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Where’s The Outrage Over The Outrage?

This-is-an-outrage

Kevin Drum:

The White House, says the LA Times for the third straight day, is facing “growing fury” over L’Affaire Bergdahl. How many times have I read a headline like this over the past few years. Dozens? Hundreds?

Hard to say. But it sure seems to be the defining quality of American politics these days. We just bounce from one outrage to the next, mostly ginned up by the right, but sometimes by the left too. It’s a wonder that America hasn’t dropped dead of a collective heart attack yet.

Has it always been this way? Maybe. It’s not as if we lacked for partisan outrages in the 50s and 60s. But I’d sure like to hear from folks who have a good memory for those years. Was the procession of outrages really as nonstop as it is today? Did we at least take a break between outrages back then? Or has nothing changed except our exposure to this stuff thanks to Twitter and 24-hour cable news?

Kevin’s a few years older than me, so I can’t answer his question from personal experience. Certainly, from my reading of history, we’ve had periods of much greater polarity. But at least then, the issues in contention were more serious. As I noted back in 2007, building off a conversation with Duncan “Atrios” Black and Ezra Klein,

Several times a week, there is the Outrage of the Day that every major blog is expected to weigh in on and denounce the other side for its awful hypocrisy while defending essentially the same conduct from our own.

It’s a sure-fire way to garner traffic but it generally bores me to tears.

Subsequently, I created a tongue-in-cheek “Outrage of the Day” tag for these stories. Eventually, even chronicling and debunking these stories started boring me to tears and I’ve largely quit.

As to Kevin’s second question, it’s long been my contention that the modern communications environment—24 hour cable news, talk radio, blogs, Twitter, etc.—is a major contributing factor to the phenomenon rather than spreading it. In the old days, we had election cycles and accompanying “silly seasons” in which politicians and the talking heads would say stupid things to emphasize the differences between parties and candidates who were, in the global scheme of things, remarkably similar. But, once the elections were over, there was a respite. Presidents got “honeymoons” in which to exercise their alleged governing mandate and talking heads, and especially the ideological intellectuals, got back to trying to solve real problems.

With the rise of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, things began to change. The confluence of an outrage machine and the presidency of Bill Clinton, a man who frequently did outrageous things by the standards of a bygone era, give rise to an atmosphere in which those in the fever swamps not only helped drive the news but had their views validated. Blogs and later Twitter—and Politico, and Buzzfeed, and all manner of news-like sites that depended on controversy and clickbait to stay in business—got us to the point where the “silly season” of campaigning never ended.

Indeed, from an ordinary consumer of information’s standpoint, it’s much worse now. In the halcyon days of yore (say, 1988)  even those of us who were voracious consumers of political coverage watched 30 minutes of national/international news a night, consumed a single daily newspaper, watched two or three weekly talking heads shows (mostly on Sundays), and read a weekly news magazine, and maybe a biweekly political  magazine such as The New Republic or National Review.  That meant a lot of time in between exposure to politics at all and tended to concentrate that exposure to the most salient stories of the day or week.

There’s not much to be done about this, other than perhaps unplugging more frequently. I’m happy to have the Internet and the ability to read as much as I want from all of the national newspapers, magazines, and the essentially limitless mass of good content out there. I’m glad that the likes of Kevin Drum, Dave Schuler, Jim Henley and countless others who would never have had a platform in the old days can engage in a national conversation.

But the incentives are to crank out as much controversial content as possible and do so continuously. I did it myself for years. Granted, my inclination has generally been to try to put things into perspective, noting that the Outrage of the Day isn’t really all that outrageous in a historical context. But that approach is both harder work and less conducive to driving traffic.

As for myself, I’ve simply become tired of it. The faux daily outrages are so obviously manufactured as to be uninteresting. And the real outrages—notably a Congress that stopped doing its job years ago and presidents routinely flouting the law—have become so routine that they’re either unremarkable or get lumped in with the faux outrages when someone notices.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Tyrell says:

    Just as bad is the “breaking news” line that shows up on many news channels now. It turns out that it is not breaking, and it is not news.
    These news channels have become more entertainment than real news.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Similar to the use of blue language, continuous outrage just demonstrates limited expressive capability. When everything is shouted, it all becomes mere white noise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  3. steve says:

    No, it was not this bad in the past. The media have made it worse. I have belonged to an email discussion group with a bunch of conservative/Tea Party guys for several years. They always send along the outrage of the day. Some liberal says something stupid, so all liberals are libtards. Some liberal commits a crime, so all liberals are crooks. The “latest” conspiracy theories are always passed along. (I have to scare quote the latest since they are often old ones being recirculated. Snopes is your friend.) The very latest I got was a screed about Obama chewing gum. Yup, you did not misread that.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  4. Tillman says:

    @steve:

    The very latest I got was a screed about Obama chewing gum. Yup, you did not misread that.

