Too much scandal to handle

Brendan Nyhan on how the super-abundance of Trump scandals actually works in his favor:

These developments have struggled to gain traction amid the many competing stories about Mr. Trump and his presidential transition, including Tuesday night’s release of unverified allegations against the president-elect.

Scandals need time and space to develop. When the news cycle is congested, potential scandals are deprived of attention, causing the media to move on to other stories and the political opposition to anticipate that any criticisms will probably have little effect…

History shows that potential scandals can easily be crowded off the news agenda by other events. During the chaotic post-9/11 period, for instance, the focus on more important events kept Army Secretary Thomas White in office despite numerous questionable decisions. (The post-9/11 surge in news continued all the way through the invasion of Iraq in early 2003, helping to insulate George W. Bush from fallout over the collapse of the Enron corporation and other matters; Bush didn’t suffer a major scandal until Valerie Plame was outed as a C.I.A. officer that summer.)

Another example came during the summer of 2009, when the death of Michael Jackson helped push the furor over the affair of the South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, out of the news.

By contrast, relatively slow news periods may increase the likelihood of a scandal’s developing, as with the travel habits of former White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu in 1991, which became an issue in the months after the end of the first Persian Gulf war, and as with Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal in 2014…

In this sense, the continuing reality show that Mr. Trump creates may help protect him from deep damage by any particular scandal. As in the campaign, he makes so much news every day that few stories ever generate sustained controversy. Instead, public attention lurches from one story to the next, never quite focusing on any particular controversy. He may prefer it that way. [emphasis mine]

Also reminds me of my “cat piss” post I wrote back during the campaign:

As much as some journalists may be trying to keep from normalizing Trump’s absurdly abnormal behavior, honestly, the volume of it just makes it hard.  It is quite simply human nature to adapt to that to which you are always exposed.  Donald Trump is like a 20-year old cat that just keeps peeing all over the house.  After a while, you just don’t even smell it any more.  But if your neighbors come over all they can think is “damn, this house smells like cat piss.”  Or if you go away for a week you come back and think, “damn does my house stink.”  But day in, day out, you just get used to it.

Right now, Donald Trump is an old cat (or dog) peeing all over the house and our media is mostly just inured to it.

However you think about it, it’s sure not good.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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