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The Benghazi Graph

Jun 3, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 36 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Dartmouth government professor Brendan Nyhan is one of those political scientists who must really want his field to be considered a hard science, like chemistry or physics. To that end, he often marshals graphs and quantitative measurements in service of his arguments, no matter how dubious. (He’s one of that new breed of pundit/political scientist who seems to think that a pie chart is a substitute for argument.) It’s working well for him: Nyhan is now so widely quoted in news outlets like NPR and the Washington Post that Larry Sabato must be starting to look over his shoulder.

Proof! Nyhan’s chart.

Proof! Nyhan’s chart.

Give Nyhan credit, too: He does have a, um, novel theory as to why Obama is now entering his third week of Scandalpalooza. Forget the underlying events, says Nyhan! The Benghazi dissembling, the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the spying on AP and Fox News reporters—they’re irrelevant! Rather, Nyhan says, writing on his personal blog, “My research suggests that the structural conditions are strongly favorable for a major media scandal to emerge. First, I found that new scandals are likely to emerge when the president is unpopular among opposition party identifiers. .  .  . In addition, I found that media scandals are less likely to emerge as pressure from other news stories increases. .  .  . Finally, Obama is in his second term, which is when scandals are most likely to take place.”

And he’s got a chart to prove it!

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