    If it wasn’t Trident™ Layers Wild Strawberry & Lime, it was worthy of the outrage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. Rafer Janders says:

    The confluence of an outrage machine and the presidency of Bill Clinton, a man who frequently did outrageous things by the standards of a bygone era,

    Bull.

    Seriously, bull. Name the “outrageous things” that President Clinton did that were supposedly so much more outrageous than actions by previous presidents.

    And keep in mind that we all know about Reagan’s arms deals with terrorists and support for fascist regimes, and Richard Nixon running a criminal enterprise out of the Oval Office, and the mistresses that Bush I, Kennedy, Eisenhower and Roosevelt had, and Vietnam, and multiple presidents orchestrating coups against foreign democratic regimes, etc. etc.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 2

  6. Tillman says:

    My understanding of the past leads me to believe that this isn’t new, the amount of outrage, but that we see more of it because of 24/7 cable news and the Internet. But I think exposure to high levels of outrage have made people think that something isn’t worthy of the emotion unless it is somehow the worst offense against civic dignity ever, so they use increasingly hyperbolic language to describe increasingly trivial issues. They also form impressions of something in the first 24 hours instead of judging slowly, and they end up decrying something as scandalous when later, sober judgment determines it isn’t. Which leads to a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” effect. (Rule of Threes.) This has a nice side effect of separated the wheat from the chaff: the people who can maintain a desirable level of acrimony turn into party activists, while those who can’t meander off into apathy and either stop voting or just tune out.

    I don’t think the issues of the past were more serious than the ones facing us now (much like I don’t think the good ol’ days were that good), but the minutiae of our issues is definitely used in every partisan mudsling as something to get worked up over.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. Tillman says:

    @Rafer Janders: “The standards of a bygone era” I think is the operative phrase here. Didn’t Bill Clinton play saxophone on national television? You just didn’t do that in the prim and proper bygone days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. John Burgess says:

    I think the outrage machine significantly pre-dates Limbaugh and FOX News. I recall “Ramparts” and Izzy Stone and Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell doing bang-up jobs in stirring the public pot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. rudderpedals says:

    The confluence of an outrage machine and the presidency of Bill Clinton, a man who frequently did outrageous things by the standards of a bygone era,

    It wasn’t Clinton who puked on the Japanese PM, James.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  10. Rafer Janders says:

    @John Burgess:

    “The standards of a bygone era” I think is the operative phrase here.

    Yeah, it’s a meaningless “get out of jail free” rhetorical card deployed by James in case anyone calls him out on his lazy and thoughtless BS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  11. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: Clinton blatantly dodged the draft. He had a series of extramarital affairs while in office and used public employees to help procure women. He perjured himself in a case that the Supreme Court unanimously ordered go forward. These were serious transgressions that would have been disqualifying from office even a decade earlier. His presidency marked a turning point in what was acceptable behavior and lots of us found it genuinely outrageous.

    Did any of that compare to Watergate? No. But Nixon was forced out of office.

    @rudderpedals: I’m not sure what that has to do with anything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 10

  12. James Pearce says:

    Not an outrage: Criticism of Bill Clinton.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. michael reynolds says:

    I’ll give you one from “my” side of the battle: MSNBC and the Chris Christie Bridge Atrocity. Rachel Maddow – a very smart woman, really — treated it like Watergate. Day after day. Tedious lecture after tedious lecture. Rant after rant. On and on and on.

    It was a little bit of political payback. In New Jersey, for Christ’s sake, where such things are not exactly unknown. What Christie did wasn’t nice, it was a bit juvenile, it was petty, but it wasn’t making his opponents into sausage at Satriale’s.

