Republicans coined the phrase “scandal fatigue” to define the mood of the electorate after the Democratic scandals of the Clinton administration. Yet in 2006 it’s the Republicans who are finding themselves the subject not of mere scandal fatigue but complete scandal exhaustion.
Most of the Republican scandals of the past decade have focused mainly on greed, bribery and influence peddling. Helping the Bush administration was a partisan Congress that allowed the independent-counsel statute to expire as President Bush assumed office.
Ken Starr used the independent-counsel statute as he pursued former president Clinton. The effect has been a dampening on scandals during the Bush administration, as a Republican controlled Congress has no interest in investigating the executive branch.
During this time GOP leadership has showed a complete disrespect for US laws. For example, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio) are only two of half a dozen or so politicians who are linked to Jack Abramoff, a GOP lobbyist and major Bush fundraiser who faces prison time for three felonies, including conspiracy to bribe public officials. One influence peddling scheme involved Texas’ Tigua tribe who gave Abramoff and a DeLay aid millions and $33,000 to Ney in hopes of reopening their El Paso casino. Ironically, Abramoff had earned millions lobbying to have the same casino closed while representing a competing Texas tribe. Ney eventually stood trial pleading guilty to bribery. DeLay gave up his post as House Majority Leader after a grand jury accused him of conspiracy to violate Texas election law arising from a separate scandal and resigned from Congress in June 2006, shortly after Abramoff pleaded guilty.
Bush administration officials violated the American people's trust as they pursued a war with Saddam Hussein over false claims of weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq war was also promoted as a war to remove the terrorist threat, yet American intelligence now believes the war has increased this threat. Torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison was exposed in 2005, a violation of the Geneva Convention to which the United States is a party to.
Scandals of hypocrisy have also rocked the Republican party. Recently gay advocate Mike Rogers outed Idaho Senator Larry Craig on his blog BlogActive. Rogers alleges that Craig prefers anonymous sexual encounters with men in the Union Station restrooms. Craig who voted for the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), has been a vocal supporter of anti-gay bills, and supports a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, has denied the claim as “absolutely ridiculous.” Yet Rogers maintains a flawless outing record.
Representative Mark Foley (R-Florida) also voted for DOMA and responded to rumors of his homosexuality as “revolting and unforgivable.” Yet Foley resigned in disgrace from Congress after sexually graphic e-mails and instant messages to Congressional male pages were revealed. The Foley hypocrisy cuts both ways. As a closeted gay man Foley spoke against gay issues and voted for legislation that would retreat gay rights. And as a member of the Republican party, the party of “moral values”, he proved to be morally bankrupt. This scandal has resonated with voters because unlike other Republican scandals the hypocrisy, abuse of power and leadership failure is so obvious. It's not about obscure influence peddling or complicated money schemes, it's just plain scandalous. It is then “Pagegate”, an early October surprise, that threatens to shake the balance of power in Washington.
Yet “scandal fatigue” often leads to voter apathy. A belief that all politicians are scandalous and therefore “why bother.” Apathy allows the politician to change the subject or raise a smokescreen while corruption continues. This indifference is the Republican’s trump card, as they hope apathy will keep you from investigating them and ultimately holding them accountable for their misdeeds.
Let’s not let that happen. On Election Day pull the lever on Republican scandals!