Scandal? Nothing but a Pack of Cards

John Tenniel, "Alice in Wonderland"

John Tenniel, “Alice in Wonderland”

I’ve been trying for a while to think of some literary work that would do justice to the GOP’s mania for scandals at the moment. Given the number of times I’ve applied Lewis Carroll to GOP extremists over the past four years, I should have remembered a passage that the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank came up with in his own column on the subject.

Here’s Milbank quoting Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) to make the point that the chairs of GOP investigation committees have been making wild charges before the hearings rather than after them. First Rogers in an interview with Fox:

Of course, the enemies list out of the White House that IRS was engaged in shutting down or trying to shut down the conservative political viewpoint across the country — an enemies list that rivals that of another president some time ago.

And now Milbank:

It was a sentence in need of a verb but packed with innuendo. And it is part of an approach by House Republicans that seems to follow the Lewis Carroll school of jurisprudence. Not only are they placing the sentence before the verdict, they’re putting the verdict before the trial.

The passage the Milibank has in mind is the following:

`Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

`No, no!’ said the Queen. `Sentence first–verdict afterwards.’

`Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. `The idea of having the sentence first!’

For another example of such inversion, here’s Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, also delivering a verdict before the trial:

[T]his is a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters and we’re getting to proving it.

In truth, there seems to be no connection between the White House and the Cincinnati IRS Bureau. Meanwhile, the other so-called scandals appear no more substantive than the scandals the GOP trumpeted and then dropped in the past. (Remember Solyndra? Fast and Furious?) Of course, the last time we had scandal mania of this intensity was during the Clinton years when we were first assured that the Clintons scammed investors in the Whitewater real estate deal and then that they murdered Vince Foster. I suppose these guys are trying to relive the glory years when they impeached a president for lying about having an affair with an intern. It all appears to be a matter of, “There must be some way of nailing this president we hate.”

In another column, Milbank points to another House Chair all but admitting this:

As my colleague Greg Sargent noted, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) may have revealed too much about GOP motives when he said “the trouble here isn’t even the individual specific scandals” but “this pattern of deception administration-wide.”

To which Milbank asks the question,

Will Americans find compelling this hunt for a pattern among accusations that even the accusers regard as unimportant?

Since beginning this blog in 2009, I have turned numerous times to Lewis Carroll’s Alice Books to capture that nature of extreme rightwing politics, and it’s worth reflecting on why Carroll is so apropos. Reacting to an oppressively pragmatic, dogmatic, and utilitarian society—a Gradgrindian society—Carroll resorted to fantasy as an outlet. How should one respond to doctrinaire teachers and sanctimonious adults? Turn everything upside down and inside out.

But Carroll would not have wanted either the Whigs or the Tories to surrender to fantasy. After all, he wanted them to govern responsibly. The GOP’s rightwing, however, appears to think that it has full license to engage in fantasy as it opposes a president that, in paranoid paroxysms, it accuses of being oppressive and dictatorial. Far too many members of the House and Senate see themselves as having carte blanche to make up facts, disregard science, and say anything they please. Adding to the aura of unreality is how they have moved into what Rachel Maddow of MSNBC describes as “post-policy politics.” This is to say, they don’t advocate policies (other than, I suppose, tax cuts for the rich)—they just oppose anything Obama proposes, including ideas that once came from the GOP (Cap and Trade, Romneycare). To paraphrase Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers, “Whatever he’s for, we’re against it.”

At the end of the court scene, Alice calls out the ridiculous reasoning she is witnessing:

Who cares for you?” said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”

The first reaction to this powerful truth-telling at first appears to be fearsome as the cards all fly at her. But they prove to be nothing more than leaves falling on her face as she awakens from a dream.

Would that this were a dream from which we could awaken! Or that truth-telling like Alice’s could bring down this house of cards!

 

Previous Lewis Carroll posts on rightwing politics:

Medicare Politics and Gullible Oysters

Romney and Ryan’s Gently Smiling Jaws

Mitt Romney and Looking Glass Politics

The Presidential Candidates in Wonderland

Rightwing Rewrites Reality

Tweedledum, Tweedledee, and Medi(s)care

Believing 6 Impossibilities before Breakfast

It’s Been a Mad Tea Party

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  • I just finished reading “The Magician’s Assistant” by Ann Patchett. Reading your post, thinking about the symbolism of magic in Patchett’s novel and considering the GOP’s “slight of hand” maneuvers by which they sell the public on the idea that the Obama administration is rife with scandal, brings to mind this passage: “Magic was less about surprise than it was about control. You lead them in one direction and then come up behind their backs. They watch you, at every turn they will be suspicious, but you give them decoys. People long to be amazed, even as they fight it. Once you amaze them, you own them.”

    The GOP is all about giving the public decoys. However, I don’t see enough people being either suspicious or fighting the GOP magician. Too many are already owned.

    If you aren’t familiar with it, check out Netflix’s “House of Cards.” That series and “Scandal” are two television shows that reveal much about how politicians lead the public in the desired direction.

  • Robin Bates

    I love this Patchett quote and will get the book right away, Glenda. I think the longing to be amazed is part of the dynamics here, especially when it comes to issues like climate change (longing to believe that it’s not happening) and the like. So people will participate in the deception. And there’s a whole rightwing media complex assisting them.

  • Pingback: Is Trump in a Red Queen Race?()


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