Why politicians can’t grasp "It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup" Posted by: Billy Hollis
on Friday, December 12, 2008
I'm in agreement with McQ about Obama's connections to Blago. It seems ridiculous that Obama's staff didn't talk to Blago about the Senate seat. They had completely above-board reasons to do so, and until the scandal blew up in their faces, no reason not to.
So why the evasion? As a commenter on that thread (jjmurphy) says:
These people seem to lie and cover-up even when there is absolutely no reason to!
I have a theory about that.
If politicians engage in such behavior by reflex, there can be only one reason: it works.
For minor, gray-area instances of abuse of office, the best possible case for the politician is to pretend the instances never existed at all. Absent compelling tangible evidence of wrongdoing, I think that behavior works a very, very large percentage of the time.
This makes sense because the entire process of abuse of office is necessarily as hidden as possible. All of the players have a strong incentive to keep everything hidden, and the best way to do that is to pretend none of it exists.
For a politician, pretending the incidents don't exist is much easier than trying to defend them as innocent. Given the gray-areas involved, pleading innocence is a hard case to make. And if you are constantly making that case over routine things that you do, you come across as sleazy.
So routine inquiries from the press, in which there might be allegation or suspicion, but no tangible evidence, are met with the Clinton strategy "Deny, deny, deny." A high percentage of the time, it works. It even worked for Clinton right up until the DNA analysis pulled the rug out from under him.
The "deny, deny, deny" strategy looks illogical to us because we only see the cases where it doesn't work. We don't see the hundreds or thousands of cases where it does.
In short, given the realities of daily political manuveuring, "deny, deny, deny" works so well that it becomes a habit.
There's an old piece of Heinlein dialog in which a fast-driving character says "I've never had an accident." The passenger responds "The way you drive, you'll only have one." It's a bit like that in dealing with scandal. The first time you fumble it is usually the last opportunity you get.
So politicians have no practice in seeing where to stop their habit of "deny, deny, deny" and engage in more candid explanations of their actions. That's why it's so hard for them not to resort to cover-ups. It's what they know how to do, and for each individual, it's always worked for them in the past.
I’m in agreement with McQ about Obama’s connections to Blago. It seems ridiculous that Obama’s staff didn’t talk to Blago about the Senate seat. They had completely above-board reasons to do so, and until the scandal blew up in their faces, no reason not to.
I understand how you would think this is what is happening, and Obama seems to have parsed tightly enough to deserve this misinterpretation of what he has said.
Obama never said that no one discussed the Senate seat with Blago, in fact, in his press conference he promised to gather information about all contacts by his team with Blago regarding the Senate seat and make that onformation available to the public. What Obama did say was that no one on his team had been in contact with Blago regarding a DEAL for the Senate seat.
There’s a difference, but I do understand how it is being read in this way.
The "deny, deny, deny" strategy looks illogical to us because we only see the cases where it doesn’t work. We don’t see the hundreds or thousands of cases where it does.
Very interesting. I guess my first mistake was applying logic or common sense, or ethics, to anything to do with politicians. So they deny anything and everything knowing, as well, that others in government probably "have their back" regardless of party.
Asked what contact he’d had with the governor’s office about his replacement in the Senate, President-elect Obama today said "I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening."
Read it again, Obama clearly and unequivocally said that HE PERSONALLY had no contact with Blago regarding this Senate seat in any way, and he maintains that.
Beyond that, he has not said that no one on his team has had any contact with Blago, and he has not said that no one on his team has had any contact regarding the Senate seat. What he has said is that he is confident that no one on hs team were involved in any discussions with Blago about a DEAL for the Senate seat.
Obama has also promised to make public any discussions between his team and Blago about the Senate seat, and he is gathering that information now and promised to provide information shortly.
"I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening."
If you are referencing the use of the "we", it could easily be that he was correcting himself from "we" to "I", especially in light of his other statements.
I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I’m confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat. I think the materials released by the U.S. attorney reflect that fact.
I’ve asked my team to gather the facts of any contacts with the governor’s office about this vacancy so that we can share them with you over the next few days.
I agree that if he puts it out there, he better deliver, and starting, say, next Wednesday, the status of this promise should be asked at every press conference until it’s delivered.