Ringside Seat: Georgia on Their Mind, Causing an Epic Migraine

In the last couple of days, there have been a number of articles (see here or here) about how Republicans, having finally gotten something that resembles an Obama administration scandal, are already worried about overplaying their hand. The sober ones are concerned they might make more of things than the facts merit, lest their nuttiest colleagues grab the spotlight, and head down a dangerous road as they did in 1998.

But if there's anything we've learned in the last few years, it's that party leaders may exert influence, but only to a degree; a political party is more like a herd of wild animals than a single beast that can be roped and brought to heel. Just witness the clown show that is the Georgia Republican primary for a Senate seat coming up next year due to the retirement of Saxby Chambliss. Today it got one more participant, former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel, who came to national prominence when she was reported to be behind the Susan G. Komen Foundation's decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood. In the ensuing controversy, Handel resigned her position as vice president for public policy with Komen, but has decided to take her crusade against abortion and other insidious forms of liberalism to the U.S. Senate.

To get there, though, she'll have to prove she can be as much of an extremist as the other GOP contenders, congressmen Jack Kingston, Phil Gingrey, and Paul Broun. While Kingston, who has an enviable 95.86 lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, has said he "will yield no ground to any of my opponents as to who is most conservative," he'll have a tough time outdoing Broun (lifetime ACU rating of 99.33), who gets points for style that his opponents can't match. Broun famously said, "All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the Big Bang theory—all that is lies straight from the pit of hell," going on to explain that his examination of "scientific data" had led him to the conclusion that "I don't believe the Earth's but about 9,000 years old." He also believesthat Barack Obama has pledged himself to uphold "the Soviet constitution," and a whole lot of other crazy stuff that isn't even worth going over.

In that crowd, Handel may prove herself a moderate, and it's a fair bet that before the primary is over, at least one of the candidates will join Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock in the "He said what?!?" hall of fame. But even if they nominate a nutball like Broun who will prove an embarrassment for years to come, Republicans could still hold on to the seat. As of now, no Democrat has entered the race.

So They Say

"It’s official. President Obama is worse than Richard Nixon."

Grover Norquist

Daily Meme: Scandal Name-Dropping

  • This week, each of the three scandals currently vacuuming up what little brainpower D.C. has left were definitively marked as worse than every presidential scandal that  preceded them. 

  • But you don't need a presidential scandal to bring up presidential scandals past. Here, for your reading pleasure, are some scandal-mentioning stories, alike only in the fact that they don't have two Benghazi or IRS plugs to rub together.

  • Forty years ago today, the televised Watergate hearings began. You can relive the magic, not with Benghazi, but with the new 8-bit Watergate game released this month. Or by reading about "Eastern Europe's Watergate."

  • Yesterday was the anniversary of John Adams telling Congress about the XYZ affair.The "Harding Home Presidential Site" opens for its 87th summer season next week, and they are excitedly planning a July symposium all about scandals, especially the Teapot Dome variety.

  • The Teapot Dome scandal also earned a name drop in a column about the Denver Nuggets last week, oddly enough.

  • An article about new secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell also felt it prudent to mention the scandal that plagued the department almost a century ago.

  • Senator Lamar Alexander is saying that fundraising calls made by Kathleen Sebelius are basically Iran-Contra, take two.

  • Hashemi Rafsanjani a.k.a the "Shark" ("a reference to his cunning as well as his unusually sparse beard"), the dark-horse candidate in Iran's presidential election, "was famously involved in the 1986 Iran-Contra saga."

  • Boston Magazine writers wonder what to call Massachusetts Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez's toilet repair scandal: Is it his Toilet Water-gate? His White-Toilet-water? His … what’s a pun on Iran Contra?"

  • Billie Sol Estes, the "wizard of Texas" and scandal-starter extraordinaire, died this week. The "Estes Chronicles" were called “the biggest national scandal since Teapot Dome" by California gubernatorial candidate and future biggest national scandal since the Teapot Dome-maker Richard Nixon.

  • So, regardless of how scandal week plays out, you can be sure presidential scandals will remain in the news regardless.

What We're Writing

  • In Pakistan, violence is routine and chronic unease "is part of the collective understanding of what it means to be Pakistani," writes Beenish Ahmed. Yet the personal intensity that characterizes American mass violence is rare there, making events like Boston shocking even to people who know "death is an all too constant companion."

  • More than 47 million Americans rely on food stamps to feed their families, and a quarter of households qualifying for the benefit fail to sign up, but Congress is seeking to cut the program, particularly an initiative that makes it easier for states to register eligible families, reports Monica Potts. "All of this is happening at a time when advocates who work with the poor say people need more help, not less."

What We're Reading

  • The Financial Times has lunch with Nancy Pelosi, where they talk votes and bacon-topped chocolate donuts.

  • The most expensive hospital in the United States can be found in a blue-collar community in the Garden State.

  • Why won't President Obama tell us the truth about the Basilisk Project?

  • NPR lays out the five stages of Democrats' response to scandal.

  • Margaret Talbot unpacks how the AP scandal will affect how the press covers contentious issues in the future.

  • Stephanie Mencimer outlines the tea party fiscal troubles that could have drawn the IRS' eye.

  • New York Times Magazine looks at the history of the motorcade.

  • Conor Friedersdorf writes that scandal week is focusing on the wrong Obama decisions.

Poll of the Day

Strong majorities of Americans believe the Benghazi and IRS situations should be investigated, but are paying attention to the stories at below-average rates. In the past, Gallup has found that about 60 percent of the country lends "close or somewhat close" attention to the stories it asks about, while only 53 and 54 percent are tuning into "Benghazi- and IRS-gate" despite intense coverage.