Opposition Research

Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I've been reading about the Abramoff scandal for quite some time - both actual details with some facts involved plus the constant meme that "this is huge and is going to destroy the Republicans". The latter is generally seen in comments and I have always taken it as an indication of the ignorance of the writer. Scandals - even if factually based and ultimately proven in court - affect the individual(s) concerned but have a minor impact upon perception of the party. Unless, of course, the party rallies to the defense of the scoundrel involved and attaches itself to his deeds. The "proper" response from the party is to distance itself from the individual and let nature (and, hopefully, justice) take its course. The '90's provide ample evidence in support of this argument. Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston both had peccadillos in their past that did not withstand scrutiny, both acknowledged their errors, both resigned their offices and both left politics. Was the Republican party therefore tarred as the party of philanderers and did it suffer from such identification or is philandery more firmly attached to the Democratic party for some obscure reason?

Come we now to Abramoff and the exchange of political support of Indian gaming interests for financial support. I expect that the Gonzales DoJ will perform a very adequate and thorough investigation and that every instance in which sufficient evidence can be obtained will result in appropriate charges being leveled and trials conducted. I also expect that every Republican so charged will resign his/her office. I have no such expectations from members of the other party (vide '90's) for if it were so, Harry Reid, the Senate Minority Leader would already have stepped down in anticipation.

Opposition research produces results which might be best described as a razor sharp and double edged sword. When wielded with proficiency the results can be deadly to a single opponent, when wielded clumsily, the attacker may wind up with wounds more severe than the person being attacked. It's a weapon whose major efficacy is achieved by revealing the scabbard for drawing the blade gives no assurance that the wielder will be standing at the end of the fight. For that reason it is also a weapon of desperation and last resort. When you're losing and the outcome is in doubt, go down and go dirty. It works occasionally but it's a clear sign of a loser.

Like Harry Reid. Like the left wing of the once great Democratic Party.


Fresh Air said...


The propensity for scandal doing in a party is highly overrated by the Fourth Estate (Fifth Column?), since Watergate, like Vietnam, were its "finest hours"--in the enfeebled minds of old left-liberal journos, anyway.

But, as Jay Cost has pointed out, the '74 elections were a landslide for the Dems not because of Watergate per se, but because open seats and a generically weaked GOP inspired the best Democrat candidates to jump into Congressional races when they otherwise wouldn't have. Call it channel-stuffing of candidates. (I wonder if this depleted their shelves around the time Reagan was elected?)

Of course, the other misreading of Watergate is that heroic tellers of truth to power ended the Nixon presidency. But it was the erosion of support among Republicans that did Nixon in, not the predictable partisan braying of the Democratic jackals and their handmaidens in the press.

As you point out, the Gingrich/Livingston scandals had no lasting consequence. But it's also worth remembering (though I doubt Nancy Pelosi would strain herself to do so) that Watergate's effect was only six years at best.

The Donkeys will need much more than Jack Abramoff to accomplish a re-alignment of an electorate that has already marched off the liberal reservation.

Sad to think that a major party pins all its electoral hopes on scandal, but that's what's been happening ever since Bush's popularity soared following 9/11. (See Rather, Dan; Al Qa Qa; 9/11 Commission; Plame, Valerie; Abu Ghraib; Guantanomo Bay; Body Armor, Not Enough; Uparmored Hummvees, Not Enough; etc, etc.)

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Fresh Air,

Wow, the list of caca they've been throwing at the Republicans had already started to fade in my mind. They've been working really hard to bring Bush down, at any cost to the Republic in wartime, scruples be damned. So far none of it has worked. Every appointment by Bush is "the end of our rights as Americans", without exception. It's the boy who cried wolf syndrome; after a while, people like me just can't listen to them anymore. Is there really anybody left who takes Killer Ted seriously anymore?

Rick Ballard said...


Good points. I would also note that '74 was the first election where significant numbers of baby boomers voted - for the first time. I wish I had the skills to identify shifts in voting patterns that occur as a voters move from renting to owning their homes. I'm pretty sure that contributed (in a minor way) to the scale of the setback that the Reps suffered.

Real shifts occur over much longer periods - five or six cycles at minimum. The only exceptions to that occured after the end of the Civil War and at the beginning of the Depression. Both were initiating events and neither had anything to do with scandal.

