Presidential Scandal Isn’t a Very Big Deal Anymore

Yuri Gripas/CNP via ZUMA

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OK, back to Ukrainegate. Over the weekend we learned:

I doubt that these revelations will move the needle much on public opinion. As I alluded to yesterday, the public doesn’t seem to doubt that Trump did what he’s accused of doing. What they doubt is that this is much different from the kinds of things that presidents do all the time. Democrats have—so far—done a bad job of explaining that although presidential pressure is common in foreign policy, it’s not common for that pressure to be used for personal gain. In fact, it’s not clear if the public even gets that digging up dirt on a political rival counts as personal gain. It all just seems like politics, and it’s not as if anyone was handing over bags of cash to Trump’s campaign.

One reason for this is the endless scandalmongering of the past couple of decades. Barack Obama ran perhaps the cleanest, most honest presidency in recent memory, but that’s not what you believe if you watch Fox News—or even the evening news. Instead, what you’ve heard about nonstop is Bill Ayers, Fast & Furious, Solyndra, Shirley Sherrod, the IRS, Benghazi, emails, DACA, and more. You probably believe that Obama was a lawless, scandal-ridden president. Trump’s actions seem picayune in comparison.

Ditto for Bill Clinton, of course, and I won’t bother with the laundry list of alleged scandals since we’re all familiar with it. The bottom line is that Republicans—and Democrats too, though to a smaller degree—have convinced much of the country that presidential scandal is so common as to be merely a normal part of the political background noise. Given that, it’s hardly surprising that a bit of conniving with an obscure foreign country hardly seems like an impeachable offense. After all, we didn’t impeach Obama, did we?

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