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Letter From the Editor

Scandals arise, but nothing is new.

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Oh, it's scandal time again in the good ol' USA. There are three good ones going on now. 1) An IRS office in Cincinnati has admitted flagging for extra scrutiny conservative groups that were claiming 501(c)(4) nonprofit status. Knowledge of the activity seems to extend up the command chain to a couple of IRS administrators in Washington, D.C. 2) The Justice Department has admitted to tracking AP reporters' phone activity in April and May of 2012 in an effort to determine where security leaks were originating about a CIA operation against al-Qaeda. 3) And, of course, there's the ubiquitous Benghazi attack affair, in which the White House is accused of covering up details for political reasons.

All of these things are reprehensible on the surface and easily politicized, so they will be. Nuance and perspective will be the first casualties. But let's not forget that this stuff has been going on for some time. The G.W. Bush administration's Justice Department famously fired eight U.S. attorneys who didn't fit Karl Rove's political needs. Under the Bush administration, 11 U.S. embassies or consulates were attacked, resulting in the deaths of 55 people. And the Bush administration's CIA director created a program called "First Fruits," which tracked the telephone calls and emails of several prominent journalists, including The New York Times' James Risen, The Washington Post's Vernon Loeb, The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, The Washington Times' Bill Gertz, and others. Not to mention the false "intelligence" the Bush administration used to gin up support for invading Iraq, the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the Abu Ghraib and Walter Reed VA Hospital scandals, and numerous other incidents that outraged Bush's political opponents.

Now it's the Obama administration's turn. For the foreseeable future, we will be treated to congressional investigative committees, conservative outrage, and grandstanding punditry from all sides of the political spectrum. Much heat will be generated — and very little light. As happened in the Bush administration, supporters of the president will seek to explain and moderate public opinion, while his opponents will strive to mortally damage the Obama administration's clout and influence.

After reading all I can on the subject, I'm not convinced the Benghazi attack controversy is anything more than political Kabuki theater at this point, and certainly not an impeachable offense. I doubt seriously that the IRS scandal can be directly linked to President Obama, but it should be fully investigated. As a newspaper editor, I am most troubled by the latest Justice Department invasion of journalists' privacy, a true First Amendment violation, but I suspect that one will fade away more quickly than the others.

All this stuff almost makes me miss Monica Lewinsky.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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