September 30, 2003

Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner on National Review Online has crafted a short and sweet position paper on the "Leak" scandal that blew up over last weekend.

"I need to see more than what's out there to think this is anything like the big deal the press and the Democrats are making it out to be. I'm all in favor of having the Justice Department investigate. I'm all in favor of firing whoever did the leaking, if he or she did as the reports suggest. But it sounds like the leaker is dropping in rank and importance as is the transgression. Wilson's wife is a desk jockey and much of the Washington cocktail circuit knew that already.

It seems to me that the energy driving this is A) Obvious Democratic opportunism and scandal-hunger B) Media opportunism as this is the first Bush "scandal" that isn't manufactured outside the White House (could someone explain what Bush did wrong on Enron again?) C) A burning desire to flesh out a fleshless storyline that the Bush White House clamps down on "dissenters" D) An even more burning desire to make Karl Rove into the Sid Blumenthal of this administration.

Which brings us to another issue: comparisons between this administration and the last. First of all, Rove is not Blumenthal for several reasons but the most important is that Rove's got real power. Blumenthal was a Tolkieneque Wormtongue at best and more likely a slipper-carrier. On the larger front, I will be able to take only so much sermonizing from liberals over this scandal considering the fact that the last White House knowingly filed false criminal charges against inconvenient employees (the Travel Office), invented new privileges and abused old ones to stonewall at ever turn (Bush is commanding full cooperating), and generally accused critics of every form of bad faith imaginable.

So yes, by all means investigate what I predict will be a very minor story. But let's not pretend the Republic is in danger.

Terse, sensible and shows all the signs of turning out to be true.

I confess I didn't get the whole "huffing and puffing and blow the house down" tone of this story from the get-go. It seemed, as all these stories will seem in the current political climate, just another effort by the administration's enemies to find something, anything, that would bring it into disrepute. This has been tried numerous times in the past six months and it will be tried numerous times again in the run up to the election.

It is a variation of the 'Big Lie' technique -- spread a lie or series of lies often enough and loud enough and people will start to believe them no matter how small or far-fetched they may be. This variation may be called the "Lie Inflation Gambit" in which the opposition takes a small lie or even a small bit of truth and blows it up into something resembling the Pillsbury Doughboy attacking New York in the last few minutes of Ghost Busters. It lurches, it casts a big shadow, people run screaming from the onslaught -- but in the end it simply blows up and leaves a large mess behind.

We've seen the Yellowcake Inflation in which the famous 16 words occupied a part of pundit mindspace larger than Australia for several weeks. We've no doubt got a week or so more of the CIA Outing blatherfest to suffer through. But all in all I can't help thinking that the spectacle of the opposition spending the next year blowing frantically into an endless series of thin trial balloons is going to be, in the end, simply an undignified political posture from which to conduct an election. In the end, if you bend over to blow up tiny items to more than life size, the electorate just kicks you in the rear.

Posted by Van der Leun at September 30, 2003 1:46 PM
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