Street Corner Soapbox: Here We Go Again

Categories:  News & Politics    Opinion   
Monday, May 27th, 2013 at 2:55 PM
Street Corner Soapbox: Here We Go Again by Jay Stevens

Those of us around during the Clinton years remember well the Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment that followed it. House Republicans, apparently driven to a kind of obsessive madness by repeated political defeats at the hands of a popular president, decided to drive to the brink of political crisis over a minor sexual affair. For nearly a full year, the Lewinsky scandal paralyzed Washington, as Clinton was investigated, accused of perjury by a special prosecutor, impeached by the Republican-led House in a strictly partisan vote, and subsequently acquitted by the Senate.

It was pretty obvious to Americans what was going on: manufactured scandal meant to embarrass a president. Approval ratings for Clinton shot up. More than 60 percent of Americans approved of Clinton's presidency during the height of the scandal.

And so – House Republicans are at it again, desperately searching for something – anything – to stick to the president and his administration.

First it was Solyndra – an alternative energy company that went bankrupt despite receiving millions in government loans. House Republicans held hearings and tried to find evidence that there was an improper relationship between the Obama administration and the energy company. There was none.

Then it was Benghazi. Extremist Islamic militants attacked the U.S. embassy in Libya, killing four Americans. House Republicans held hearings and tired to find evidence that the president and his administration deliberately lied about the nature and cause of the attacks directly after the incident. They didn't.

Now it's the IRS scandal. A group of employees in the IRS' Cincinnati office apparently targeted Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny over their claimed nonprofit status. The workers were reigned in. Now House Republicans are holding hearings to try to find evidence that the administration knew about, or even ordered the scrutiny for the 2012 election. They won't.

As if on cue, President Obama's job approval ratings are beginning to rise. According to a recent CNN poll, Obama's approval rating is up 2 points to 53 percent. Meanwhile, that same poll showing that Republican Congressmen are suffering with a 35 percent approval rating and a record-setting 59 percent disapproval rating.

Here's the thing. As Republicans grope blindly for something to stick to the president, they're overlooking the bigger issues of the “scandals.” Instead of focusing, say, on the president's statements after the Benghazi attack, they could've asked, sincerely, about the state of funding for security at embassies worldwide. Instead of trying to depict the IRS scandal as some kind of politicized electoral tool for the president (instead of the bureaucratic snafu it really was), they could see the opportunity to question the difficulty in disciplining or firing federal employees, or even holding federal employees accountable to performance standards.

No. Instead we get Congressmen who obsess about bringing down the administration. Who grandstand for partisan crowds. Who showboat. Like our own Mike Kelly, who uses these “scandals” to get airtime on Fox Television.

Nation faced with a debt-ceiling crisis? Kelly uses it to urge fellow Republicans to “kick the shit out of” Democrats. Solyndra? Kelly's grilling in those hearings got him a seat on Fox Business News to rant against federal investment in green technology. Benghazi? Kelly's angry tirade against State Department officials in a House Oversight Committee hearing earns the Congressman a seat on “Fox & Friends.” IRS scandal? Another tirade in his committee hearing, another stint on “Fox & Friends.”

Given a little safe haven of a Congressional district by the recent state redistricting, Kelly has chosen to use his power, not to be a leader on real and pressing issues facing the country – or even to bring a little federal funding to the region to help alleviate, say, distressed school systems or to repair decaying infrastructure. Instead, he's chosen partisan rancor, division, and distraction. He's chosen “Fox & Friends.”

Jay Stevens can be contacted at Jay@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @Snevets_Yaj. 

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