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Why Jack Abramoff doesn’t matter

The blogosphere was alit with buzz about Time magazine’s article alleging that their editors had seen (but were as yet unable to publish) photographs of Jack Abramoff meeting President Bush in the White House. This directly contradicts the White House’s earlier claim that the president had never met the crooked lobbyist, hence the enthusiasm on the part of liberal bloggers everywhere.

Except for this one. I am utterly convinced now that we are witnesses to the Bulletproof Presidency. I used to let myself get excited every time the administration was caught in a lie or half-truth, every embarassing miscue, every bald-faced attempt to usurp more power. But the thrill is gone, baby. It’s all over.

It’s entirely possible (even likely) that Bush really doesn’t remember meeting Jack Abramoff. The Time article correctly points out that the president has his photo taken with hundreds of people every week. Even if he did, the odds of the president being directly involved in shady gifts-for-influence peddling are slim to none; it’s obvious that Dubya, who does not read newspapers or briefings and has underlings to do that for him, can’t be bothered with details, anyway. What the Abramoff story does show is laziness and contempt for the media (and by virtue of that, the public) on the part of the Bush administration. When Press Secretary Scott McClellan says that Bush and Abramoff never met, that means that the White House cares so little about the Abramoff scandal that they were unwilling to get an intern to go through stacks of photos for a few days after the scandal came to a head. Surely the question would come up, but the Bush administration just didn’t care.

And why should they? The Abramoff story, which some Democrats are now seeing as the bread-and-butter issue for this fall’s midterm elections, has two fatal flaws.

  1. It’s about politicians being corrupt, which most Americans already assume is the case, and
  2. it’s a bland story utterly devoid of the few things that will keep Americans reading the paper day after day (those things being sexual deviance/misconduct, violence against innocent people, and Brad Pitt’s love life).

A notoriously famous pop star goes to trial for allegedly molesting children, but the entire case hinges on the testimony of an extortionist family. A handsome, well-to-do Californian kills his beautiful, pregnant wife. These are things that Americans will read about and sit transfixed in front of Fox News or (god help you) Nancy Grace to watch. A newspaper story about Jack Abramoff’s unethical power broking in Washington is necessarily filled with small dollar amounts and obscure legislators from obscure election districts and absolutely no blow jobs. Not a one.

The Democrats will chain themselves to this issue at their own risk. Much like the wasted effort to get Karl Rove fired (thus forcing him to get a new office and print new business cards but allowing him to continue advising the president as before), this is a shocking scandal that will be unfortunately be tuned out as background noise by most voters. Liberals need to find one issue to ride and we need to do it soon. Somebody call Carville.

23 January, 2006 11:52 AM Posted by | Politics and other hazardous materials | Leave a comment