    My MSNBC consumption has been dropping steadily since Olbermann left, and the Great Jersey Bridge Horror finished me off. I will occasionally listen to Chris Matthews in the car if BBC is doing soccer and if I’ve already heard whatever’s on Howard Stern, but other than that, just no. I don’t want to be in a constant state of rage, most liberals don’t, it’s a feature of a certain type of liberal, but not what the great majority of us enjoy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Clinton blatantly dodged the draft.

    As did Bush, Cheney, Gingrich and a host of others, none of whom you’ve complained about. And unlike those men, Clinton opposed the war. There’s nothing wrong with avoiding service in Vietnam.

    He had a series of extramarital affairs while in office and used public employees to help procure women.

    So…just like Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Bush I? Considering that many, many presidents had done the same, many within living memory, this is hardly an “outrageous things by the standard of a bygone era.”

    He perjured himself in a case that the Supreme Court unanimously ordered go forward.

    Oh my god, the man lied about having an affair! Something no man has ever done before!

    These were serious transgressions that would have been disqualifying from office even a decade earlier.

    Unlike, say, breaking into your opponent’s offices and then orchestrating a criminal cover-up of the breakdown via intimidation, bribery and stonewalling, or compiling a list of Jews in government, or breaking into a political opponents’ psychiatrists office to steal his confidential medical files, or using the IRS against one’s political enemies, or selling weapons to a terrorist regime in order to fund a terrorist army, or overthrowing democratically elected governments in Iran, Guatemala and Chile, or propping up fascist regimes in Chile, El Salvador, South Africa, the Philippines and Haiti with arms, money and diplomatic support.

    Nope, none of those are disqualifying for office, apparently. But let someone lie about sex, and well, I never! Pass me the smelling salts, dear!

    I think we can all see James’ lack of a proper moral compass, and his rather, um, selective outrage, quite clearly here.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 7

  15. Slugger says:

    There does appear to be a race to be more outraged than the last guy. I am just getting over the shocking, shocking! revelation that we redeemed a captive American soldier whose father has a beard!!!
    There are dangers in this. One is that our attention span is shorter and shorter. We can’t expect any progress on Israel-Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Ukraine, or Syria if we keep drifting from outrage about bombing/not bombing somewhere. This also leads us to ignore strife in Africa or Venezuela or lots of places because we are being yelled at about…I interrupt this note to report that no airplane has been found in the Indian Ocean.
    The second danger is that it is clear a disincentive to public office. I certainly would not take any important government job for fear that some candidate for the House and a guy with a camera/blog would try to make their bones by hanging me out to dry. Who would take the job of VA director now? The pay is less than a tenth of comparable positions in industry, and the scrutiny is a thousand times as much.
    Alcohol, gambling, and outrage are good in controlled doses. We all need a national Outrage Anonymous. Hi, I am America, and I am outraged.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    James, your objections to Clinton seem to come down to two things: (i) he didn’t happily go to Vietnam, and (ii) he had an affair and lied about it.

    Now, given that:

    (i) also applies to many politicians you actively supported such as Bush and Cheney (and whom you supported against men such as Gore and Kerry who actually volunteered for and served in Vietnam), and

    (ii) that many other presidents had affairs and lied about them,

    you have yet to demonstrate why Clinton, of all presidents, was supposedly guilty of “outrageous” acts.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    His presidency marked a turning point in what was acceptable behavior and lots of us found it genuinely outrageous.

    No, a lot of you found it not genuinely outrageous, but chose to be selectively outraged because you were hypocrites who were looking for any excuse.

    Seriously, if you didn’t consider Watergate or Iran-Contra or the Allende coup to be “a turning point in acceptable behavior” but chose to be “genuinely outraged” by the Lewinsky affair, then you’re nothing but a hypocrite with a rather shaky and dishonorable moral sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  18. michael reynolds says:

    Clinton’s outrage was getting caught. All the way through WW2 the sainted Eisenhower was banging an enlisted woman directly under his command.

    Now, we can either blame “the media” for the outrage over the first and the shrugging off of the second, or we could grow the hell up and stop demanding that our leaders be simon pure. We are the outrage machine.

