Dopey 'Martin Bashir' Panelists: 'Can't Blame' Obama for Gas Prices; Obama's Not Had 'Scandal' Yet

April 23rd, 2012 5:30 PM

You "can't blame" President Barack Obama for high gas prices. "Desperate" Republicans are hoping for the scandal-free Obama to have a scandal. When a conservative woman denounces absurd gender politics it's simply "a ventriloquist act" for "patriarchal ideas."

Those were the gems which stumbled out of the mouths, respectively, of conservative columnist S.E. Cupp, Democratic strategist Krystal Ball, and Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, all panelists on today's edition of the Martin Bashir program on MSNBC. The topic at hand was how Republicans were pressing the Obama administration over the Secret Service prostitution scandal.

Host Martin Bashir kicked off the topic by noting how former Bush political strategist Karl Rove noted on Fox News Sunday that it is unwise for Republicans to seek to use the GSA and Secret Service scandals as campaign issues against Obama. Cupp offered her agreement to Rove's assessment (emphasis mine):

I've been very honest on this program as well. You can't blame the president for gas prices, right, that's just not fair. And I don't think you can blame the president for the Secret Service scandal. The GSA think, I think, is a little murkier waters. But look, if the White House ignores the Secret Service issue, doesn't fully investigate it, then I think it is fair to call into question their oversight and leadership over what could have been an incredibly dangerous and damaging moment for this presidency.

So it's unfair to blame Obama for high gas prices, even though then-Sen. Obama blamed the Bush administration for high gas prices when Obama was a presidential candidate in 2008? Even after he's refused to permit a major job-creating oil pipeline? With conservative commentators like these, who needs liberals?

A few moments later, former Democratic congressional candidate Krystal Ball offered that she thinks "Republicans are frankly desperate for the president to have some sort of scandal." An incredulous Cupp retorted, "You don't think Solyndra was a scandal?! We've got plenty!"

"Looking by historical standards though... he has not had a scandal for a longer period of time than any president in modern history," Ball insisted, citing University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato as her source. But when I search the Web, the relevant story I discovered was from May 2011, nearly one year ago, and was penned by Brendan Nyhan as a guest blog on Sabato's "Crystal Ball" website. Even so, Nyhan focused not on actual scandals but on public "perception" thereof, which, of course, relies heavily on mainstream media reporting. Although Nyhan didn't comprehensively address the issue of media bias, he did note the media may deliberately be going easy on Obama (emphasis mine):

One of the least remarked upon aspects of the Obama presidency has been the lack of scandals. Since Watergate, presidential and executive branch scandal has been an inescapable feature of the American presidency, but the current administration has not yet suffered a major scandal, which I define as a widespread elite perception of wrongdoing. What happened, and what are the odds that the administration’s streak will continue?


Obama’s vulnerability has been mitigated by the number and magnitude of competing news stories. Just as slow news periods seem to encourage scandal coverage, my research shows that pressure from competing stories diverts attention and media resources that could have been devoted to negative coverage of the administration, reducing both the likelihood of presidential scandal and the volume of coverage those scandals receive. In Obama’s case, it is clear that external events have consumed much of the news agenda over the last eighteen months, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Arab Spring revolts, the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the killing of Osama bin Laden. The saturation coverage that these stories received left little room for scandal, particularly given the volume of debate over the merits of the president’s legislative agenda and his confrontation with the new Republican majority in the House.

Other, less quantifiable factors seem to have also played an important role. As the first black president, Obama may be treated less harshly by the press than some of his predecessors. In addition, the birther movement diverted a great deal of conservative time and energy into the false claim that Obama was not eligible to hold office, generating a controversy that received a great deal of media attention but which never made the transition into a full-blown scandal.

And last but not least, there was Michael Eric Dyson. The Baptist minister and Georgetown professor slammed Cupp for being a shill for the patriarchy for her uncontroversial statement that she wants "the best people protecting my president, men or women," and as such she doesn't care what percentage of the Secret Service were comprised of women.

Dyson then scoffed that:

We don't want patriarchy to speak through a ventriloquist act, here, a woman speaking still patriarchal ideas.