I'm personally very appreciative of the efforts made by the MSM in getting Jummy Carter and Bill Clinton elected. Taking a long view, it's hard to see how they could have been of more assistance to the Republican party.

CF said...

If you want to see the extent of what is publicly known about Reid and corruption Fedora at F.R. a very good researcher has basically done the oppo research and posted it there, though he tells me today he has more which he's not yet posted.

Who's using it? An account I read last night (I think in GQ) says DEAN is using it to keep Reid from bouncing him as DNC head.

Peter UK said...

The main strenght or the Republican party is George Bush,he has behaved like a gentleman whilst the opposition have spat,scratched and backbitten like the back row of the chorus.Moreover he has conducted himself like a man who knows the seriousness of the situation,rather than displaying the hysterical emotional incontinence of the left,who seem more in tune with the Jerry Springer Show than politics.

Fresh Air said...


I agree re renting vs. home ownership. As incomes rise and home ownership goes up, so does the propensity to vote Republican. It's yet another reason the Democrats would like to keep every minority "down on the farm."

Alas, the mighty engine of the U.S. economy cannot be stopped, no matter how much Ted Kennedy tries.

terrye said...

Yes... but bankruptcies go up too and of course people blame the Republicans for that as well. Works both ways. When I was working as a Realtor [gag] I played hell getting people to actually buy something they could afford. Eyes bigger than bank accounts.

As for scandals, people do forget. In fact I had forgotten all about that business with Newt Gingrich.

Watergate was sort of like a train wreck, it just went on and on and that is what hurt the Republicans.

But I think a lot of folks today blame the media almost as much as they do Nixon.

People are desensitized to a lot of this stuff.

As for the whole Abramoff thing, I just don't see the big scandal. I mean it is not a good thing and I think the Democrats are deluding themselves if they believe it will not touch them too...but still I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Buddy Larsen said...

That dem sweep in the 70s--the voting age went to 18 in 1968. Boomer flood, awright. [Gad--18! I've got leftovers in the fridge older than that.]

Peter UK said...

Harry Reid and his greed.

Peter UK said...

I've got liver spots older than that.

Buddy Larsen said...

LOL (*retch*)--

gumshoe1 said...

"Watergate was sort of like a train wreck, it just went on and on and that is what hurt the Republicans.

But I think a lot of folks today blame the media almost as much as they do Nixon."

Nixon was hated for the existence of the Vietnam conflict.

the Kennedy worshippers
(so hopeful! so youthful! so forward looking!!!huzzah!!!)
*never* seem to note or acknowledge who initially decided to send military advisors to Vietnam.

Nixon(flawed man that he was) inherited Kennedy and Johnson's mess.

terrye said...


This is true, Viet nam was going to be there no matter who won that election.

Knucklehead said...


Unless I am mistaken (and I will gladly accept correction), it was Eisenhower who first got the US directly involved in Vietnam.

I don't point that out as a gotcha sorta thing but to try and make a point that I believe the reflexive "war is not the answer" crowd (I am not suggesting you are part of that) seem to always fail to grasp.

Vietnam, like everything else in history and the present, was not some place or event or situation that just up and appeared one day. US involvement there was just part of the running timeline of cause and effect.

Ike, I believe it is safe to say, did not become POTUS in some brand new world where all that had gone before no longer mattered. I have no doubt, without lookng into in the least, that Ike understood how the situation in that part of the world was influenced by the was in which he had played such and enormous role. He got the US involved, whether or not it was, in retrospect, a good idea not because he had some vision of political gain but because, for whatever reasons, it seemed to him the correct thing to do at the time.

Despite what we'd like to be the case no nation or leader starts with a clean slate. We are always limited, challenged, and given opportunities by the the hard facts of the world as it is which is always a function of what it has been to that point and always limits what we can realisticly hope to make of it.

I've always more or less considered the mess that the Vietnam war became Johnson's "fault". The actions of the Soviets and PRC cannot, of course, be discounted even a little bit, but the US response was Johnson's baby. I'm no Nixon lover but I always thought he got a bad rap having so much of that mess blamed on him.

To a large portion of the citizenry it seems that Vietnam will always be "Nixon's War". I was rather pleasantly suprised recently when, I forget how, the topic of the Vietnam war was brought up and some young college age people unhesitatingly identified it as Johnson's war.

Anyway, enough rambling about that. I no doubt missed whatever mark I had my eye on when I started out.