Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Friendly Fire and Movement: Scandal Tactics

In both the Benghazi scandal and, now, the IRS, we have been promised new witnesses and whistle blowers who will come through and blow the cover off them. From a tweet in the linked article:
Hearing from some top Hill sources that IRS scandal about to explode. Low-level agency workers miffed at being blamed. About to return fire.
This comes during a slight internecine spat where Lindsey Graham doesn't want things to get "too personal" with Darryl Issa calling White House spokesman a "paid liar:"
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Monday became the latest Republican to reject Darrell Issa's comments that White House press secretary Jay Carney is a "paid liar" in relation to the IRS controversy. But Graham went further than his Republican colleagues, saying there's no evidence that the White House ordered the tax agency to target conservative groups.
What's The Deal?
The deal is two-fold. The first is that The Press, AP-Scandal or not, is generally, ideologically on Obama's side. That doesn't mean they won't report the news--or break the stories--after all, it was mainstream non-FOX outlets that broke the salient Benghazi evidence. Part of the problem with not having the (full) press in your court is that bad behavior ('overreach') gets called out--and it, well, looks bad.

But, of course the other problem is that of "Wolf!" When Obama prophesied Doom from the Sequester, and it didn't happen (save for the doom-of-flying-congressmen and they fixed that shit right quick) he looked like he was ... overreaching. The same thing can happen--indeed has happened--with the scandals.

While the public finds them important, in need of (some) investigation, and to varying degrees damming, they do not yet find them a direct indictment of Obama. For that to happen there will need to be proof. Until there is actual proof, saying there's proof just weakens the argument for everyone.

Fire and Movement
One of the most basic of military maneuvers is "Fire and Movement" in which one party fires suppressively and the other flanks until they are close enough for a terminal assault. This technique works, to a degree, in politics if you do it right. We could see Harry Reid make outrageous, over-reaching assertions ('some guy' told me Mitt Romney paid no taxes) and, because Mitt hadn't released his tax returns, the Republicans had to scramble to get control of the narrative while Obama could run around recruiting women and minorities.

In this case, though, the technique has a problem: there is no equivalent to the unreleased tax returns (there are unreleased Benghazi emails--but we saw a bunch of emails and those, despite promises and high hopes, didn't prove anything). Without the "suppressive element" to the fire, the movement (further investigation--until you can launch an assault--an actual indictment against the White House itself) doesn't get cover. Indeed--if the public perceives the GOP as "crying Wolf" there may be another, more fitting, military analogy.

Friendly Fire
When one unit fires on another of the same (or allied) side it's called Friendly Fire. This refers to the origin of--not the nature of--the attack. It's a self-inflicted wound and it's quite possible that Lindsey Graham believes that's exactly what Issa is doing with his "Paid liar" allegations. If the public at large believes that the GOP would indict a ham sandwich so long as it had an Obama logo on it, they may see no reason to give special credence to any of the theories that are, as yet, unprovable.

This brings us back to the opening comments: what would you do if you had, in hand, witnesses who were about to break everything wide open? What you'd do is play your hand carefully until such a time as the story did, in fact, break wide open. You wouldn't shoot your mouth off and then dump your (utterly damning) evidence--that could possibly weaken a winning hand.

Consider that, while politics are not exactly poker, if you have a winning hand you don't want to give it away until everyone is all in. That's similar for politics: you want the administration to get itself into as much hot water as possible until you can nail them. If your colleague was going off and weakening your masterstroke? You'd tell them.

Now, it's possible that no one knows what these potential witnesses ware going to say when they appear--but I doubt that's the case. I think that people are being vetted right now and guys like Graham have all the info they need. I think that if they really did have an air-tight story that was about to break all over the administration they'd have told Issa to keep quite and do his talking after the story broke.

Since Issa is still talking ... I presume that means that rather than holding a pare of aces they've got a slightly less valuable hand--the same way the Benghazi witnesses and the Benghazi emails all proved to be less than stellar administration-enders. But that's just my guess ... As always, we'll have to see.

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