Tony Blankley

Whether supporters of the president, such as I, like it or not, it is Washington scandal time again in America. (Who leaked the identify of Ambassador Wilson's CIA agent wife?) So it is worth reviewing the hard-learned lessons of scandal management. In every instance but perhaps one, the management of the scandal has increased the magnitude and political damage of the initial transgression. From Watergate, to Iran-Contra, to the various agonies of my old boss Newt Gingrich, to the Clinton classics (and the many lesser scandals in between), only Clinton's scandal management may have benefited the subject of the scandal. Hard and debilitating as Clinton's scandals have been on his reputation, I strongly suspect that had all the truth come out, Clinton likely would be paying, currently, an even higher price in a confined space.

But it is worth noting that the Bush White House team is utterly unqualified by both experience and disposition to be as effective as Clinton and his scandal managers were. After all, Bush has never had a significant scandal, and most if not all of his team have never worked for someone who has. But Clinton had been warding off scandal from his late youth (think about the phony ROTC application). By the time he reached the White House, both he and his team had decades of experience deflecting the truth from public scrutiny. They had the experience, cunning and ruthless amorality necessary for such high stakes ventures. The Bush team lacks at least the first and third factors, and perhaps the second as well. And even for Clinton, it was a close run thing (e.g. A precipitous admission of the Lewinsky matter in the week of Jan, 21, 1996, might have consumed his presidency then and there -- as many experienced Washington hands were publicly predicting that week). Clinton had the added advantage of having his scandal management team already on staff when the scandals started breaking (e.g. travel office, misuse of the president's helicopter, FBI filegate, etc.). President Bush would have to hire old GOP scandal-management veterans and bring them to battle station in full public scrutiny -- thus already exacerbating the problem. That would be his first mistake.

But his primary mistake in managing the scandal is that it would inevitably damage his well-deserved reputation as an honest and upright man. Clinton, by contrast, had made it to the presidency despite his reputation as a sharp operator. Thus, he had little, if any, political capital to lose on that account. But Bush would be politically bankrupted if he lost (or seriously lessened) his reputation for honesty and forthrightness.


Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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