    The only two “scandals” I’ve seen in the years I’ve been following politics that I cared a damn about were Watergate and Iran-Contra. Of those, only Watergate was worthy of impeachment, and then only because Nixon just kept digging that hole deeper. The rest of it – Whitewater through Bush’s draft dodging – was meh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  19. Barfour says:

    Speaking of outrages, I remember some people being outraged because Tiger Woods wasn’t outraged that a golf club didin’t allow women to be members.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. ralphb says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The only two “scandals” I’ve seen in the years I’ve been following politics that I cared a damn about were Watergate and Iran-Contra. Of those, only Watergate was worthy of impeachment,

    Oh hell no, Iran-Contra was definitely worthy of impeachment. with no question about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  21. DrDaveT says:

    @Tillman:

    I don’t think the issues of the past were more serious than the ones facing us now

    Perhaps, but I think we did a better job of recognizing the serious ones. During the McCarthy era, everyone (on both sides of the issue) knew that it was the most important issue. During the Vietnam War, everyone (on all sides of the issues) knew that it was the most important thing.

    What’s the most important issue today? I have my own opinions, but the things I think are most important are drowned out in a never-ending torrent of the relatively trivial.

    Here’s one small example — as part of a discussion in a different thread here, I tried to look up the current state of contamination, health risk, and scientific consensus forecast on the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster. It was astonishingly difficult to find anything — apparently that event has already had its 15 minutes of fame, except among a collection of polarized axe-grinders. And yet, clearly, it is important right now, not only to the Japanese, but to policy-makers around the world (and possibly neighbors of Japan).

    I object to the entire concept embodied in the word “News”. I want to hear about the Currently Important, not the New.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. Tillman says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Clinton’s outrage was getting caught.

    It wasn’t outrageous to do the things Clinton did in a bygone era, it was outrageous to have them exposed to the public.

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  23. Ron Beasley says:

    I think the 24/7 cable news outlets do have a lot to do with it – the requirement for eyeballs to make a buck. And let’s be honest Rupert Murdoch is basically a tabloid journalist who is primarily interested in making money. For the FOX news model he carefully chose a demographic that is more likely to watch TV.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  24. Ron Beasley says:

    @Tillman: You are certainly correct. Everyone knew that FDR, Eisenhower and Kennedy had a mistress or in Kennedy’s case multiple mistresses but no body talked about it. The LBJ White House tapes show he was hitting on Jackie Kennedy shortly after Jack’s assassination. Nixon may have grown up a Puritan but he was also a drunk. But none of this was discussed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  25. Pinky says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Everyone knew that FDR, Eisenhower and Kennedy had a mistress or in Kennedy’s case multiple mistresses but no body talked about it.

    Everyone knows those things now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  26. @Rafer Janders:

    Unlike, say, breaking into your opponent’s offices and then orchestrating a criminal cover-up of the breakdown via intimidation, bribery and stonewalling, or compiling a list of Jews in government, or breaking into a political opponents’ psychiatrists office to steal his confidential medical files, or using the IRS against one’s political enemies, or selling weapons to a terrorist regime in order to fund a terrorist army, or overthrowing democratically elected governments in Iran, Guatemala and Chile, or propping up fascist regimes in Chile, El Salvador, South Africa, the Philippines and Haiti with arms, money and diplomatic support.

    Don’t forget aiding and abetting genocide: Reagan gave chemical weapons to Iraq and Saddam Hussein, and the Reagan administration insured that nothing happened to Iraq diplomatically when those weapons were used to murder thousands of Kurdish civilians.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  27. Ron Beasley says:

    @Pinky: Everyone who was in a position to report about it knew it as the time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  28. Moderate Mom says:

    @Tillman: Boxers or briefs?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pinky:

    Everyone knows those things now.

    Nope, everyone also knew those things in the Nineties, when James was supposedly so “genuinely outraged” about Clinton’s affair. We all knew at the time about, say, FDR’s and Eisenhower’s mistresses, but somehow in their cases James didn’t think it disqualifying for office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  30. Gustopher says:

    The Outrage Du Jour really started with the right wing talk radio, and Rush Limbaugh specifically. There was a lot of airtime that needed to be filled, and he filled it with bile.

    I believe Al Franken said it best: Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat idiot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  31. Rafer Janders says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    Don’t forget aiding and abetting genocide: Reagan gave chemical weapons to Iraq and Saddam Hussein, and the Reagan administration insured that nothing happened to Iraq diplomatically when those weapons were used to murder thousands of Kurdish civilians.

    And which James did not consider a genuinely outrageous turning point in acceptable behavior.

    But oral sex between consenting adults? Outrage! Outrage!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  32. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Did any of that compare to Watergate? No. But Nixon was forced out of office.

