Conservative pundit S.E. Cupp touches on one of this week’s bits of skulduggery from the Trump administration — the leaks of Israeli intel to the Russians in this case, although any week’s scandal would do — to briefly discuss the usual response we all know and are sick of by now. The conflicting denials and rationalizations that are quickly detonated by a Trump tweet. The confused media. The Twitter outrage. The ducking-for-cover of Republican congressmen. The lack of resolution by the time the next scandal hits. After all, it took just 24 hours for the Russia-leak story to get buried by the news that James Comey may have notes from a meeting where Trump committed obstruction of justice.
But then she tries to compare the above to the various misdeeds and mistakes of the Obama era, calling them “scandals,” which begs the question.
Even if you accept that the Obama administration was gravely at fault in cases like the bungled Fast and Furious gun op, Benghazi, or Solyandra: Are these “scandals” where Obama stood to personally profit? Or can they be explained as cases of negligence or incompetence?
This is an important distinction. For the average member of the public, the word “scandal” means a politician tried to abuse his position for personal benefit. Whether financial, sexual, legal, or for the benefit of a friend or family member, or to simply look cool and “in the know” to the Russian ambassador — scandals require ulterior motives in order to be scandals. S.E. Cupp and other conservatives may not like this definition of “scandal,” but that’s what the people back home go by.
And I have yet to see anyone make a case that Obama attempted to personally profit off of Benghazi, or his cowboy approach to drone strikes, or the bureaucratic nightmare that is the VA system. I mean, how does that even make any sense? Prove to me that he was sleeping with an incompetent VA manager or General Atomics was sending him a kickback every time he ordered a drone strike, and I’ll shut up. Otherwise, I suggest we stop calling every case of presidential bungling and screwing up a “scandal” lest that term lose all meaning and we’re comparing Reagan to Nixon over the Lebanon attacks of 1983.
The incident that most closely resembles the s-word was probably the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups for unfair audits. This, unlike most of the Obama-era problems Cupp lists, quite plainly was done in malign intent. But nobody ever proved that culpability extended beyond Lois Lerner and one IRS office in Cleveland, despite the Republicans’ best efforts. This is in contrast to Trump’s various depredations where his personal involvement, and personal profit motive, are not even in question.
Or there was former CIA head David Petraus getting into a good, old-fashioned Washington sex scandal with Paula Broadwell. Now there was a no-brainer case to deploy the s-word. We all understand how he “profited,” same as Fitz and Olivia up there. But on the other hand, that had nothing to do with Obama.
Obama’s mistakes are not called “scandals” by your average voter, and it’s not because of a liberal media pushing fake news. It’s because, absent any damning evidence that has yet to surface, they weren’t scandals. They were mistakes. Let’s stop using overheated terminology. Things are overheated enough these days.