Americans need simpler scandals

March 20, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND


Sigh. Another presidential scandal that I just don't get.

This whole firing-of-federal-prosecutors fiasco (I'm taking the media's word that it's a fiasco) that somehow involves Alberto Gonzales and Karl - well obviously - Rove makes everything go a bit black.

First, since when is firing lawyers a scandal? I would even have thought it deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Second, I guess this means U.S. attorneys aren't like state road crews in West Virginia were back in the good-old days.


That was always the first act of every new governor. Fire the road crews and replace them with road crews that were of the winning governor's own party. I think it was in the governor's oath of office.

"Do you solemnly swear to get rid of every last Republican tar-shoveling swine and replace them with Democrat tar-shoveling swine?"

When I was a boy, we lived on the same road as one of the county's Democratic Central Committee members. In Democratic administrations, ours was always the first road plowed. But when Arch Moore was governor, we would go entire winters without being able to make it out past our driveway.

The prosecutor scandal comes on the heels of the Scooter Libby scandal, which was so convoluted I couldn't wrap my tiny little brain around it. As I understood it, columnist Robert Novak wrote a column exposing the identity of one of our spies. The government went on to impugn everyone within a 500-mile radius - except Novak.

Which is OK, I guess. Novak strikes me as a man of limited worldview. He's like a guy I went to college with, whose ambition was to graduate and then take off the following summer to backpack around Gaithersburg.

I did understand Katrina and I understand Walter Reed. But those aren't really scandals, but merely examples of gross incompetence. I think a pundit needs to be careful to comprehend the difference.

It all started with Iran-Contra and accelerated with Whitewater, neither of which I understood. To his credit, reformer Bill Clinton tried to get us back on the proper path by getting us back to the basics - women and cigars.

But the effort didn't take. I have no patience for scandals where the central questions are, "Was he lying or was he merely untruthful?" and "Was his memory just poor, or was it maliciously poor?"

President Bush's defense in all the above is "I didn't know."

And you know something? I believe him entirely. Whenever our president says "I didn't know" - about anything - I am as confident in his truthfulness as I am that before the day is over I will be forced to endure another stinkin' Chevrolet "This is our country" television ad.

Attorneys were fired.

I didn't know.

The administration outed a spy.

I didn't know.

People suffered during Katrina.

I didn't know.

Wounded soldiers are being treated like garbage.

I didn't know.

The nation's capital is Washington, D.C.

I didn't know.

But that's not important now. What is important is that we Americans - Democrat and Republican - stand up as a group and demand change. We must demand that from now on presidents will engage in scandals that we can understand.

Why do you think everyone today watches "American Idol" and pays no attention to politics? It's because our scandals have become more dense than the tax code.

I want a candidate with the guts to stand up and say, "If I am elected president, I promise that all my scandals will be simple and readily understood so the average American can get clearly outraged about them without having to think."

As scandals, I will accept matters of sex, money, drug use and physical violence, period. I want no scandals so entangled that you have to parse around the mulberry bush using arcane phrases such as "appearance of conflict" and "rule of law."

I don't think that's too much for Americans to ask. Meanwhile, there's nothing left for us to do but sit around and pine for the days of Wilbur Mills.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

The Herald-Mail Articles