I’ve often quoted Stalin’s aphorism that “sometimes quantity has a quality all its own.” It’s a profound truism, having value in a variety of areas. But recent political “scandals” have reminded me that the key word in those is “sometimes.” Hell, in those cases, I’m starting to think that quantity might very well be a symptom of the lack of quality.
Of course, the Herman Cain case comes to mind first. None of the allegations really had any substance behind them, no actual proof (although an attorney acquaintance of mine has looked at the public documents, and says their “lawyer sense is tingling” that in the NRA cases, my acquaintance believes that there was enough substance to make the NRA insecure about going before a jury). But the sheer weight of numbers — combined with the Cain campaign’s downright un-Clintonian response — scuttled his race.
Now, we have the case of Newt Gingrich’s ethics charges from his tenure as Speaker. Nancy Pelosi recently stepped in it big-time (or, to use a time-honored metaphor regarding political scandals, “got her tit caught in a wringer”) when she boasted that she had spent a year investigating the charges against Gingrich, had about 1,000 pages from that affair, and intended to talk about them at some future point. Gingrich responded by showing that he was a hell of a lot smarter than she was (which isn’t much of a standard; I have intestinal flora with a higher IQ than San Fran Nan) by pointing out that all those records were sealed under rules of confidentiality, and if she released them, he hoped the Republicans in the House would immediately file charges against her. Sadly, he neglected to include a dig at her making millions from insider information on Visa, but I guess Newt had to save something for later.
Anyway, that made me look back at those charges against Gingrich. The committee Pelosi sat on considered 84 charges against Gingrich — and he was acquitted on 83 of them. The one that stuck was for supplying incomplete financial disclosure information to the House (hear that, Nancy?), for which Newt settled for a hefty fine and a referral to the IRS. And the IRS — that’s Bill Clinton’s IRS — found there was no reason to pursue any further punishment.
And then there’s my favorite example, the ethics complaints that hounded Sarah Palin out of office. Here’s the list, which is somewhat out of date. By that list, 2 were against Palin’s aides and 16 against her. One was settled with a finding that Palin did nothing wrong, but she still reimbursed the state. One was still pending on her resignation — the issue of whether or not she could benefit from a legal trust fund. But despite these results, the eternal cry of the Palin haters is still how she is obviously corrupt and venal and greedy — just look at all those complaints!
Finally, god help me, I’m reminded of convicted Al Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Ghalaini. He was tried in a civilian court, with the Obama administration promising everyone that this would show that this approach would work with terrorists. And to show how serious they were, they hit him with 285 separate charges. Well, the jury came back with a very, very, very long string of “Not Guiltys.” — punctuated by a single “Guilty” at the end for “conspiracy.” This has been characterized by a lot of people as kind of typical; the government throws so many charges, they hope the jury will say “he must be guilty of something, so we’ll give them one conviction.” Whether that was the result, or even the intent, is purely speculative, but I find myself not doubting too strongly.
This approach — in each of the cases — is what is often referred to as “fling enough crap, and hope something sticks.” The problem is, far too often the fact that all that is being flung is, at its root, pure crap, tends to get overlooked.
And the crap-targets end up paying the price.
It’s something I have tried to avoid, myself, especially in regards to President Obama. I get irritated with the charges that he’s a foreign-born crypto-Muslim Commie out to destroy America. I’m not certain I can claim to have done it consciously, out of principle, or just out of some instinct that has told me “don’t go there.”
The saddest thing? I could almost tolerate it — if it was handled evenly, on both sides. But there’s one set of standards for Republicans (see above) and another for Democrats (see the initial responses to the sex allegations against Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, and Bill Clinton among the mainstream media). If I had my druthers, I’d make certain reporters wear the equivalent of a “Scarlet Letter” — say, a copy of Anthony Weiner’s bulging boxers (correction — a picture of Weiner’s infamous crotch shot) — around their neck whenever they appear in public. The reporters who cheerfully parroted Weiner’s “I was hacked” defense, who covered for Edwards, who dismissed the charges against Clinton, and so on.
Lucky for them, I’m not in charge of anything, so they’re safe.
But they shouldn’t be.