Sifting through the Republican responses to President Obama’s climate speech Tuesday, an odd omission could be found — or, at least, it would have seemed odd as recently as a week or two ago. The various Republican statements churned out for the media dutifully denounced the president as a job-killing, coal-hating, stealth-taxing liberal. See Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Rand Paul, Orrin Hatch, the National Republican Senatorial Committee via spokesblogger Jennifer Rubin, and any others you care to Google on your own. The word that never appears in any of them is scandal. Not a one of them claimed Obama was attempting to distract America from his scandals.
It is not that Republicans have previously shied away from bringing “scandal” in to putatively unrelated Obama doings. The existence of a presidential “scandal” can be inferred when the opposition party attempts to tie the scandal to anything the president does or does not do. Republicans have previously defined as attempts to distract from the scandal such disparate Obama actions as nominating judges, proposing to reduce student loans, visiting the Jersey Shore, and defending the use of drones. That is to say, basically everything Obama has done since the dawn of the Obama scandal era about seven weeks ago. If the president can give a major speech without either the opposition or the new media accusing him of attempting to distract from the scandal, then the scandal is over.
Do you remember how all-consuming the “Obama scandals” once were? This was a turn of events so dramatic it defined Obama’s entire second term — he was “waylaid by controversies,” or at least “seriously off track,” “beset by scandals,” enduring a “second-term curse,” the prospect of “endless scandals,” Republicans “beginning to write his legislative obituary,” and Washington had “turned on Obama.” A ritualistic media grilling of Jay Carney, featuring the ritualistic comparisons of him to Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler, sanctified the impression of guilt.
It has come and gone, having left barely a trace. To be sure, the Obama scandals live on in the conservative world, where the evidence of deep corruption and venality grows stronger and stronger. But that is merely the confirmation of suspicions of “Chicago politics,” ACORN and so on, that predate recent events and don’t require any particular facts to survive.
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