One Scandal per Administration? No.

I wrote a long comment in Kagro X’s latest impeachment post arguing that we need to demonstrate the systematic, ongoing corruption of the Republican party. Until we can show how often the Republicans have brought back discredited flunkies to pick up their corrupt plans where they left off, it will be difficult to show the importance of impeachment–the one recourse citizens have to ensure that these flunkies never return again. I’ve got a lot to say on this: we need to show how each scandal has built on the previous one, we need to move away from speaking in terms of individual administrations. But for now, I will argue that we need to move away from speaking in terms of discrete scandals.

Watergate, Iran-Contra, Abramoff (no mention of BCCI and S&L). That’s how we remember the scandals of the Nixon, Reagan-Bush, and Bush administrations. When we think of the first two, we think of them as events that reached some kind of resolution which therefore should be regarded as past, closed. And we treat them–even if we know this to be inaccurate–as one coherent scandal, one unified effort.

  1. John Casper says:

    emptywheel, apologies for this seriously off topic comment, I was mildly surprised to read that you do watch teevee when football players are on the screen. You and Mr. emptywheel are probably already familiar with ESPN’s EA Sports Matchup featuring the old Pittsburgh Steeler fullback, Merrill Hodge and the old Philadelphia Eagle QB, Ron Jaworski. They â€break down†the coach’s tape, which gives a view of the entire field, unlike what we see when watching a game, and allows us to understand the unbelieveable subtlety and complexity of this â€collision†sport. Now I am going to go back and read what you wrote.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I’ve never watched it JC. Is it over for the season? Pretty odd I’ve never found it, bc I had to teach mr. (Irish) emptywheel–as well as several foreign friends–to love football.

  3. Kagro X says:

    I’ve seen Jaworski’s segments, and they’re brilliant. Exactly as described. There’s nothing more valuable to understanding football, and that’s available to the average viewer, than his analyses. And it’s a great analogy to what emptywheel proposes to do here.

    You think receivers just â€get open†because they’re faster than the guy covering them? You think the quarterback just waits until that happens, and then throws the ball to whoever beats their man?

    You create openings. You anticipate them, based on what you’ve seen the defense do before. And, of course, quarterbacks throw the ball to openings that haven’t happened yet, but which they know are about to happen. And they’re throwing to where those openings are going to occur, well before they actually have.

    Then, of course, there’s the art of putting the ball where only the receiver can get to it, even if he’s well-covered.

    Think in these terms as you read emptywheel’s approach to the â€scandals.†They’re not about just going out and â€getting open.†They’re about knowing where openings will happen, and meeting the ball there.

    And if I read her right, it’ll become important to stop thinking of these as finite â€scandals,†and seeing them rather as brief glimpses of finite periods in an ongoing game plan that’s usually concealed from our view. Not â€scandals†so much as â€broken plays†that represent disruptions in the game plan. That is, these are things they were trying to do to us all along, we just were never able to anticipate it and break it up until they stumbled or we got lucky.

    Similarly, as I hope to demonstrate later today, the legal issues that end up at the heart of our treatment of these brief glimpses we get are about ball placement.

    Wasn’t it declared â€illegal†to do XYZ last time? Sure. So won’t we get in trouble if we do it now? Maybe. But first they have to catch us. And if they do, they still have to beat us in court. And on the appeal, when we argue that it’s not really illegal after all. And we appointed two of the the judges on the appeals panel.

    Is your receiver covered? Put the ball up top and let him jump for it. The cornerback’s only 5’9â€. Sure, they know it’s coming. They probably even know that on 1st and goal from the 9, the ball’s going to the back corner. But they still have to make the play in order to stop you. And if that spunky little cornerback gets a hand up on 1st down, there’s always 2nd and 3rd. He’s going to make a mistake on one of those three downs. And if he doesn’t, take the 3 points.

  4. John Casper says:…..=121152524
    It’s usually on ESPN 2, Fridays from 6:30 – 7:00CST (and other times in the middle of the night). I don’t know if it will be on this week, or not, but I assume they have one show left, because of the SB. With your facility with language, you will pick up the terminology very quickly. Last week they showed Seahawk QB Hassleback, holding onto the ball for a split second too long. Instead of a completion to a wide open receiver (which you can see on the coach’s tape), it was a sack. It gives me an appreciation for how challenging the game is to play mentally for all the players, not just the QB.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Btw, if y’all haven’t read Halberstam’s book on Belichick yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a quick read, lots of fun. It was Halberstam’s first football book, so he had a lot to learn. And guess who he relied on, (besides Belichick, of course)? Jaworski.

    I finally settled into watching football (after dalliances with baseball and basketball) after playing rugby for 6 years. Many of the moves are the same (I was a tackling superstar, so I’m a big fan of Free Safeties like Ronnie Lott and John Lynch and was a monster back back in my illustrious Power Puff days). And ultimate has similar kind of zone coverages. But the only purely football vocabulary I ever got was playing an NFL game with my bro as a kid and hanging out with the Lombardi family, also as a kid.