    And this is just an Alice In Wonderland level of bizarre rationalization. James concedes that none of Clintons’ behavior compared to Watergate, and yet Clinton’s behavior was supposedly “a turning point in acceptable behavior” that was “genuinely outrageous by the standards of a bygone era.” That is to say, he himself concedes it was nowhere near as bad as Watergate while simultaneously claiming that it was a turning point and more outrageous than Watergate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  33. michael reynolds says:

    What I ask of a president is that he be able to manage foreign policy, stay on the right side of the Constitution and not actively screw up the economy. This eliminates 90% of the human race. I wouldn’t be able to pass that test.

    But he’s also got to be willing to endure the two year-long hazing ritual that is a campaign. A weird masochism/narcissism complex is required. So we’re down to maybe 1% of the human race who might conceivably qualify.

    Then we decide he has to be sober, drug-free, religiously devout and faithful. And this leaves us with 0.000001% of the human race from which to choose our leader.

    Not a single great American president from history could pass through the eye of that needle. Not Washington, Lincoln, TR, FDR, Ike. . . None shall pass that absurd test. We’ve created a system where 100% of presidents will be defined as lacking. The media doesn’t do that, we do that.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  34. @Rafer Janders:

    Don’t forget aiding and abetting genocide: Reagan gave chemical weapons to Iraq and Saddam Hussein

    No, the Reagan administration approved the export of common industrial chemicals to Iraq that were used to make chemical weapons. Given that the same chemicals are also used for things like petroleum refining, assuming a nefarious intent is exactly the sort of fundamental attribution error deployed against Obama so frequently (something bad happened, therefore he must has been deliberately planning for it to happen).

    Reagan certainly has crimes to answer for, most significantly Iran-Contra. We don’t need to make up other ones.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

  35. Rafer Janders says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    While those chemical components did indeed have civilian uses, the Reagan administration knew very well that Saddam was using them to make chemical weapons. It has no plausible deniability and knew very well what Iraq’s aims were. It’s documented very well in this 2002 Washington Post piece by Michael Dobbs:

    http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1230-04.htm

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  36. al-Ameda says:

    @James Joyner:

    Clinton blatantly dodged the draft. He had a series of extramarital affairs while in office and used public employees to help procure women.

    “Clinton blatantly dodged the draft” … for a very unpopular war, nearly a generation before he was elected president. At the very same time, Dick Cheney, later to become the most powerful vice president in our history, blatantly dodged the draft call for Vietnam 5 times. The public has drawn the lines and taken sides with respect to Vietnam, and Clinton was elected twice regardless of that well known fact. Republicans were willing to give Cheney a pass on dodging Vietnam too.

    As for the extramarital affairs and staff procurement stuff – all of that could have been written about JFK.

    My ability to be outraged by any of this is nearly gone, however, my ability to be “outraged” is intact.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @al-Ameda:

    My ability to be outraged by any of this is nearly gone, however, my ability to be “outraged” is intact.

    Yes, James is shocked, shocked! to find adultery going on here….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  38. @Rafer Janders:

    By that logic, Obama’s decision to reduce limits on exports of dual use equipment to Syria in 2010 despite knowing they had a chemical weapon program makes him just as guilty of Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its citizens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  39. Rafer Janders says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Um, no, because there was no ongoing war in Syria in 2010, nor did we foresee one would break out within a year.

    In the 1980s, by contrast, Iraq was engaging in almost daily chemical weapons attacks along the front during its war with Iran, a fact we were well aware of. We sold chemical weapons components to a regime that we knew at the time was actively committing chemical warfare. There’s really no way we can credibly claim that we didn’t know exactly what they intended to do with those materials.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  40. @Stormy Dragon: Reagan not only knowingly gave chemical weapons to Iraq, his administration told Saddam Hussein when and where to use them.

    See also: Riegel Report

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  41. @Timothy Watson:

    Reagan not only knowingly gave chemical weapons

    As I already pointed out, this is not true. We never gave Iraq chemical weapons. We gave them common chemicals that they used to make chemical weapons themselves. If I buy bleach and ammonia at the grocery store and use it to make hydrazine, that doesn’t mean the grocery sold me explosives.

