Tuesday 26 June 2012

Two reasons why 'Fast and Furious' wont be Obama's Watergate

American politics is tremendously tribal which is replicated by the media which reports on it. These two points alone are likely to be be the reason why the row dubbed 'Fast and Furious' never becomes President Obama's Watergate.  

For those who have yet to understand what 'Fast and Furious' is I recommend reading Tim Stanley's blog from the Daily Telegraph last week. In summary it is alleged President Obama used executive privilege to attempt to cover up a botched operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This cover-up is seen as more damaging by some as a federal agent was killed as a result of the operation.  

That the scandal involves, drugs, guns and America's porous border with Mexico makes it all more exotic in an election year but I believe it wont have an adverse effect on Obama's chances or re-election. Here is why:

1. The media

With the popular media being far less dispassionate than it was even during the Clinton presidency the electorate may be very easily turned off by how Fast and Furious is reported. The media - as a natural consequence of 24 hour news - will look into the issue in detail but this will actually make it more difficult for the electorate to get their head around what happened when and why.

Meanwhile the talking heads on 24 hour news, quotes on blogs and in papers from Republican and Democrat politicians will be shrill, partisan and aimed to damage opponents. A situation which allows Obama to rise above the fight and look like a leader.   

As a result most will stick with their previously held view on Obama meaning the majority - as it seems with the economy - will give him the benefit of the doubt.

2. Tribal politics

On Thursday this week Republicans have an opportunity to push a contempt vote on the Attorney General -the cabinet member responsible for the ATF - which will surely just be seen as more Capitol Hill mudslinging.

By pushing this vote, on an issue not seen as important to American voters, the Republicans will help to underline why Congress currently only has a 17 per cent approval rating.

This is a problem for Mitt Romney - who should benefit from a row which goes right to the heart of whether Obama is a stand-up guy - how to play it when his Republican base want to push and push on this issue.  

This is where Romney needs to call in a favour with the Republican Party. A cacophony of shrill noise and heated rhetoric from the Republicans will help the issue to become a partisan row in the electorate's mind.  

Romney has to ensure this does not happen. For this his campaign team need to invest in making Fast and Furious work for their candidate by basing their approach on facts not finger-pointing and keeping it down the media's agenda.   

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