (and you know it) to accuse those more interested than you in civil liberties of being soft on terror, or uninterested in US safety, etc. I for one think Bush violated FISA, but didn't violate the 4th Amendment. Either way, I'm just as interested as you in protecting America from terrorists, Islamic fanatics, or any other enemies. But I'm not a big fan of warrentless, domestic wiretapping or federal law-flouting presidents.

Posted by: Mike at February 1, 2006 10:06 AM

Mike, admittedly I was mainly thinking of the aid-to-the-Contras side of that story. Arms for hostages was indeed terrible foreign policy, but that wasn't where the main thrust of the cries for prosecutions and impeachment came from in that scandal.

Posted by: The Crank at February 1, 2006 10:38 AM

That's true. And I think that has much to do with why the scandal ulimately didn't have legs. I think the "contra" side of the affair was troublesome in a few regards, including the covertness as well as the criminality of many of the former Samoza guys in the contras.

But that doesn't change the fact that many Americans wanted to oppose the Sandinistas. Most importantly, though, the "Iran" side of the scandal was the real crime, and somehow that got lost in the shuffle. Hard to understand.

Posted by: Mike at February 1, 2006 11:11 AM

The aid to the contras prong of that scandal was quite scandalous. The contras were terrorists trying to overthrow a democratically elected government. They raped and tortured, and Congress prohibited aid to them. But the Reagan administration send them aid, anyway, in violation of the law. Nothing in the contra program had anything to do with protecting this country. But I do understand that it is an article of faith among conservatives now that somehow Nicaragua was a threat to our national security and that Reagan always had the best of intentions.

Posted by: steve at February 1, 2006 12:02 PM

The Sandanistas ran a Communist, Soviet-sponsored dictatorship that seized power in a 1979 military coup and sought to actively subvert or overthrow neighboring regimes. It's not uncommon for Communist regimes and dictatorships to hold "elections" (even Saddam did). Their ultimate defeat led to a democratic regime in Nicaragua.

It's true that the Contras were not your ideal freedom fighters; like many resistance movements and probably moreso than most, they included substantial components of both old regime supporters and common criminals. But in those days we were not as well-positioned to be picky about our allies as we are today, in a single-superpower world. Resisting Communist expansion in Central America was the right thing to do.

Posted by: The Crank at February 1, 2006 12:23 PM

Oh, come on, Crank. Your statement reads like something out of the State Department policy manual. You should read a more neutral account of what was actually happening in Central America during the 1980's. I don't have the time to get into all of this now, but hundreds of international observers gave the 1984 Nicaraguan election their blessing, and there was no evidence of Sandinista expansionism. We attacked Nicaragua for alleged totalitarian tendencies but then supported the Salvadoran government which was indisputedly totalitarian. Our government was lying over and over again on these issues and even set up an office in the State Department to promulgate propaganda.

I gotta say, conservatives quite rightly attack liberals for blindly supporting Democratic Party politicians and for general partisanship. Conservatives have to get off their Reagan fixation and take a clear look at what his policies actually did to Central America. You can't just hide behind cold war excuses on these issues.

Posted by: Steve at February 1, 2006 12:42 PM

Fair enough evaluation, Steve; and you may be dead on. The point, however, is that Reagan administration was working toward goals of national interest and security. If you disagree, and think it was a mess - that is fine, but irrelevant.

Posted by: Marko at February 1, 2006 1:09 PM

Conservatives have to get off their Reagan fixation and take a clear look at what his policies actually did to Central America.

Oddly enough, El Salvado, Nicaragua, Honduras and even disfunctional Guatemala are all democracies today. As is Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Posted by: Henry Woodbury at February 1, 2006 2:16 PM

yeah, Venezuela is a democracy too, and I'll just let that lay there and see what develops. The piece in the Standard had all the trappings of what I'll characterize as highly partisan spin. Nothing I didn't expect but nowhere near as detailed as what I've come to expect from this (Crank) site. Granted, you didn't have the space or the license (at least I don't think you did). But Crank, it's just the same old song and dance from Conservatives to toss around blanket statements like THIS

- To younger activists, the time is ripe for high dudgeon. To veterans of the process, the stories are too familiar, and only the names are new. Scandals, after all, are as old as Washington, even older, and to observers of national politics, they tend to settle themselves into familiar patterns.


