Scandal Fatigue, Catnip, and the 'Angry' Left

A few months ago, Steve Benen, Carpetbagger and HuffPo guest-poster, wrote a fascinating blog entry that chronicled a series of Bush-related scandals .... all of which had occurred in the space of a week. In that regard, glance around this site today. You'll find an over-abundance of stories that undermine the credibility and integrity of our current administration and of the party in power. This coincides with a recent wave of references to the "angry" left, as though anger at the apathy of the media, the political establishment and much of the public in the face of this cavalcade of scandals is somehow in bad taste.

Take a look:

Each of these stories constitutes a full-blown crisis that would have caused a massive firestorm for any other administration. But a cursory glance at the online editions of national papers and news outlets as well as a scan of the major cable news nets would lead you to believe that the most important piece of news today is that a British man accused of killing his wife and child will return to the US to face trial.

Bush's political opponents are unwitting partners in a macabre dance with this administration, where the U.S. Constitution dies a slow death as hundreds of  egregious stories like those listed above are chased and flagged and highlighted by a relatively small segment of the population, only to fade weeks later, and while the political leaders who ought to be putting a stop to the madness are frozen in focus-grouped fear. To top it off, rank and file supporters of the powers that be, happy frogs in a pot of slow-boiling water, smile gleefully at the opposition’s alarm.

This half-decade tsunami of scandals has had the intended effect: overload the senses, short circuit the outrage, dizzy the opposition. How many times have Bush's opponents simply thrown their hands up in disgust, overwhelmed by the enormity of the administration's over-reach? How many times have bloggers railed against reporters for going about the business of burying scandals and muddying waters? How many times have Americans watched in amazement as a missing girl in Aruba receives weeks of blanket coverage while lies that led to war and law-breaking at the highest levels of government get a yawn from the media?

From a purely sensory perspective, it's natural to chase the flak. We're conditioned to respond to incoming fire. It's reflexive. But when the fire is coming from all sides, and coming relentlessly, the urge is to stop defending and curl up and give up. This is a process the Cheneys and Roves of this world understand all too well. It's no accident that the scandals get more and more outrageous - after all, the whole point is to have the opposition frantically racing around, chasing stories, distracted and exhausted, wearing itself out like a kitten in a catnip-doused, mouse-filled room.

The amazing thing is that so many of Bush's opponents continue to play along. The sheer inability to put on blinders and drive one scandal home, to take it to its ultimate conclusion, is a failing of magnificent proportions. The warrantless spying fiasco is a perfect example. The day the NSA story broke, it should have been the only issue discussed by Democrats and progressive activists, the only one. Day in, day out. No matter if thirty other scandals intervened.

Bush and his team count on the opposition's lack of focus, joyfully handing them more catnip. Perhaps that explains the ubiquitous and infamous administration smirk, most recently gracing Alberto Gonzales' face as he humored the Senate Judiciary Committee about breaking the law.

And people wonder why bloggers are angry?