The dumbing down of scandal.
The first president for whom I ever voted left office in disgrace. Richard Nixon’s role in Watergate was a front page, top-of-the-fold, lead-story-on-the-nightly-news, week-in, week out-for-months-on-end scandal.
The media was relentless. Watergate served to hound Richard Nixon from office. Following his momentous fall from grace, eight top officials in his administration went to prison. Across the country – among both Democrats and Republicans – there was a proper sense of outrage and the malefactors in the Watergate story were made to pay a price.
We have since dumbed down scandals. Exhibit “A” is “Russiagate.”
Beginning in 2016, Hillary Clinton created – mostly out of thin air – a portfolio of Russian collusion and conspiracy theories targeted at Donald Trump. Her concoctions were intended to deflect attention from damaging material on her personal email server, thwart her bitter opponent Donald Trump in the 2016 election and then later serve as a public explanation for her humiliating 2016 election loss.
Fine. Politics, you say. Scurrilously dirty politics, to be sure. But politics, nonetheless.
The episode becomes a scandal by virtue of the actions of the FBI, nominally the nation’s premiere law enforcement agency. The top leaders of the FBI were adamantly opposed to a Trump presidency and willing to abandon all scruple to prevent one from happening. Using as the predicate material that they knew was utterly bogus Clinton campaign oppo “research,” (the now infamous “Steele Dossier”), the FBI pursued a cosmically dishonest, legacy media-enabled campaign to prevent a Trump presidency from ever happening. When that effort failed, there was an immediate pivot toward kneecapping Trump’s presidency by “investigating” (while systematically leaking to the media) allegations of Russian “collusion” to steal the 2016 election.
On the Richter Scale of scandals, Russiagate dwarfs Watergate. Watergate was at its root a garden variety political dirty trick. Russiagate, on the other hand, was an attempt by high-ranking officials within the government to nullify the expressed will of the American electorate. Yet, save for one FBI lawyer who got 12 months probation, the Russiagate perpetrators all skated while the media yawned.
Since then, we’ve learned that Hunter Biden has made millions peddling his father’s position in the U.S. government to international thugs and tyrants. To quote Joe Biden himself, that’s a big effin’ deal. The proper word is, ‘bribery,’ one of the specific words used by the founders as a basis for impeaching presidents.
We’ve learned that Hunter did not pay income taxes on those millions. And we’ve learned that it was nevertheless the first instinct of the federal prosecutor assigned to the case to let Hunter off scot-free. Scandal on a massive scale. Yet, no accountability. No reckoning. Most of the media remains disinterested.
That lack of accountability, that dumbing down of scandal, is happening concurrently with the nakedly partisan prosecution of a former president who still enjoys widespread support. The obvious double standard has created a civic division that threatens to rend the very fabric of the nation.
If a proper accounting never comes, it’s not clear the republic can survive.