Tuesday, June 11, 2013

For Pen, and for Peggy Noonan: We need a second Godwin's Law for Watergate

I hereby inaugurate the Penigma law.

Peggy Noonan did something stupid, one of a number of stupid mistakes she has made; it was a glaring and embarrassing mistake.  Noonan's big claim to fame is she wrote speeches for right wing secular saint Ronnie Ray-gun when he was in the White House. She now mostly recycles the same old tired right wing kant and slant, primarily for the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal.

This appalling gaffe that I reference is Noonan's claim in the WSJ that the Obama scandal - specifically with the IRS, a non-scandal - is the WORST THING SINCE WATERGATE. Serious critics like the Columbia Journalism Review lampooned Noonan:
We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate.
That’s Peggy Noonan today in The Wall Street Journal, and no, she will not be laughed out of Washington. There are papers to sell and clicks to harvest. Forget about the fact that there’s zero evidence of any White House involvement in the IRS flagging Tea Party groups, and forget about past scandals like Iran-Contra, the Iraq War, the US Attorneys, and Bill Clinton lying under oath about hooking up with an intern.
As I wrote yesterday, it’s hard to get too worked up about Tea Party applicants getting flagged when journalism startups got the same treatment—and the nonprofit-news applicants had a much better case for approval than Tea Party groups.
But Noonan also alleges that the IRS, under the White House’s direction, targeted individual conservative activists with tax audits....
Noonan then goes on to further over-reach, one of a couple of variations that try to make something out of nothing.  In fact, none of the so-called scandals that the right has tried to gin up into something has risen to the standard of a genuine presidential scandal.

Frankly, I've been waiting for a real scandal.  Sooner or later even the best presidents have some major embarrassment occur in the course of presiding over the executive branch of a country this big and complex. So far, Obama has been amazingly, relatively scandal free, other than a few minor hiccups as scandals are measured.  Benghazi was a tragedy, but ONLY four people died, and the right mostly wants to hang that on Hillary. Solyndra was a minor failure in a series of investments that were successful.

Comparisons to Hitler have been laughed at so often now, reduced to crap, courtesy of Godwin's law, tha they aren't taken seriously.  So now we have equally bogus comparisons to WATERGATE. Because, hey, out of their MANY scandals when they were in power, the right is willing to throw Tricky Dicky under the bus for the cause of ripping Obama.  And sometimes they'll throw Dubya under the bus too.

But let us first look at the reality of REAGAN scandals and the ACTUAL Nixon scandals.  Tricky Dicky got busted over Watergate because J. Edgar Hoover refused to do any MORE of his political dirty work. Yup, Nixon used the FBI for political purposes.  As a result of having to find and use his own 'talent' for Watergate, forty three people were tried and convicted and went to jail, dozens of them top Nixon people, and then Nixon resigned.

It's not Hitler, but that's pretty bad.

But, SHOULD this be the benchmark of bad for a presidential scandal? I would argue that something else Nixon did was actually much worse that Watergate; but Nixon never got busted with it while alive.  That worst event was actual treason relating to the Vietnam war, resulting in HUGE numbers of American dead, and injured, and forever scarred inside and out.

From the BBC News:

...if it had been known at the time, would have sunk the candidacy of Republican presidential nominee, Richard Nixon.
By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks - or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had "blood on his hands".
The BBC's former Washington correspondent Charles Wheeler learned of this in 1994 and conducted a series of interviews with key Johnson staff, such as defence secretary Clark Clifford, and national security adviser Walt Rostow.

It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign.
He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser.
At a July meeting in Nixon's New York apartment, the South Vietnamese ambassador was told Chennault represented Nixon and spoke for the campaign. If any message needed to be passed to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, it would come via Chennault.
In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris - concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.
The US delegation, left, and North Vietnamese delegation at Paris peace talks The Paris peace talks may have ended years earlier, if it had not been for Nixon's subterfuge
Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.
So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out.
He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador's phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault's calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to "just hang on through election".
Johnson was told by Defence Secretary Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace.
President Nixon in 1970 with a map of Vietnam Nixon went on to become president and eventually signed a Vietnam peace deal in 1973.
In a series of remarkable White House recordings we can hear Johnson's reaction to the news.
In one call to Senator Richard Russell he says: "We have found that our friend, the Republican nominee, our California friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends both, he has been doing it through rather subterranean sources. Mrs Chennault is warning the South Vietnamese not to get pulled into this Johnson move."

