First they went after President Bill Clinton, but their years-long investigation into a real estate deal finally uncovered only a tawdry liaison over which the president lied under oath.
Republican efforts to impeach Clinton then backfired when House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s own marital indiscretions were exposed. It was Gingrich, not Clinton who eventually stepped down.
Frustrated they couldn’t nail Clinton, Republicans targeted Barack Obama with a vengeance.
They thought they had him after the tragic attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. Then it was a revelation that the IRS was reviewing the tax exempt applications of tea party groups. Finally the National Security Agency’s over-reaching made news.
Despite baseless accusations from conservative politicians and pundits implicating Obama in all three, none were scandals, let alone crimes.
If Republicans want to know what a real scandal and perhaps a crime look like, they should keep an eye on New Jersey.
The Republican establishment, tired of the tea party and religious extremists costing the party elections, wants Gov. Chris Christie to be their 2016 presidential candidate.
The bombastic Christie is billed as a moderate. Super storm Sandy cemented his reputation for dogged leadership in the face of a devastating natural disaster. He cut through bureaucratic red tape and crossed party lines to ensure the people of New Jersey left ruined by the storm would recover.
When President Obama arrived in the fall of 2012 to inspect the ravaged Jersey Shore with Christie, we caught a fleeting glimpse of politicians cooperating to serve those who elected them.
To prove his bipartisan appeal and further impress Republican poobahs and campaign donors, Christie sought to win re-election with a huge cross-section of Garden State voters. He even asked Democrats to support him.
Christie was swept into a second term with a resounding 60 percent of the vote. His support included large numbers of women, African-Americans and Hispanics, constituencies extremists drove away in 2012 and voters the GOP establishment desperately needs if it expects Christie to win in 2016.
Then “Bridgegate” exploded.
Christie’s minions reportedly conspired to close down all but one lane onto the George Washington Bridge from the small town of Fort Lee, resulting in a monumental four-day traffic jam last September.
I used to live near Fort Lee. To give you an idea of what this would be like, imagine Gov. Nathan Deal arbitrarily ordering southbound I-75 squeezed down to one lane between Delk Road and Windy Hill during the morning rush hour.
What’s known is Christie’s staff engineered the lane closings because the mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, did not endorse Christie. The traffic jam-ups were payback.
“I am heartbroken that someone I permitted to be in that circle of trust for the past five years betrayed that trust,” lamented Christie.
Having watched his televised performances, it’s not difficult to imagine Christie had a hand in this disgraceful affair.
He frequently comes off as a loudmouthed bully, humiliating reporters who ask questions he doesn’t like, or belligerently shouting down constituents who have the temerity to ask why he sends his children to private schools and not the state’s public schools.
As I say, I lived in Jersey. Some people there have an aggressive, unpleasant edge and Christie exemplifies this nasty underside with his snarling, sarcastic style.
Would Christie resort to punishing those who don’t get in line? We’ll have to wait and see what the subpoenas produce. Meantime, anxious Republican establishment leaders are cautioning us not to rush to judgment.
If only they would afford President Obama the same courtesy.
Kevin Foley is an author, writer and public relations executive who lives in Kennesaw.