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I'm Just Sayin' - Coming to a White House near you: Wag the Dog, a sequel

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I'm Just Sayin' - Coming to a White House near you: Wag the Dog, a sequel
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A fictional movie came out in 1997 called Wag the Dog. The basic premise of the movie was a U.S. president in potential trouble shortly before an upcoming election. The trouble, so to speak, was that the current president had made advances on an underage girl and it could swing the election once the public found out about it. A spin doctor by the name of Conrad Bean (Robert De Niro) was called in to try and save the day. His strategy was to create a fictional war in Albania, hoping the media would concentrate on this, and before they realized it was a hoax, the election would be over and the current president would have won. All of this was to distract and deflect a current scandal.

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This tactic has come to be known as "wag the dog." It comes from the habit of a happy dog wagging his tail to show his happiness. If the dog is not happy, you can create the illusion that it is happy by shaking the dog so the tail looks like it is wagging. Complicated, isn't it? The term has also come to be used in politics.

Probably the most famous recent incident referred to in politics as wagging the dog was when Bill Clinton finally agreed to order bombings in Kosovo at the same time as he was embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. So, the tactic was to distract the public with military actions, thus wagging the public impressions (Serbian War) so the tail (Lewinsky sandals) looks like it is happy and all is OK.

Current political events in the U.S. and the Middle East are setting the stage for another wag the dog event. In the U.S. we have the ongoing investigations into the Benghazi cover up, the Associated Press phone hackings, the IRS abuse of power scandals, and now the revelations that the NSA is accumulating mega data on all of our personal communications. These four scandals, or whatever you want to call them, are embroiling Congress and the White House.

As evidence of that, have you heard much lately about the economy, immigration, the national debt, gun laws or gay rights? It seems like everything has taken a back stage to the investigations of these events. Congress is trying to find out the facts, and the White House and the agencies that report to it are doing whatever they can to distract, deflect and deny.

Much of this could be resolved and we could move on if the information was just released, dealt with and closure brought to the scandals. But, some are determined to get some political mileage out of this and the business and security issues of the country take a minor role for the time being. How does that relate to the Middle East?

The civil war in Syria has been raging more than two years now, and an estimated 95,000 Syrians have died. The rebels are fighting to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad. At the root of the conflict it is a Sunni versus Shiite conflict, but politics and the monarchy of al-Assad cloud the root cause. The U.S. was urged by many countries in the Middle East and Europe to support the rebels, but President Obama has resisted as the U.S. is tired of war. But, now after the use of chemical weapons by al-Assad, it appears we are going to support the rebels and get involved. How convenient! Nothing like a war to distract the public away from domestic issues! Wag the dog! I'm just sayin'.

• • •

DuWayne Paul of Alexandria is a regular contributing columnist for the Echo Press.

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