- The most sensational, but in some ways the flimsiest, of these efforts is the Valerie Plame story.

- another Republican administration pushes legal envelopes in pursuit of a global struggle that many Democrats reject from stem to stern. Thus, the furor over NSA wiretaps on Al Qaeda communications into the United States, and blow-ups over pre-Iraq War intelligence, Abu Ghraib, etc.

- Democrats seem endlessly bewildered by the fact that most Foreign Policy Scandals are not nearly as potent as the media makes them out to be. Of course, that's probably because they serve to underline the impression that Republicans are willing to take steps to defend the nation that Democrats won't--an impression that has proven poisonous not for the Republicans charged with wrong-doing, but for Democrats.

This sort of oversimplification seems to be sweeping the right wing blogosphere lately. To summarize, we aren't as bad as Clinton, scandals are merely free publicity, and we can spin their attacks on us to highlight the good old "dems are soft on crime/terror/defense/generally being a red-blooded man". Well big f**king deal.

You seem to have forgotten the fact that our VP's former company (oh, yeah - he's still on the payroll) has raided the public vault of unprecedented amounts and pretty much been given a pass by this administration, unsuprisingly. Doesn't that rate a mention in either your Graft or Influence Peddling areas? Perhaps you did include it, but that bit wound up in little pieces on the Standard's editor's desk.

You also conveniently gloss over facts pertinent to both Abu Gharib and the warrantless wiretaps, possibly in the name of brevity, but most likely it's just too unseemly to think of how Privates are sent to Leavenworth for following orders that come straight from Cheney, Rummy and Gonzales. Or perhaps it's just easier for the simple folk of the conservative base to understand the (false) assumption that only Al Queada commo and not Uncle Bobby's union membership drive is being intercepted in the name of God, Country, and Wal-Mart.

What a load of goat stink that piece was. Crank, you've lost my readership. And BTW - the Mets suck.

Posted by: macsonix at February 1, 2006 6:01 PM

Well, ya can't please everybody, particularly if they start from such severely attenuated factual premises (which I see you don't provide one bit of support for, if we must play that game). I will say that some of those items were detailed at a bit more length but there just wasn't room, such as the point that the efforts to turn the Plame affair into an "Abuse of Power" theme have fallen flat because they just don't fit the facts.

The Halliburton stuff is a textbook example of a "Guilt by Association" scandal, though.

Posted by: The Crank at February 1, 2006 6:22 PM

Yeah, well you can dazzle them with bullspeak but you can't make 'em drink the kool-aid my friend.

I said that Halliburton ripped off the country and Cheney either stood idly by or at worst was an accessory, and you basically told me that nobody cares or if they do then it's the big bad media's fault.

I said that twentysomething patriots are going to prison for following the lead of those in the uppermost reaches of the chain of command. You respond with some gobbledygook about severely attenuated factual premises.

Fact is, as screwed up as the Dems are, you Conservatives (heaven only knows why that moniker still applies) are as out of touch with the mainstream as Karl Rove is with his feet. We know that sending Privates on guard duty to prison (as unconscionable as their actions were) is not going to fix a systemic policy of military and intelligence activity that is antithetical to American values. We know that a culture of corruption, cronyism and greed is not going to be rewarded this November or in 2008. Why do you think so many veterans are running against Republicans this year? They know the real deal, Crank - and you and I are merely spectators. Wake up and smell the housecleaning.