    And since I already pointed this out, this can no longer be categorized as simple ignorance. You’re engaged in a Jenosian style lie to support your preferred political mythology.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: Michael, you forgot “enhanced interrogation” otherwise known as torture.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  43. Another Mike says:

    Bill Clinton was found in contempt by Judge Wright in the Jones v. Clinton case. His Arkansas law license was suspended for five years and he was fined $25,000. Additionally, he was suspended of the practice of law before the Supreme Court. This all took place after the impeachment proceedings had wrapped up. The impeachment was for perjury and for obstruction of justice.

    I remember reading in Spiegel when the Lewinski affair was revealed that the sex thing was a nothing, but the American people would never stand for being lied to. It was obvious to Spiegel that President had flat out lied to us. I remember agreeing with Spiegel’s analysis, but it proved to be wrong. We, the American people, no longer care that the president lies to us.

    We cared that Nixon lied to us, but when Clinton lied, we no longer care. There was a turning point somewhere. In retrospect, if would have been a good thing for the country, if President Clinton would have been removed from office.

    President Obama lies to us all the time. He lies, we know he is lying, and he knows we know he is lying. It is like some kind of game. Nothing is taken seriously anymore.

    Congress no longer takes it job seriously either. It does not even read the bill they are voting on. The bills are unreadable, and everything important is left to the secretary of the department concerned to make law. We are governed by the bureaucracy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 10

  44. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    Clinton blatantly dodged the draft. He had a series of extramarital affairs while in office and used public employees to help procure women. He perjured himself in a case that the Supreme Court unanimously ordered go forward. These were serious transgressions that would have been disqualifying from office even a decade earlier. His presidency marked a turning point in what was acceptable behavior and lots of us found it genuinely outrageous.

    James? That is about the weakest argument I have ever seen you make. @Rafer Janders: already tore it to shreds so I don’t need to pile on but that statement of yours is just a disappointment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  45. @Stormy Dragon: There’s a dual purpose for Bacillus Anthracis (anthrax)?

    But even then the United States, if not its scientific supply houses, had strong and growing reason to know that Hussein was dangerous.

    According to Germs, the authoritative bioweapons book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg and William Broad, a classified study produced by the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center in June 1988 found Iraq “well on its way to building ‘a bacteriological arsenal’ under the cover of legitimate scientific research.”

    The report even noted that the Iraqis were at the time buying bacterial strains from American Type Culture Collection.

    Sales of dual-use technology sanctioned by the Commerce Department should have raised red flags as well, said Motz of Iraq Watch.

    “A number of those sales were going to known entities in Iraq. They sent them to places in Iraq where we knew exactly what they were working on. They were sending to known nuclear entities or known missile entities.”

    And harsher evidence of Hussein’s intentions was not hard to find. Iraq had killed thousands of residents of the northern Iraqi town of Halabja with chemical weapons in March 1988, when the town was held by Iranian forces and Kurdish guerrillas. After initial denials, Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz admitted in July 1988 that Iraq had in fact used chemical weapons.

    None of this was enough to stop the transactions with Iraq. The report of Sen. Riegle’s committee says that on Sept. 29, 1988, American Type Culture Collection shipped 11 items to Iraq’s Ministry of Trade, including four strains of anthrax bacteria.

    “At the time, as nearly as one could construct the thinking,” said Riegle, “the United States was principally focused on Iran as the main problem in that area. And because Iraq and Saddam Hussein were a direct rival and opponent of Iran, the thinking appears to have been in the Reagan-Bush period that they were prepared to help Saddam Hussein because he was in a sense with us against Iran.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  46. socraticsilence says:

    @James Joyner:

    I agree all of that is relatively outrageous (though not by any means unheard of– LBJ and Kennedy for example) but compare it to say Iran-Contra and its petty personal stuff.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  47. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Another Mike: Lying by politicians is nothing new and it is hardly why Nixon had to resign. Name me a time when Presidents didn’t lie to us? Can you name a single President that didn’t?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  48. Ron Beasley says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I tried everything I could to dodge the draft during Vietnam. I failed, Clinton succeed – good for him!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  49. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    We cared that Nixon lied to us, but when Clinton lied, we no longer care. There was a turning point somewhere.

