Over the last 25 years, the GOP has tried to generate phony scandals about prominent Democrats to win elections and discredit Democratic Presidents. The Republicans do this because they know that if the public becomes more aware of its record in office and extreme agenda, they are unlikely to win Presidential elections. As it has turned out, the Democrats have won the popular vote in 5 out of the last 6 elections since the GOP has adopted this strategy.
Between 1968 and 1988, the general GOP election theme was that the Democratic Presidential nominee was too liberal and outside of the mainstream. Since the advent of the right wing media in the early 1990s, the GOP has been pushed pretty far to the right and it’s stands on economic, social and health care issues are simply toxic outside of the hardcore red states. As a result, the GOP has to do everything it can to distract the voters from this difficult reality (for them) and attempt to convince the voters that the Democratic Presidential nominee and President – once elected – is some kind of a crook.
We saw the inception of this new GOP strategy in 1992 and during the Clinton Presidency. The GOP and the mainstream media relentlessly pushed a narrative for over eight years that Bill and Hillary Clinton were unethical and potentially guilty of criminal behavior. Even so-called bastions of the “liberal media” like the New York Times and the Washington Post fell hook, line and sinker for these bogus allegations.
During the Clinton Presidency, no less than three special prosecutors spent $80 million of the taxpayer’s money investigating allegations regarding the travel office firings, Whitewater, the tragic suicide of Vince Foster, the Rose law firm files, the FBI files and Monica Lewinsky. During these investigations we were treated to breathless allegations and speculation that the Clintons were going to be indicted. However, we all learned when Ken Starr issued his salacious report in 1998 that virtually all of these allegations were groundless and Hillary Clinton was never charged with anything.
The GOP has perpetuated this strategy of making false allegations of corruption during the Obama Presidency. They don’t want the voters to remember how they destroyed the economy during the Bush Presidency. The movement conservatives would like the voters to forget that the economy was losing 800,000 jobs per month in December 2008 and that 8 million Americans lost their insurance coverage during the Bush Presidency. They also don’t want you to know that the economy has been creating over 200,000 jobs per month since 2013 and that 16 formerly uninsured Americans are now covered.
Instead, the GOP would prefer that the voters focus on the phony scandals that they have ginned up around the so-called IRS “targeting” controversy and the tragic deaths of four American diplomats at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012. These allegations are reminiscent of what occurred during the Clinton Administration since they are equally groundless.
A recent report by the GOP led Senate Finance committee recently concluded after a two year investigation that there was no wrongdoing in connection with the so-called IRS “targeting” controversy. The report by this committee did not suggest or otherwise prove that any laws were broken by the I.R.S. Moreover, as Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said: “(T)he inquiry had found pure bureaucratic mismanagement without any evidence of political interference. Groups on both sides of the political spectrum were treated equally in their efforts to secure tax-exempt status.”
Another unanimous finding by a GOP controlled Committee concluded that the GOP’s allegations about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012 were largely phony. Shortly after election day 2014, the House Intelligence Committee quietly released a little noticed report that contradicted just about all of the GOP conspiracy theories about Benghazi. This investigation concluded that there was no “stand down” order and no intimidation of witnesses by superiors. Perhaps the most significant finding was that then National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s “talking points” about the cause of the attack were not part of an Obama Administration cover up. Instead, the Committee reported that that: “(T)he process that produced Rice’s s talking points was flawed, resulting in errors rather than deliberate lies. “
One of the many reasons for the GOP and right wing media’s obsession with Benghazi is that is also part of an effort to discredit former Secretary of State and current Presidential front runner Hillary Clinton. One of the things that isn’t mentioned by the GOP or the mainstream media is that the House Republicans voted to cut funding for embassy security after they regained control of the House in the 2010 elections. Well before the attack in Benghazi, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the Republican cuts to the State Department budget, warning they “will be detrimental to America’s national security.”
The effort to diminish Clinton’s front runner status by the GOP has now extended into a bogus controversy about Clinton’s decision to use a private email server while she was Secretary of State. Clinton’s use of a private email server as Secretary of State was legal and permissible under the State Department regulations during President Obama’s first term. (Moreover, Colin Powell used a private email account when he served as Secretary of State during George W. Bush’s first term.)
Clinton chose to use a private email server because the State Department email account outside the building involved what one State Department official termed: “incredibly unreliable software.” As one former senior official told the New York Times: “If you had to write a priority message that was more than a paragraph long, it could leave you streaming sweat and screaming at the screen. And that’s when people would turn to their private accounts out of desperation.”
Currently, this controversy regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server is proving to be every bit as groundless as all of the other phony “scandals” ginned up by the GOP over the last 25 years. At this point in time, any security breaches are pure speculation. In any event, even if this controversy comes down to a a security issue, and the concern that Clinton put classified information in jeopardy by going outside the State Department’s classified email system, the Associated Press recently reported that there was no real difference between the department’s system and her home server: “Neither would have been secure from hackers or foreign intelligence agencies, so it would be equally problematic whether classified information was carried over the government system or a private server, experts say.”
Despite all of the scary headlines coming out of both the mainstream and right wing media, law enforcement officials speaking on background to the New York Times have said that the former Secretary of State is not a target of any investigations, and there is no proof that her private email account was hacked. There has also been no evidence that she broke any laws, and many experts are of the opinion that the occasional appearance of classified information in her account was probably of marginal consequence. In addition, several knowledgeable attorneys have contended that this “scandal” is over blown. These lawyers told David Ignatius of the Washington Post that this is not something a prosecutor would take to court.
Despite all of these groundless allegations regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server, she still holds a lead outside of the margin of error over her Republican opponents. Depending upon what poll you look at and what candidate you look at, Clinton’s lead over any potential Republican nominee is anywhere from four to eight percentage points. In other words, if the election were today, Clinton would win by a marginal similar to President Obama’s in the Presidential elections of 2008 and 2012.
The Republicans will continue to pursue this phony scandal narrative until Election Day 2016 and even after that – if a Democrat is elected President. The GOP doesn’t want an election comparing the visions and platforms of the respective parties. Just about every Republican candidate has come out in favor of largely exempting the wealthy from all federal taxation, Social Security privatization, turning Medicare into a voucher program and sending U.S. troops back to the Middle East. The last thing the GOP wants is for the election to be about real issues.
As Democrats, we can’t be fooled or alarmed by these GOP allegations. We’ve been seeing this game plan since 1992 and it has always turned out to be false and not grounded in reality. We need to keep the focus on the issues and the GOP’s record in office. If we can do that, we will win the 2016 elections.