    Anyway, yeah, I think what we SEE are broken plays. And only the part the camera focuses on. There was a lot going on in both Watergate and Iran-Contra that we never saw. Kind of like Denver’s chop blocks that, because no one ever sees them, remain pseudo-legal.

  6. John Casper says:

    The real â€seven blocks of Granite†Lombardi family? Did you know Vince had a gay brother and told his players not to pick on one of their gay teammates, a tight end? Yea, sure you did, you’re emptywheel.
    Thanks for your comments KagroX.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Well, more like chip off the chip off the granite block Lombardis. Ol’ granite had already died when I started hanging out with his grandkids. And being that we were all Catholic kids, we didn’t talk much about homosexuality.

    Looks like EA Sports Matchup in on tonight at 7:30. I’ve alerted mr. emptywheel.

  8. Mimikatz says:

    The keys here are that they know they can’t win elections without dirty tricks, and they know the public wouldn’t support their policies if they had to put them before the public straightforwardly. In addition, they fundamentally don’t believe in democracy, Bush to the contrary notwithstanding, because it is too slow and besides, they know best and going before the public is just a distraction.

    It really is one, long, continuous process of seizing power to implement foreign and domestic policies that will cement their power. They are much closer now than when Nixon was in power.

    One thing we have lost is the sort of â€liberal consensus†among opinion makers–for openmindedness, for at least a modicum of equality, treating people with respect, forbearance in foreign affairs, a reasonable amount of bipartisanship. Those things are gone, replaced by exclusionist and my-way-or-the-highway rhetoric, take-no-prisoners politics etc that drives too many people who should know better into supporting the consolidation of power in King George and his junta. That makes it all the harder to stop them. But it has to be done.

  9. Anonymous says:

    ew, et al-
    if you can sell conspiracy as sports,you may be onto something big…not the big narrative (biography is still best for that) but the language and grammar of intentionality, technique, devious design….

  10. Anonymous says:

    ew, et al-
    if you can sell conspiracy as sports,you may be onto something big…not the big narrative (biography is still best for that) but the language and grammar of intentionality, technique, devious design….

  11. Anonymous says:

    EW: Get onto the DC Circuit’s website, pronto. The court has issued an opinion today agreeing to unredact portions of tatel’s concurrence in In re Miller — and the partially unredated opinion of February ’05 is also up in the public opinions section of the website. www.
    There’s great stuff — including confirmation via Fitz that Plame meets the IIPA definition of a â€covert†agent. Plus there are juicy new nuggets of detail about Libby’s testimony and about russert’s testimony. By negative implication, the remaining gaps in the opinion clearly pertain to a perjury/false statements/obstruction rap against Rove. Read, digest, post.

  12. Kagro X says:

    Sheesh, you guys can’t even let us talk to emptywheel for a few minutes about something other than the Plame case? She just got finished telling you it was all connected, too.

  13. Anonymous says:


    Good point. I’ve actually got an NFL football video I was going to use in classes on narrative, before I decided to give up academics for blogging. Should dig that out again. Maybe I’ll do a Super Bowl Conspiracy post for Sunday.


    But it’s Super Bowl weekend!>!>!

    Thanks for the headsup.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, guys, no more football for you! It’s now a race between EW and ReddHedd. (Confession: I tipped Redd first and sent her the decisions–largely because I was already chewing things over at FDL; I thought it only fair to run over here, though, so please don’t brand me disloyal!)

  15. Anonymous says:

    So far, actually, Sebastian is winning the SnooperBowl (Plame being a snoop after all) with his astute comments at FDL. Jeralyn broke the story but hasn’t weighed in with her analysis.

    So … I say the Steelers by 14 pts. (who’s the other team?)

  16. Anonymous says:

    Oh, I’m not in a race, am I? I’m just trying to do my kind of reading, then will be happy to read what someone with some real expertise in the law has to say…

  17. Anonymous says:

    EW – Whatever you call it, we’re waiting with bated-breath for your take(s). And I revise my prediction – Seahawks by 10 pts. (Based on my brother living in Seattle).

  18. Anonymous says:

    EW — you are right that the critical piece is grasping the continuity of the â€Republican†overthrow of the rule of law. Am looking forward to more.

    And I love it that you care about football. I’ll be getting my superbowl post up ASAP.

    Then back to contemplating the horrors of our decaying democracy.

  19. sonofslothrop says:

    At the minimum, Nixon’s spirit is still prowling the earth.

    At the worst, he may have been reanimated. I think it was Hunter Thompson who suggested many years ago that Nixon should be dug up every year so that we could make sure that he was still dead.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Murray Strikes Again:

    Friday, February 03, 2006
    The special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, Patrick Fitzgerald, has indicated in correspondence unsealed in federal court in recent days that President Bush might have been briefed regarding former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s February 2002 CIA-sponsored mission to Niger during regular morning intelligence briefing. [continues …]

  21. Bill Arney says:

    Emptywheel is onto something, and it reminds me of a recent comment by Harry Reid:

    â€Asking the Republicans to clean up Washington is like asking John Gotti to clean up organized crime.â€

    Or words to that effect. And Harry Reid should know. He cleaned up Las Vegas.