    Could the turning point perhaps have been that Nixon was lying about a criminal conspiracy to subvert the course of American democracy by breaking into his political opponent’s campaign office, and then conducting a campaign of bribery and stonewalling to cover it up, whereas Clinton was lying about a private sexual affair between two consenting adults? Think that could have had something to do with it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  50. Another Mike says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I remember every president since Eisenhower. I was too young to remember Truman. I do not remember presidents lying. It was revealed subsequently that things were lies, but we were never confronted face to face with an outright lie. There were deceptions and such, but no outright lies right to our face. We were not a country of political junkies dissecting
    every bit of information. After Clinton things changed. Lies are just another tool in the presidential toolbox. The whole character of the presidency has changed. President Obama has taken it to a whole new level of unseriousness.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 12

  51. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    I do not remember presidents lying. It was revealed subsequently that things were lies, but we were never confronted face to face with an outright lie. There were deceptions and such, but no outright lies right to our face.

    Total BS. Just to take a few examples, LBJ, Nixon and Ford frequently went on TV, stared straight into the camera, and uttered lie after bold-faced lie about the war in Vietnam, Nixon lied repeatedly about his involvement in Watergate, and Reagan was completely deceptive about Iran-Contra.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  52. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    President Obama has taken it to a whole new level of unseriousness.

    My Pet Goat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  53. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    President Obama has taken it to a whole new level of unseriousness.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-450787/Dancing-Bush-beaten-bongos.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  54. Orange says:

    Perhaps what has contributed to this situation in the last 50 years has been the potential for the world to be coming to an end and we not even be aware of it. This has given news an even greater sense of urgency than it probably deserved. :-)

    Probably propaganda by using the standard news channels also contributed to this sense of urgency. As though there was always some gaming going on.

    We may also give some credit to the competition among the different medias and channels, including the internet. We can see for instance that on some YouTube videos their default image is one of a semi-nude woman that doesn’t even appear on the video when you play it. We are lured by the media and they are not ashamed to explore it to their advantage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  55. Pinky says:

    @Another Mike: I think there were three moments. When Nixon lied and everyone was offended. When Clinton lied and he was just so good at it you almost had to cheer him. And when Obama lies because he knows everyone will accept it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  56. sam says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Similar to the use of blue language, continuous outrage just demonstrates limited expressive capability.

    Unless you’re the inimitable Malcom Tucker.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  57. Todd says:

    I think the last line of James’ article is the most interesting, especially as it relates to the President. It seems obvious to me that one of the main reasons Conservatives can’t get any of the “scandals” to stick … even when something potentially scandalous does happen, is precisely because of the outrage machine. Personally, I just tune it all out … my attitude to most of my ideologically addicted friends (both right and left) is something along the lines of “oh, what are you pissed off about today?” … and then I really don’t care what that something actually is … because it’s probably just hyped up BS anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  58. An Interested Party says:

    We cared that Nixon lied to us, but when Clinton lied, we no longer care. There was a turning point somewhere. In retrospect, if would have been a good thing for the country, if President Clinton would have been removed from office.

    President Obama lies to us all the time. He lies, we know he is lying, and he knows we know he is lying. It is like some kind of game. Nothing is taken seriously anymore.

    What is this incredible naïveté? Someone please roll out the fainting couch for this person! If he seriously thinks that the first 32 presidents of this country were somehow pure as the driven snow and the current president is in some way a master of duplicity far greater than any of his predecessors, well, he might want to seek some medical attention for his mental health…or simply consult a history textbook…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

  59. Jim says:

    @John Burgess:

    You forgot Joe Pyne http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Pine.

    Izzy Stone and company surely tried to stir the pot, but outside of DC, Cambridge and Manhattan, few, maybe 100’s knew who he was and Ramparts had a subscription list of what 1000’s? Today outrageous blog posts become memes among the fellow travelers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  60. al-Ameda says:

    @Another Mike:

    We cared that Nixon lied to us, but when Clinton lied, we no longer care. There was a turning point somewhere. In retrospect, if would have been a good thing for the country, if President Clinton would have been removed from office.

    President Obama lies to us all the time. He lies, we know he is lying, and he knows we know he is lying. It is like some kind of game. Nothing is taken seriously anymore.

    So, a lie by a president is a lie is a lie is a lie? It’s all the same?
    Perhaps it’s just me, but lying about adultery is NOT quite the same as lying about authorizing a break in of your political opponent’s offices to obtain information.

    As for the “Obama lies to us all the time,” stuff. Here’s a hint, if you want to be taken seriously, try not to use that blanket conservative media talking point. Try to use “”actual” examples of those so-called lies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0