With great power comes great responsibility. Some elected leaders understand that, while others don’t. But what you say and do in high office matters.
President Richard Nixon violated his oath of office and very likely the law in the Watergate scandal. Ronald Reagan’s presidency was besmirched by the Iran-Contra scandal. President Bill Clinton was impeached for engaging in a lurid affair and lying about it. President George W. Bush invaded Iraq on the wings of a lie and destroyed his legacy of pulling us together in the aftermath of 9/11. President Former Guy…well the scandals are too numerous to tick off in this limited space.
Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, was entangled in a me-too scandal involving unwanted sexual behavior with women. He was facing impeachment in the Democratic-controlled New York legislature and a criminal investigation is pending.
For many who rise to important leadership roles in government, their responsibilities are taken seriously. Former President Jimmy Carter is one, his worst scandal was admitting he lusted in his mind. President Barack Obama was another. During his two terms, no administration official was implicated in wrongdoing. So frustrated were his conservative enemies, they attacked Obama for wearing a tan suit.
Let’s make sure we differentiate scandals from mistakes. No doubt Carter and Obama made many mistakes. Jimmy was, quite honestly, in over his head as president. Barack screwed up in Libya.
But a scandal involves knowingly doing wrong and believing you are above any accountability for your actions. Clinton didn’t break the law conducting a consensual sexual liaison with an adult intern, but he’d have been better served just telling the truth in sworn testimony. Clinton should have known facts would catch up to him thanks to the Republican Javerts who pursued him. They started with an investigation into a supposedly corrupt real estate deal and four years later it ended with a stained blue dress.
It was richly ironic that Clinton’s principle Javert was Special Counsel Ken Starr, whose former public relations advisor, Judi Hershman, recently revealed she had an extramarital affair with Starr in 2009. One of the other Javerts was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who at the time of the impeachment was engaged in his own affair while married.
Cuomo’s political career was skyrocketing, but after the overwhelming evidence of his alleged sexual harassment of women came to light last week and the calls to resign by President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other Democrats, he was forced to throw in the towel Tuesday.
Meantime, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), who is being investigated for sexual relations with an underage girl, remains in Congress with few if any Republicans demanding he resign. I guess accountability is a Democratic Party thing.
I think arrogance has a lot to do with these scandals. You look around, see all the adulation, all the press coverage, all the fawning supporters and decide, yeah, I’m invincible. Nobody can touch me.
That might be true for Russian President Vladimir Putin, but not for politicians in a democratic society with a free press. You don’t suggest to a young female aide that a game of strip poker would be fun, as the 63-year-old Cuomo allegedly did.
Republicans who back the former guy don’t have a lot of room for criticism here. Their hero was recorded by Access Hollywood bragging that he could sexually assault women and get away with it because he is famous. He’s also credibly accused of sexual harassment and even rape by more than a dozen other women. Then there is Stormy Daniels.
I know I’ll get whataboutisms from some readers. In 2020, former Biden aide Tara Reade accused the president of sexually assaulting her nearly 30 years ago, which he denies. Why didn’t she come forward in 2008 or 2012 when Biden was Obama’s running mate?
The former guy’s biggest scandal is percolating at the Justice Department right now. It seems he tried to co-op senior officials there into subverting the 2020 election. “Just say the election was corrupt,” he told them, “and leave the rest to me,” according to contemporaneous notes taken by an official.
That’s a turbo-charged scandal, fueled not only by arrogance but ignorance. The DOJ – and the president, for that matter — have no power to overturn an election.
Yet, at least one overly ambitious Justice Department official, Jeffery Clark, was apparently ready to do what the ex-president’s bidding in exchange for being named attorney general, according to published reports. Clark’s boss, acting AG Jeffery Rosen, testified for seven hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, and what he reportedly had to say will likely rock the former guy’s world.
Over many decades, I’m sure there are politicians who have gotten away with high crimes and misdemeanors, but very often the truth comes to light and the wrongdoer gets his or her comeuppance.