Scandals are useful... argument / issue essay

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James Trotta
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Scandals are useful... argument / issue essay

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Scandals are useful because they focus our attention on problems in ways that no speaker or reformer ever could.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.
Honesty in politics sounds good but most Americans will tell you that it doesn't exist. Few things can make that as clear as a scandal. Political scandals make for some of the most colorful anecdotes in history class and also have a large impact on pop culture. One interesting avenue for research is how harmful or beneficial an impact political scandals have on their culture. Despite the negative connotation of the term 'scandal' a look at a few of the most famous scandals in modern US politics indicates that scandals serve a useful purpose; scandals focus the population's attention and help to bring change in ways that no speaker or reformer ever could.

Perhaps the most famous scandal in US politics involved Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Nixon had numerous critics before the Watergate break-in was made public, but none of these critics were able to affect change. Once the citizens of America learned of Nixon's involvement in a break-in at his rival's offices, change came quickly. “I am not a crook,” Nixon's denial of any involvement became one of the most infamous quotes in America. The quote became so popular that it was a sort of rallying cry not only for comedians but also for people who demanded political change. The American people's demand for change was undeniable; Nixon was impeached and removed from office. This sort of focus and change was only possible because the Watergate scandal caused Americans to pay extra attention to honesty in politics.

A couple of decades after Watergate, came another political scandal that rocked America. The example of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky may seem to refute my claim that scandal brings change because, unlike Nixon, Clinton was not forced to leave office. However, a closer look will show that this scandal focused Americans' attention in much the same way the Watergate scandal had. Instead of “I am not a crook,” the rallying cry for comedians and those demanding change was “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Once again, the American people became focused on the lies of their leader. This attention to the problem of honesty in politics led to the impeachment of Clinton, just like it had for Nixon before him. The vote did not remove Clinton from office, but the president's lies plus the subsequent focus on honesty in politics, instigated that vote and changed the political landscape in America.

One of the more recent scandals in US politics came while George Bush was in office. Bush, like his father before him, sent US troops to Iraq. Unlike his father before him, the younger George Bush could not point to an invasion to justify putting American lives at risk in a foreign land. He said he had something of equal or greater magnitude: evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent danger to the world. When the military action failed to turn up the promised weapons of mass destruction, political change began to happen. Like with the Nixon and Clinton cases, that American nation once again became focused on getting the truth from its president. Once again, this cry for the truth was answered and the political landscape was changed. For example, after this scandal The Freedom of Information Act gained new supporters and many formerly classified documents have been discussed in the media as Americans once again focused on the truth.

There can be no doubt that honesty is often lacking from politics. And many times, the lack of honesty is in the back of most Americans' minds. It takes a big scandal like Watergate, sex with an intern, or weapons of mass destruction and the accompanying lie from a president to remind Americans to demand honesty from their leaders. Americans may never get the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but they get more of the truth after a scandal, making these nasty things quite useful.
My take - for the 30 minutes you get on the GRE, this is a nice little essay and I did time myself on this one. At 657 words it has the length that GRE essay graders are looking for. It has an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion - this is also what the raters like to see. You might notice that in the paragraph on Bush and Iraq, I give some examples of how the political landscape changed - something lacking from the second paragraph on Clinton and Lewinsky. For me, this sort of thing is one of the frustrating aspects of writing for the GRE - there's simply not enough time to give all the information that ought to go in there.

Other positives - the last sentence in the intro is a thesis that explains the argument and every body paragraph has a good topic sentence. Both of those help tremendously.
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