    The real issue here is that the Republican Party has become a criminal organization. That’s why all the scandals seem to merge. That’s why the Nixonians in the white house are up to the same old tricks. That’s why Reagan is touted as a great president and all his flunkies are still around, mixing with the Nixonians and the Bushies in the same conspiratorial gutter.

    As the minority party, these guys realized a long time ago that their only shot at power was going to be the acquisition of large sums of campaign cash from a relatively small number of contributors. That means big corporations. Once they climbed into bed with organizations with no motive but profit, the fix was in.

    Another arm of this, which has only recently come into being, is media manipulation. This was achieved by deregulation of the media industry. That way, those same few corporate giants could gain control over media outlets–on a large scale. So now, instead of a bunch of competing media entities fighting for scoops on big stories, we have a bunch of outlets all controlled by a few big corporations. They no longer compete. They just all regurgitate the same propoganda.

    In exchange for their support of the Republican crime family, the corporations get favorable legislation. So the Fourth Estate has been largely shut down–silenced. And that’s why these internet sites are the last bastion of the truth. The trouble is that the average tax payer does not have the time to go surfing on a regular basis. They are too busy feeding and clothing their families. They buy the â€Reagan destroyed the commies†act because they want to believe it, and nobody is telling them otherwise. It’s lies like that which hold up the veil of legitimacy for the Republican Crime Family, which is what we should start calling them.

    And so it should surprise none of us that the Republican congressional leadership elects another K Street crony to replace their other K Street crony. These guys are not interested in reform. They are only interested in the appearance of reform, so they can cover their criminal enterprises with a veil. That’s why it was so important for them to NOT elect Blunt. They needed the appearance of a rejection of Abramoff, but not a rejection of what he stands for. Hell, that’s their bread and butter. They cannot clean up. If they did, they’d be the minority party forever. Who in America is going to vote for the guys who want to kill Social Security?

    At this point, they have the Supreme Court looking like Al Capone’s Chicago. They sacrafice guys like Libby because he’s the cover for Cheney, and they all know that. In the end, Libby will draw a presidential pardon, so who cares?

    We’d have to elect Fitzgerald as president, or at least elect a president who would make him Attorney General with a mandate to prosecute all the Republican criminals and send them to prison. Then we would have to close down the minimum â€Club Fed†prisons so that these bastards would have to do hard time next to Bubba the bank robber. I wish I knew how to do that, but I don’t. The best thing the Republican Crime Family has going for it is the lilly-livered Democrats.

  22. Anonymous says:


    Wow, great comment (and thanks to all of you who have commented on the content of whatever it is I wrote before I got distracted by Plame and Football).

    Yeah, the media is the big one. Remember before Reagan did away with balanced time? And when I wrote that, I was very conscious of the fact that they did it by selling our airwaves, but of late they’re even breaking the laws on their media issues–both on the Plame affair and the paid propaganda.

  23. Kathryn in MA says:

    Wouldn’t it be brilliant to get Jaworski himself to deliver the explanation on a talk show.

  24. Kathryn in MA says:

    Wouldn’t it be brilliant to get Jaworski himself to deliver the explanation on a talk show.

  25. shep says:

    You’re right. This Republican oligarchy has produced nothing less than a sh*tstorm of scandal (one reason – in addition to being scared stupid by 9/11 – it’s been hard for any one of them to gain traction in the public mind).

    But you left out the greatest scandal of all. The incessant lying to the public about everything from their intentions about the job (“I’m going to invade and occupy an Arab country in the Middles East, bankrupt the US treasury for a generation and dismantle the social safety net – vote for me!â€), to why they’re doing what they’re doing, to covering up what they’ve already done. God, are we so damned cynical that lying by public officials just doesn’t seem that important any more?

  26. Anonymous says:


    If there’s no blow job, the lie just isnt’ that interesting??

    Trust me, I’ll get to the war in this series. But like I said, they’re not discrete scandals, they’re interrelated plans.

  27. tjschill says:

    I have long agreed with the point that the Wheel makes so eloquently, and convincingly: the public will gravitate to the Impeachment solution, only if and WHEN the facts and evidence lead them there… the hard left’s rally cry for Impeachment only makes it more difficult for the public to get there on their own, because they will have to overcome the â€perception†that it is a draconian partisan snipe-fest.

  28. Ursa says:

    Interesting thread, and great site,
    However, it seems that you are all ignoring the elephant in the room; our supposed ally, Israel. The zionist faction is simply too big a part of all this (Iran-Contra’s arms-to-iran component was at least partially israel’s idea, and they profited. Ditto Abramoff-inner city kid’s charity donations sent to occupied palestine for night vision goggles, etc. for settler snipers? I probably am risking the anti-semetic label, but hey-look at the players, and the facts…amerika’s cozy relationship with israel. and one-sided (Condisleezy came out and said our foriegn policy wasâ€Israel-centric†in a rare moment of candor. Many Jews are opposed to Zionism, btw.