I've had a number of people write in and comment about this article I wrote yesterday in Slate. The article was about why Democrats seem so much more feckless and frail in the art of scandal-mongering than Republicans.
Many of the comments center on the fact that Democrats are a coalition party and are thus never quite as unifiable as the Republicans. That's true, to an extent.
Others make the point that Democrats simply aren't as mean as Republicans, or, perhaps stated a little differently, that Dems spend much more of their time questioning the rightness of their own actions and thus can never get up the same sort of ferocious head of steam that Republicans do. There's a lot self-serving in that viewpoint -- but there's some truth to it too.
The most interesting comment or critique though is this: most people don't want to hear this sort of endless badgering and complaining. And one of the things that kept Bill Clinton in office is that the great majority of people really didn't like his rabid, foaming-at -mouth opponents.
That's very true. And yet, as this piece by John Harris makes clear, the endless drumbeat of scandal-mongering against Bill Clinton really did take its toll.
The answer, I think, is that to the extent Republicans were successful they succeeded by having ideological attack-dogs do their dirty work for them, while keeping themselves above the fray.
One of the reasons Newt Gingrich went down the tubes was that he often failed to keep this distance. He couldn't help himself. Others in the Republican party, though, manage this dance much more dexterously. Like George W. Bush, for instance.
One of the great comedies of Bush's campaign message was his promise to 'change the tone' in Washington when it was undeniably his own party, and his own supporters, who had created the tone of partisan back-biting in Washington. Yet Bush himself didn't have his hands dirty; so he could plausibly make the claim.
So it's true enough that people didn't like the Republican scandal-mongering of the last 9 years. But then again, for the moment at least, who's got the Oval Office, the Speaker's gavel, and control of the Senate?