Nixon ended his campaign by suggesting the administration war policy was in shambles. They couldn't even get the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table.
He won by less than 1% of the popular vote.
Specifically, Nixon beat Humphrey by some 500,000 votes, a little over half a million. And a lot of people died in the intervening years between 1968 and when we finally got out of Vietnam some six years later.

And as for Ms. Noonan, and the Reagan presidency? Hello? Remember Iran Contra?
Here is a list of people indicted for Iran Contra - many of them subsequently pardoned by the first Bush president, and later incorporated into his administration by Dubya.

There is NOTHING that resembles a scandal in the Obama administration that has resulted in this kind of indictments or convictions:


  • Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, was indicted on two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice on June 16, 1992. [1]. Weinberger received a pardon from George H. W. Bush on December 24, 1992 before he was tried.[70]
  • William Casey, Head of the CIA. Thought to have conceived the plan, was stricken ill hours before he would testify. Reporter Bob Woodward reported Casey knew of and approved the plan.[71]
  • Robert C. McFarlane, National Security Adviser, convicted of withholding evidence, but after a plea bargain was given only 2 years probation. Later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush[72]
  • Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State, convicted of withholding evidence, but after a plea bargain was given only 2 years probation. Later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush[73] http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/summpros.htm.
  • Alan D. Fiers Chief of the CIA's Central American Task Force, convicted of withholding evidence and sentenced to one year probation. Later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush
  • Clair George Chief of Covert Ops-CIA, convicted on 2 charges of perjury, but pardoned by President George H. W. Bush before sentencing.[74]
  • Oliver North, member of the National Security Council convicted of accepting an illegal gratuity, obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents, but the ruling was overturned since he had been granted immunity.[75]
  • Fawn Hall, Oliver North's secretary was given immunity from prosecution on charges of conspiracy and destroying documents in exchange for her testimony.[76]
  • Jonathan Scott Royster Liaison to Oliver North was given immunity from prosecution on charges of conspiracy and destroying documents in exchange for his testimony.[77]
  • John Poindexter National Security Advisor, convicted of 5 counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury, defrauding the government, and the alteration and destruction of evidence. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that overturned these convictions.[78]
  • Duane Clarridge An ex-CIA senior official, he was indicted in November 1991 on 7 counts of perjury and false statements relating to a November 1985 shipment to Iran. Pardoned before trial by President George H. W. Bush.[79][80]
  • Richard V. Secord Ex-major general in the Air Force who organized the Iran arms sales and Contra aid. He pleaded guilty in November 1989 to making false statements to Congress. Sentenced to two years of probation.[81][82]
  • Albert Hakim A businessman, he pleaded guilty in November 1989 to supplementing the salary of North by buying a $13,800 fence for North with money from "the Enterprise", which was a set of foreign companies Hakim used in Iran-Contra. In addition, Swiss company Lake Resources Inc., used for storing money from arms sales to Iran to give to the Contras, plead guilty to stealing government property.[83] Hakim was given two years of probation and a $5,000 fine, while Lake Resources Inc. was ordered to dissolve.[8
Sees to me we should be using the Iran Contra scandal AND the Nixon treason as the better comparisons for how we measure the competency and the integrity of presidential administrations.  The Obama administration has NOTHING that compares unfavorably to the Nixon, Reagan, or two Bush administrations in scandals.

Peggy Noonan should shut up, until and unless she has something of value to say; she is polluting the political discourse of this nation with crap.  And seriously, I propose we make a new equivalency to Godwin's law; let's call it the Penigma law, that describes the crap involved when the right wing media machine starts bloviating on and on and on about comparisons to Watergate that are invalid. 

I'll reserve the official status of a "Dee Gee's law" for bogus claims of presidential treason, which should be compared to Nixon's conduct, more obscure, but worse than Watergate.

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