Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Kirk Fordham: human sacrifice

So now ABC's reporting that Foley/Reynolds staffer Kirk Fordham has been thrown into the volcano by the Repugnican leadership in hopes of quieting the growing scandal. Somehow, I have this feeling the beltway scandal gods won't be appeased by the sacrifice of a mere chief of staff, a guy nobody'd ever heard of before outside Capitol Hill. Wonkette has the story here.

(Never heard of the scandal gods? Most people haven't, so let me try to explain. I'm not religious, and I don't believe in the scandal gods myself, but our nation's leaders do believe. That's the single fact that explains just about everything. It seems that every now and then, the scandal gods become angry, for reasons no mortal can ever hope to understand. So then a scandal erupts. The scandal isn't anyone's fault, it's certainly not because anyone's done something wrong, it's just that the gods sometimes get angry for inexplicable reasons of their own. Since it's always hopeless to try to understand what all the fuss is about, the answer is to just start throwing people into the volcano until the gods are appeased and the problem goes away, and life returns to normal, exactly like it was before. What's sad is that the scandal-god cult persists because throwing random underlings into the bubbling lava appears to work a lot of the time.)

One interesting thing is that the aforementioned ABC story asserts Hastert himself gave Fordham the heave-ho. Which is sort of irregular. Didn't that job belong to Thomas Reynolds, Fordham's actual boss? I guess when everyone's worried about saving their own skins, protocol falls by the wayside.

Oh, and Reynolds really, really wants you to know that he had absolutely no clue what his own chief of staff was up to. Ok, yeah, I'm sure that must be 100% true.

An earlier ABC piece questions Hastert's future as Speaker. Included is a bit from that slimeball Grover Norquist, who has the notion that Republicans can turn the whole thing around to their advantage by harping on the timing of the story, and trying to figure out who leaked it. I guess that's the only thing they've really got to go on, but Norquist's notion that everything will be fine if the R's just attack critics instead of cleaning house, well, that's the sign of someone who's been inside the beltway for too damn long and has lost touch with the outside world.

Norquist's not the only one who wants to go on the warpath. Hugh Hewitt seems to think the real guilty parties are the liberal media and the Democrats. Well, he would, wouldn't he. Big surprise there. Something tells me the R's have operatives scouring the country right now, trying to identify the pages who "leaked" the story to ABC, so they can get the full Anita Hill treatment.

The striking thing to me is how scripted the whole scandal feels. And I don't mean just politicians here. The media response to scandal follows an absolutely rigid template. Everyone asks precisely the same questions, we get the same tired duelling quotes for the requisite number of news cycles, and in the end the problem "goes away" when a key figure or two are offered up as scapegoats, and resign, or get fired and/or convicted. And nobody presses for reforming the system that led to the abuses. What's the point of having a big scandal if nothing changes as a result? If the result is always just that the media and public get jaded and it doesn't even make the papers next time it happens, that should be a sign that the system is fundamentally broken and no longer able to self-correct when it's abused.

It wasn't always like this. Here's a WaPo guest piece by Joseph Califano, describing the last scandal involving Congressional pages back in 1983. I sure do miss the days when we had grownups running the country. Grownups, and people who had basic respect for the institution they went to DC to be part of. The current leadership came to Washington precisely because they hated government and wanted to run the whole thing into the ground, by any means necessary (witness Norquist's infamous remark about drowning the government in a bathtub). And on that count, at least, I have to say they're doing a heck of a job.

Updated: Ok, now Hastert himself has gone on the warpath. I'd never seen that spectacle before, and it looks sort of like the movie Beverly Hills Ninja, starring Chris Farley as the aforementioned ninja. Yes, the movie's a comedy, not a drama. Anyway, Hastert wants us all to know that the whole thing is a Democratic conspiracy, in fact, it's all Bill Clinton's fault. No, I'm not exaggerating, he really thinks -- or at least says -- the scandal is the work of some sort of dark Clintonian cabal. Wow. Fascinating. Oh, and George Soros is involved, too, of course. While there probably are some wingnuts out there who still froth at the mouth, Pavlov-style, at the mere mention of Clinton, something tells me this isn't going to be the magic formula that makes it all better for poor ol' Dennis. All in all, today's trial balloons weren't very impressive, so it's going to be fun to see what tomorrow's crop looks like.

The same piece mentions that Roy Blunt, the Republican whip, is also repositioning himself away from Hastert now. As far as I'm concerned, Hastert is a complete nonentity, and nothing will actually change based on whether he stays or goes. The only reason I'd like to see him go is to watch the fratricidal infighting within the Republican ranks as people jockey for the Speaker's gavel, hopefully right before the election. That would be niiiiiiice.

Even more Hastertia from the "liberal media":

  • The NYT claims Hastert said he'd resign if it'd help the party. By doing so, he convinced Paul Weyrich to retract his call for Hastert's resignation. DC is a weird, weird place.
  • An NYT editorial speculating about the R's using the scandal to go on an anti-gay jihad.
  • A perceptive opinion piece about the scandal at the Seattle P-I.
  • The same paper has a bit about Newt Gingrich reappearing to inform us all that Democratic sex scandals are vastly worse than this Foley business. And he should know, since he was cheating on his wife while he was leading the fight to impeach Clinton, and he divorced one of his previous wives while she was in the hospital being treated for cancer. Yeah. Gingrich is a total expert on this stuff.
  • Here's a Sidney Blumenthal piece about Foley written for the Guardian.
  • Even the Times of London is less than supportive, and they're a Murdoch media property, let's not forget.


bruce_s01 said...

Perhaps this is too tinfoilhattish, but what if the story was actually leaked by the Rs?
Considering the bill that just went though that would allow the President to "disappear" anyone who is regarded as a "terrorist". Any burying of this issue would be great.
And becuase of the Foley problem, they could use this current fracas to enervate their base and as you mentioned, turn the problem around and use it to attack the Dems.

atul666 said...

I don't think that's tinfoil-hattish at all. In an earlier Foley post, I speculated that maybe Karl had leaked this to get Woodward (and Iraq generally) off the media's radar. So that's one possibility.

Another possibility is that this is pure beltway infighting: Some Republican back-bencher wanted Foley's job, or Hastert's job, and figured now would be a great time to make a move. As it's always been, the way to move up the Party hierarchy is to whack someone above you, Klingon-style, although it's imperative that the rank-and-file never find out about this. The faithful Party sheep will obligingly blame the Democrats for the leak, and Congressman X can then step in, statesmanlike, and pull the R's tender bits out of the fire just before election day.

From Congressman X's perspective, even if his party loses control of the House, he still moves up to be minority leader. So in a way it's still Mission Accomplished, so far as he's concerned.