[...This has been the most scandalicious week in living memory. I mean, sure, none of it rises to the level of Watergate. But while the gravity may pale in comparison, the volume is breathtaking. So breathtaking that it's tempting to think that the administration is doing this deliberately.
In finance, there's an art known as "Big Bath Accounting" which is used to manage earnings expectations. Here's how it works: if you know you're going to have a bad quarter, you look around for anything else that might go wrong in the future, and you decide to "recognize" that bad news now. Inventory looking a little stale? Write it down, man! Customers getting a little slow to pay? Now would be a good time to write off their accounts as bad debt. Is there some uncertainty in the projections about depletable assets like oil stores? For heaven's sake, why not use the low end of the projections rather than the medium or high end? And we should really book some sort of charge to account for the risk that the Yellowstone supervolcano will explode, killing hundreds of thousands and covering the entire western half of the United States in volcanic ash, and in the process severely dampening demand for our premium line of Wyoming-themed memorabilia.
Corporations call this "cleaning up the balance sheet". Accounting professors call it things I can't print because this is a family blog.
The theory is that there is only so much bad news people can take in all at once, so you might as well cram all the bad stuff into one action-packed earnings call.
The Obama administration are past masters of this strategy on the budget, and it almost makes me wonder if they didn't decide to dump bad news about the AP phone searches and the IRS scandals while Benghazi and Sebelius were already making news. There are only so many hours on the cable news channel, and by definition, if people are talking about one scandal, they can't be talking about another. So while a lot of commentators are calling this "a very bad week for Obama", I sort of suspect he's having a very good week. He's managed to get a lot of scandals off his balance sheet at what will probably be a fairly affordable political cost.
The sheer number of scandals, you see, forces McArdle to wonder, no doubt in horror and grief, what is coming next. After all, Obama might--not that she is saying he has, mind you--but he might have orchestrated an entire right-wing noise machine to manufacture a non-stop drip, drip, drip of hysteria over anything that has even the hint of a potential for scandal to the blindly partisan. And why would he do this utterly illogical, not to mention extremely complicated, course of action?
It's not that the right is frothing at the mouth at the opportunity for even the most minute amount of political gain. It's not that the right knows that catering to the vast number of racists in its midst by dangling impeachment before them is a sure-fire way to gin up donations. And it certainly is not because the right has a bottomless hunger for any scrap, any iota of evidence that they are good and their enemies are evil. No, it's because there just have to be more Obama "scandals" out there.
But what if Obama didn't leak the scraps of information that the right has attempted to blow up into newer if not better Watergates? Eh, it doesn't matter!
Of course, that's true even if the administration had nothing to do with the explosion of scandals, and it's all just a fantastic coincidence. Each of these revelations would have hurt a lot more if they'd come out on their own, with nothing else to do but exhaustively explore all the nuances and implications. Obviously, it would be better still for the administration if they'd never happened at all. But if you have to have some scandals--and virtually all second-term presidents seem to--then all at once is the way to go.
Considering she married a guy who created fake websites to gin up outrage against the bailout of homeowners destroyed by the financial industry, McArdle has a very strange ignorance of the ways of the rat-f*ucker. Perhaps she should lean over in bed and ask her hubby about the manufacture and breeding of scandals and other political machinations.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Congress is moving closer to passing a bill that could steer as much as 300 billion dollars to homeowners who are hurt by the housing downturn. But some are not happy with this plan. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal today, an online site called AngryRenter.com has had more than 44,000 people sign a petition protesting the bailout package. The journal also says the site is a fake grassroots effort. With us is Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Phillips, who wrote the story. Michael, what is the essence of this here? What have you got?
Mr. MICHAEL PHILLIPS (Reporter, Wall Street Journal): Well, the AngryRenter.com site purports to be a grassroots site coming from the public. In fact, it's a production of an organization called FreedomWorks, which is chaired by Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, a Republican from Texas. Another board member, Steve Forbes, well-known publishing magnate and others, and these are guys who are very interested in Libertarian views, free market views. And this site is the attempt of their organization to generate an aura of grassroots-i-ness for their work in opposing the bailout.The right duly passed on links to the site because scandal and hysteria generate income for them.
However Megan McArdle is apparently utterly ignorant of the political world in which she has managed to insert, maneuver and enrich herself. The Koch brothers finance journalists because they just want to support the journalism business, and, after all, the business of America is business. The right-wing scandal industry is just a lot of nice, sincere people who are genuinely outraged about, well, anything and everything that Obama does. And Megan McArdle spends most of her time writing about how "Obamacare" will kill millions because she cares so very much about you and your family. Even if she has to make up shit to do so.
She's just special that way.