I’ll admit it right up front.
I always thought Watergate was as bad as it could get, short of a president of the United States actually spying for an enemy nation. Then the nation in 2016 elected Donald John Trump as its 45th president.
Now he is embroiled in a scandal that looks for all the world as if it’s going to surpass Watergate in its gravity.
I’m old enough to remember what happened on June 17, 1972 when some burglars got caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex in Washington. The media treated it initially as a police story. They buried the initial reporting inside the papers. Then it got worse … in a hurry!
We found out that President Nixon’s re-election team was involved. Then we learned that the president told the CIA to head off an FBI probe into what occurred. Then we learned of tape recordings of President Nixon saying precisely that. Then came congressional hearings and all hell broke loose. Then the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn the tapes over. Then the president learned his goose was cooked in the Senate if the House impeached him.
Then the president resigned.
Why is this worse? Because the president of the United States has dragged foreign nations into the act of working for his re-election, just as Russia did in helping elect him in 2016. Donald Trump also has used those solicitations for help as bargaining chips in delivering aid to an ally fighting a hostile power; Ukraine asked for military aid, Congress appropriated the funds, but the president held them up until Ukraine delivered on Trump’s request for aid in digging up dirt on Joe Biden, a potential 2020 political opponent.
Donald Trump, with that act, put our national security at risk. It emboldened that hostile power and has sown the seeds of mistrust among our other allies around the world into whether the United States can be trusted to keep its word.
I never thought I would see a day when a presidential scandal could eclipse Watergate. I believe, ladies and gents, that we have reached that stage.
The absolute absence of any public service experience in the president’s background is coming starkly into full view. He has built his entire professional career on self-service, self-enrichment and self-worth. He brought zero understanding of the U.S. Constitution into the Oval Office when he became president. He has made not only a mockery of the office he occupies, he has turned in a frightening display of the consequences of electing someone whose entire professional life has been build on demands that others act according to his whims.
That isn’t how good governance works.
We now are set to pay a painful price for the president’s astonishing ignorance and arrogance.