POLITICS
05/17/2013 04:38 pm ET Updated May 17, 2013

DC Scandal-A-Rama Has A Happy Hidden Pony For America

AP

It's an open question as to whether any of our recent Beltway scandalettes will heat up or peter out, but in the meanwhile, it's best to be reminded of a hidden upside in all of this, for America. Per Greg Sargent:

Liberals who are dreading the scandal-mania that is taking hold should note that it contains a potential upside: It could make a Grand Bargain that includes cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits even less likely than it already is. That’s because when scandal grips Washington, a president actually needs his core supporters more than ever to ward it off, making it harder to do anything that will alienate them.

There is precedent for this. President Bill Clinton long entertained ambitions to dramatically reform Social Security, but those plans were shelved amid the Lewinsky crisis. While there is some argument over whether the crisis was the cause, it did make him more reluctant to alienate Democratic supporters. As John Harris put it in his book about the Clinton presidency: “Come 1998, when Clinton needed every Democratic vote possible in order to survive the Republican attack over Monica Lewinsky, the work of challenging his own ground to a halt. He had no political latitude to push for the reform of the entitlement programs for the aged.”

Of course, with the GOP now fully in partisan agitator mode, the teensy, remote likelihood that it might sign on to anything Grand Bargain-y that President Barack Obama might actually sign into law is an even teensier remote likelihood.

Naturally, the larger picture here is that with the current scandal overhang, the work of promoting government as a useful tool that could improve the lives of the American people gets harder, and a campaign promoting government as a heavy-handed force for pointless intrusion gets much easier. In the main, that's a bad set of circumstances. But every day without a Grand Bargain is a happy day for America, so that's at least a good consolation prize.

READ THE WHOLE THING:
Why Washington scandal-mania may save Medicare and Social Security [The Plum Line]

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