Oh, and in my last post I forgot to lament your neglect of our fearless leader's middle finger pointed squarely at the 9/11 commission, from his initial refusal to even show up, to his final acquiesing to a meeting (not under oath, mind you) with big brother Dick standing in for his brain, to, most regrettably, his insistence on ignoring advice to shore up the shipping port and power grid security pronto. These brazen examples of incompetence, these stunning displays of hubris and insolence, these latent and deliberate failures on such a glaringly large scale are prime candidates for your classification of National Security Scandal.

Posted by: macsonix at February 1, 2006 7:09 PM

The scandal of the Bush presidency is INCOMPETENCE. I would rather the President spend a few minutes with Monica than surround himself with the likes of Douglas Feith, Michael Brown, Harriet Miers and the biggest dope of them all - himself. Sure Bush, so far, as been relatively free of the scandals you describe - he's clean, sober and religious. But a lot of good its done us.

Posted by: patrick at February 1, 2006 8:33 PM

We know that a culture of corruption, cronyism and greed is not going to be rewarded this November or in 2008.

Yet, oddly enough, it was rewarded in 2004. C'mon guys, get a grip. This is neither the best of times nor the worst of times.

yeah, Venezuela is a democracy too. Yeah, and so is Palestine. And North Korea has a lovely constitution.

The proper foil for Nicaragua isn't Venezuela, it's Cuba. Consider that the Sandanista's consolidated power by adopting a Cuban model. They placed the armed forces under control of their party, not the state. The nationalized industries and palced them under control of their party as well. They outlawed free labor unions and censored the press. Sans Reagan, there's no reason to expect that Nicaragua today would have any more political freedom today than Cuba.

Posted by: Henry Woodbury at February 2, 2006 9:32 AM

I think we really have to define what the word scandal means, and what it meant in American history. Anything perpetrated by any of the last few presidents, from Reagan to now pales besides those of the Nixon, Harding and Grant adminsitrations.

What is scandal? Well, clearly in your context Crank, it means ability to be bribed in some capacity, or creating an environement where you can enrich yourself or your allies, where it matters little if others are harmed in the process, striclty because you have the public trust. Fair enough? If so, then the Clinton issue I have is Whitewater, and what emanated from it. Now, in my opinion, Whitewater was a scam perpetrated by Hillary (realize, this is my OPINION) while Bill was governor, and was an Arkansan scheme to get rich --so the real problem I had with Whitewater was it belonged in Arkansas, not with a Federal Special Prosecutor--this was not done when Bill was in the White House--the Paula Jones perjury issue is something different, but clearly many presidents have pulled off more than lying about how horny you are--which is what he really lied about.

So is the Bush presidency more scandalous? I think so, if only because he put his cronies in positions they were clearly unsuited. FEMA was resurrected under Clinton, as was, for that matter the military. There were reasons our military could tear through Afghanistan and Iraq so easily, and it was mainly because the 8 years of the Clinton Presidency allowed the buildup to be done so competently. But that is my definition of scandalous, at least as far as the public trust is concerned? Other scandalous government figures? I have one that comes to mind:

The biggest, in my view, assuming the news reports are true (and who ever really knows) is Antonin Scalia. The idea that a Supreme would permit himself to be taken along on junkets, any junmkets, to not be Caesar's wife, irks me greatly. Big time. Then he rarely recuses himself whether or not he benefitied form those he hears. I don't mind the presidential decision in 2000, the court was so split, well, you vote the way you see it, and they all saw it differently, but a Supreme Court Justice must be the most simon-pure justice we have. In many ways, they have the least amount of checks on them. Just look at what Roger Taney did, and how he did it--for those who don't know, he not only bullied the Dred Scott decision to go the slavery way, but actually wrote a scathing opinoon about the Missouri COmpromise, which was already rendered moot, yet he declared in unconsitituional--declared something not before him --well, maybe secession and war was inevitable, but if you look at the chain of events, he was a huge contributor.

Anyway, the conservatives never saw past Clintono's rather loose morals, and let him be president. So why be surprised that liberals see Bush's too tight morals and say the same? But scandals in governement. Follow the money. Probably Hammurabi said the same thing.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at February 2, 2006 10:42 AM
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