The GOP’s Distraction Meme: The ‘Real’ Scandal Is Always Another One

President Barack Obama gestures as he talks about his vision for rebuilding the economy, Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at Knox College in Galesburg Ill. The president repackaged his economic message, a six-point plan for... President Barack Obama gestures as he talks about his vision for rebuilding the economy, Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at Knox College in Galesburg Ill. The president repackaged his economic message, a six-point plan for putting a floor under the country's diminishing middle class, and lashed out at opponents for creating "an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals." (AP Photo/Seth Perlman) MORE LESS
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

For conservatives, all roads seem to lead to Benghazi, but they have encountered a few distractions along the way.

Earlier in June, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) suggested that President Obama ignited a new controversy by negotiating for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in order to detract from the real VA scandal.

This tactic is not new for the right. Conservatives constantly cry “distraction” when the media covers an issue unrelated to their scandal du jour.

Benghazi: The king of the distraction meme

Perhaps the best example of this is the GOP’s obsession with Benghazi. As Mother Jones pointed out in May, for the past year conservatives have labeled a number of the administration’s actions as feeble attempts to distract from the true issue at hand.

Republicans cried “distraction” after Michelle Obama tried to show her support for #BringBackOurGirls. According to Fox News, a legally mandated climate change report in May was clearly released to distract from the scandal.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) charged during a House committee hearing on whether the U.S. should take military action in Syria that the debate about Syria was just a ruse to distract from scandals like Benghazi.

The IRS Scandal is the distraction? Or the real scandal?

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh even posited that the Obama administration timed the IRS scandal, which quickly became one of the GOP’s favorite controversies, to come out in order to take attention away from Benghazi. And Glenn Beck suggested that Obama also timed reports about the government’s collection of AP journalists’ phone records to distract from the Republicans’ main scandal.

This distraction meme of sorts extends beyond the coveted Benghazi scandal. Conservatives constantly highlight their aversion to talking about more than one issue at a time. And as Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart noted in his “Appetite for Distraction” segment, Fox News has been all over Obama’s “misdirection juju.”

But wait! Let’s not distract from Obamacare

Just last month Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) suggested that Democrats were pummeling the Koch brothers and focusing on the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision on campaign finance law in order to distract from Obamacare and the slow economic recovery.

Over the past few months, various conservative talking heads and lawmakers have posited that a slew of different news items were coordinated attempts to take attention away from the rocky Obamacare rollout.

The President’s focus on income inequality and discussion of the economic recovery were both distractions from the health care law.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) suggested that Obama tried to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran to take attention away from the rollout. And Senate Minority Laader Mitch McConnell accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of creating a crisis around court nominees as a distraction.

But don’t forget about distracting from the economy

And way back into 2012 and 2011, Republicans were taking issue with Obama’s supposed diversion tactics.

In June 2012, McConnell suggested that an Obama speech on student loans was an attempt to pull attention away from the struggling economy.

And Fast and Furious!

In July 2011, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darell Issa (R-CA) declared that the administration’s decision to bolster gun sales-reporting requirements in border states was merely a way to distract from the Fast and Furious scandal.

Sometimes, you need a distraction from birtherism

And when Obama released his birth certificate in April 2011, Republicans, including Cantor and Boehner, said it was a ridiculous attempt to divert the American public’s attention from all sorts of economic woes like the national debt.

Or a distraction from anything else, really

In May 2013 the Heritage Foundation’s political arm charged that Obama focused on Republican obstruction of court nominees to distract from a long list of scandals. To Fox News’ “The Five,” the President’s counterterrorism speech addressing the use of drones was also meant to be a decoy.

Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) asserted that Obama’s discussion of student loans was “a distraction from issues like Benghazi and the IRS and the Department of Justice.” A spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) echoed Messer.

Getting distracted from calling out a distraction

New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait said it was newsworthy in June 2013 that conservatives failed to cry “distraction” after a speech Obama gave on climate change. He noted that the charges stop only when conservatives have given up on trying to keep a controversy alive.

“The existence of a presidential ‘scandal’ can be inferred when the opposition party — and both parties do this — attempts to tie the scandal to anything the president does or does not do,” he wrote. “That is to say, basically everything Obama has done since the dawn of the Obama scandal era about seven weeks ago. If the president can give a major speech without either the opposition or the new media accusing him of attempting to distract from the scandal, then the scandal is over.”

Before Chait wrote about the quick lull in presidential controversies (before the GOP drew its Obamacare scandal target) conservatives had a laundry list of scandals they were harping on. Anything could be a distraction from the IRS scandal, the Department of Justice collection of journalists’ phone records, and of course, Benghazi.

As long as conservatives are trying to keep Obama’s scandals alive, the “distraction” cries will continue. As long as they don’t get distracted.

Latest Livewire
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: