The Catch goes to Ed Kilgore, who notes the similarities between this year's and last year's Republican obsessions. The key point, however, generalizes beyond that:
When a significant group of politicians decide to make some event or issue the center of media attention, they can often do so to a considerable extent whether it makes sense or not. When an entire political party becomes committed to an event or issue as of transcendent importance, it instantly becomes so regardless of the merits of the case.That's right; we tend to assume that heavy news coverage is the result of the choices of editors and producers, but it's just as common for news coverage to be driven by whatever politicians believe, or pretend to believe, is important.
Plus it's a good excuse to tell my favorite GOP-scandal-obsession story, which I've told here before, but unless my search skills are awful it appears I haven't told it for some time now. This was about the Clinton-era White House travel office story...I tried to explain the scandal last time, so you can click over if you want a bit of context, but you don't need it (although if you do click through, you'll get the Frank Grimes theory of anti-Clintonism). The basic idea was that it was a major fizzle of a scandal, but that didn't prevent it from looming large for at least some Republicans trapped in the mid-1990s early and primitive version of the conservative information feedback loop.
Anyway, the story (
I'm sorry for repeating myself, but it really is my favorite Clinton story. The thing is that the important context for Clinton-era scandals is that Fox News didn't exist, and the blogs didn't exist, and still they managed to obsess about this stuff. And not just on the fringes, as was the case with some of the more bizarre left-based obsessions during the George W. Bush years; the Clinton "scandals" were very much mainstream within the GOP. So much so that (okay, if the story is really true, but I do believe it is) a presidential campaign fooled itself into believing that it was actual news, not puffed up silliness. Which, of course, hasn't changed a bit.
Oh, also: nice catch!
(Update: Dave Hopkins passes along an AP story confirming most of the story: that Dole's campaign did put him in the front row, and did it to "rattle" Clinton. Not confirmed by that story, but probably correct, is that Clinton didn't recognize him; at any rate, Clinton wasn't rattled. Thanks, Dave!).