Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Scandal fever afflicts Republicans

By Perry Diaz

During the McCarthy witch-hunting era, the “duck test” was used to identify a person’s ideological leaning.  It works this way:  “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”  Thousands of people’s lives were ruined during this period that came to be known as the Second Red Scare.  Yes, “red” as in communist.

“McCarthyism,” which was coined after Republican U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.  It also means making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.  It lasted from 1950 to 1956.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Today, McCarthyism has taken a broader meaning.  In general, it is now used “to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.”  Sounds familiar, eh?

Indeed, the Republicans in Congress are using this modern form of McCarthyism to target their political opponents, particularly President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  And just like McCarthy, they conducted congressional hearings and investigations.  These latter-day followers of the McCarthy creed are trying to make President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton look like ducks, walk like ducks, and quack like ducks.  But this time around, they’re not witch-hunting for communists but how to implicate Obama and Clinton to a number of scandals.    

In my article, “Benghazi Syndrome” (May 18, 2013), I wrote: “Within days of the Benghazi attack, McCain led a smear campaign against U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. They attacked Rice’s Benghazi ‘talking points,’ accusing her of withholding information to cover up the real story. They demanded an investigation and vowed to block Rice’s confirmation in the Senate should President Barack Obama appoint her as Secretary of State. Well, Rice did not give them that chance; she withdrew from being considered for an appointment. 

“The virulent strain of the Benghazi Syndrome spread to the House of Representatives. Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and four other House committee chairmen conducted their own investigations. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey gave countless hours of testimony. The State Department sent more than 25,000 pages of documents to Congress. And yet Issa and the other witch hunters would not let up on their beliefs that the Obama administration is covering up something and they want to hear the true story of l’affaire Benghazi.” Sounds familiar, eh?

Scandal fever

Last May 13, former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on the Sean Hannity Show to discuss the Benghazi attack and the scandals plaguing the Obama Administration.  On the Benghazi incident, Cheney commented: “One of the worst incidents I can recall in my career… If they told the truth about Benghazi that it was a terrorist attack by a terrorist affiliated group it would have destroyed a false image of competence that was the basis for his campaign for reelection.”  Huh?

What was Cheney talking about?  Didn’t Obama call the Benghazi attack an “act of terror” at a press briefing the day after the attack?  Isn’t a “terrorist attack” an “act of terror”?  It’s all semantics.  So, what’s Cheney’s problem?   Perhaps he’s afflicted with “scandal fever,” a contagious strain that mimics the symptoms of dementia.  And contagious it was!  Within a few days, Rep. Darrell Issa used the same “terrorist attack” vs. “act of terror” argument during a media interview on Capitol Hill.  

Ratings up!

Recently, Obama’s rating bumped up from 51% in an April poll to 53% in a poll conducted last May 17-18. With all these scandals, you would think that Obama’s rating would plummet down.  Doesn’t that prove to show that most Americans are not falling for the McCarthyist games the Republicans are playing?

In spite of the scandals that are hounding the Obama administration, the Republicans have yet to find the “duck test” that they could use against Obama and Clinton. 

But they’re not giving up. The witch-hunt has reached fever pitch!  Speaker John Boehner started talking about impeaching Obama.  When he was asked what are the grounds for impeachment, he couldn’t give any specific impeachable offense.  However, he replied that they’d find something to nail him down during the impeachment process.   Sounds familiar, eh?

The question is: Can Obama weather the storm until the spring of 2014 when the mid-term election season kicks off?  In my opinion, I believe he’d not only survive it; he’d thrive on it for as long as they fail to implicate him to the scandals.  And so far, they don’t have an iota of evidence that would prove their complicity to these scandals.

Déjà vu

This whole charade reminds me of the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton in December 1998 for four charges, to wit: two charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, abuse of power.  The charges arose from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the Paula Jones lawsuit.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives impeached Clinton on one charge of perjury and obstruction of justice.  However, the Senate acquitted him in February 1999.  Although the Republicans controlled the Senate with a 55-vote majority, the Republicans were 17 votes short of the required two-third majority for a conviction.

If impeachment charges were brought before the House of Representatives against Obama, the Republican-controlled House would be able to impeach Obama since only a simple majority is needed for impeachment.

The Senate vote would probably mirror the 1999 vote in reverse.  Today, there are 53 Democrats, two Independents, and 45 Republicans.   To convict Obama, the Senate needs all 45 Republican and 22 Democrats/Independents, which is improbable simply because that is political reality.

And the political reality is that unless Obama has really screwed up to a point where Democrats would abandon him and feed him to the vultures, the impeachment process that Speaker Boehner had in mind was nothing more than an exercise in futility. 

Then what? 

In 2000, the Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives.  However, they had a net loss of two seats from the previous elections.  With George W. Bush winning the presidency by five electoral votes; however, he lost the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore by 0.5% of the vote.

Quo vadis, Republicans?

In the 2014 elections, the Democrats need 17 seats to retake the House while the Republicans need six seats to retake the Senate.  However, unless either party gets a super majority of 60 seats, the Senate would face another unproductive term.

But as far as impeaching and removing Obama from office is concerned, the Republicans should call it quits and concentrate on the 2016 presidential election.  And the candidate to beat is Democrat Hillary Clinton.  Could any of the Tea Partiers – Rand Paul, Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan – beat her?  Now, you can see why the Republicans are trying so hard to get their ducks in a row to bring down Clinton.  

At the end of the day, the scandal fever that is afflicting Republicans could relegate the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln to political impotence.