Thursday, March 16, 2017

Presidential Scandals

Yesterday's post provoked a lot comment and not a lot of agreement, so I thought I should follow-up on it, to make the case that scandals are, in my view, unlikely to take down, or even significantly hinder, the Trump Presidency.

To start off, let's take a little stroll down Recent Presidential Scandal History lane.


The Gipper - the Teflon President himself - stood at the helm during the undertaking of one of the great scandals of American history, wherein arms were sold to honest-to-goodness Islamist hardliners (oh, and by the way, terrible right-wing butchers by way of El Salvador were involved too).  I am speaking of the Iran-Contra affair of course, my personal favorite Presidential crime of recent vicinage.  There was also grant-rigging at HUD, Pentagon graft on a massive level (this fantastic book on the subject is a real page-turner), and the S&L crisis.  On the whole, a rich buffet for the scandal-lover.


In the end, all that mattered to your average American voter was recovering from the severe recession of the early 80s which followed the "stagflation" of the late 70s.  The causes of that recession and the recovery therefrom are a complex topic and a topic for another post.  Let's just say that Reagan got credit - mostly wrongly - for the recovery, which began in earnest when the Fed eased off interest rates and the oil was discovered in the North Sea.  Most Americans to this day do not understand these developments nor the conditions under which the recession emerged in the first place, and continue to think of the the Reagan administration as primarily responsible for the economic recovery in the 1980s.  

George H. W. Bush, a far less charismatic politician than Ronald Reagan, would end up paying the price for S&L and other scandals.  In the end, recession got Bush.


You know the list, even if the details are frequently quite dull: Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, and finally the Blow Job That Shook the World: President Clinton's decision to lie under oath about his sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, which led to impeachment by a body dominated by men who themselves had a long history of lying about extra-marital affairs.


Clinton presided over an even more significant period of job growth than Reagan did, and in the end, that's all that matters to your average voter.  The Ken Starr Commission and all that hoo-hah was the ultimate STOP WASTING OUR TIME, DAMMIT moment for modern American political life.  It made for good television, but it didn't matter for a majority of voters in the end.

Al Gore was not around to take the hit for the early 00s recession that stemmed from Clinton-era imperatives, due to the stolen election of 2000.  He thus dodged the fate of George H.W. Bush.


Where do we start?  I don't have all day for this.  He lied us into a war that we're still paying for today, nearly 15 years after the fact.  That war was a feeding ground for Blackwater, Halliburton, you name it.  The Department of Homeland Security was created, opening up a brand new spigot for corruption during this time.  Then there was FEMA and Hurricane Katrina, the decline of Walter Reed Hospital and the Veteran's Administration generally, the Jack Abramoff scandal... the list goes on.


You'd think they would have, right?  But the nation essentially gave the man a pass on account on 9/11 and what was, at first, a fairly popular war.  George W. presided over the weakest economy of any President since (and including) the Carter era, but war is a force that gives us meaning after all.  Perhaps if things go sour for the Donald and he's worried about re-election, he can get to invadin' Iran...

Here's where we get to the real snooze-fest of our Presidential Scandal tour.  Solyndra?  Something having to do with ACORN?  Benghazi, birth certificate, etc. God, who cares.  But they're here if you want them!

Again - while real wages declined, jobs recovered under Barack Obama.  He has the third-best job-creation track record of the period, behind (1) Clinton and (2) Reagan.  Also, despite the many notable flaws of Obamacare, millions gained health insurance during his Presidency.  

In the end, it would seem, the household budget is what matters to people most.  No one's ever going to approve of a President when scandal hits; no one's ever going to be a fan of corruption, even vast corruption.  But people just plain will not care either way.  As long as folks can pay their bills, virtually all other concerns are negligible.

While I'm not a gambling man, there are reasons to believe that the Trump Presidency may hit some serious economic stumbling blocks, perhaps soon.  I hope that does not happen, because I want my salary to go up and my job to remain secure.  However, a recession, perhaps a severe one, may break during the Trump Presidency.  And if that happens, he may well be sunk.  But like Reagan and Clinton, he may dodge that bullet, in which case I think all the scandals in the world will matter not to him.

I think the odds, in particular, that a Republican-led Congress votes to impeach a sitting President of their own party are virtually nil, and forecasts of impeachment are 100% wishful thinking on the part of Democrats.  Has the GOP ever once in the past 40 years demonstrated they are willing to take this sort of action?  Rubio, McCain and the lot of them can make stern speeches a-plenty but if you were to put money on the prospect of them voting to impeach a Republican President, you would soon be short some dough.  Betting markets disagree with me, however!  Then again, markets are often run by over-emotional twits.
I want to wrap up this discussion of Trump, these scandals, and his perception by the average voter, with this very good Democracy Corps / Roosevelt Institute study on Macomb County, MI.  However, I don't have time for it today!

So: see you tomorrow, I hope!

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