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So, last night I posted optimistically about the OSC's wide-ranging investigation into Karl Rove's Hatch Act violations and general overmixing of government and politics, and a whole bunch of commenters basically said that I had been totally punk'd, and the whole investigation is a sham to shield the White House from oversight and accusations of wrongdoing.  Now, I will be the first to agree that Bloch's history at the OSC is not very encouraging, and a whitewash would not surprise me in the slightest, but the thing is, I don't think it will help the Republicans.  If anything, I think it will make things worse.

I attempted to explain myself (rather poorly) in the comments of that post, refined and expanded on my argument a little more at my place, and now that I have (hopefully) a cleaner, more structured explanation, I'm rolling it out here.

Basically, my problem with the whitewash laments is that they don't distinguish between the three different types of outcomes for the OSC and congressional investigations, so I wanted to unpack those and talk about them individually.

The first type of outcome is administrative; i.e., termination or loss of security clearances.  This is the only one that the OSC has control over; all Bloch can do is say that Rove doesn't need to lose his job or his clearances.

The second is criminal; i.e., referral to a prosecutor, and potentially fines or prison time as a result.  Bloch has absolutely zero control over this, except insofar as he can gull Waxman, Conyers and Leahy into believing that he's on the case so they don't need to be.  I suspect that they will be very skeptical about that – in fact, I would not be surprised if they ignore his investigation entirely as they proceed with theirs.  As best as I can tell from the FDL legal eagles in the comments of my previous post, it doesn't sound like the OSC is entitled to any deference from them.

Finally, there is the political aspect; i.e., electoral losses and permanent minority status for the Republican Party.  To me, this is the grand prize.  Much as I would love to see Bush and all his criminal minions fired and/or locked up, I would love it even more if the Republicans rendered themselves so unelectable that they became unable to return their criminals to positions of power.

This is also where these investigations are the most damaging.  The very existence of a comprehensive internal investigation into Rove gaming the system gives that narrative visibility and legitimacy, regardless of the administrative outcome.  In fact, it's a lose-lose proposition for the Republicans, because the result will confirm that the Republicans are cheating, no matter what it is.  If Bloch says he found wrongdoing, it confirms that the government has become overly politicized.  But if he says Rove did nothing improper, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, that confirms the exact same thing.

In fact, with the administration's credibility at rock bottom, a whitewash would actually be more politically damaging to the Republicans than an honest investigation. The same would also be true if the DC US Attorney sabotaged or slow-walked a criminal referral from one of the committees.  The smart play would be for the Republicans to play it straight.

Scarecrow and Christy have also made persuasive cases for why even a creep like Bloch will be motivated do the right thing, but their arguments, and mine, depend on Bloch knowing what's good for him, and how many Republicans are blessed with that rare gift?  But even if he does stay true to form, it's nice to know that it won't be any help.

(Thanks to montag and P J Evans for answering my stupid questions about congressional committees in the comments.)

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