If you say “Clinton scandal,” the first thing that comes to mind for most people, at least for those of us old enough to have been around for Bill Clinton’s presidency, is Monica Lewinsky. That’s a shame: I am convinced that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s cattle-futures shenanigans were in fact a much more serious offense as a matter of public corruption. But most people don’t understand futures trading. Everybody understands diddling the interns. Nobody understands finance. Everybody understands sex.
That’s why financial scandals rarely end political careers, but sex scandals often do, especially for Republicans.
There were not any sex scandals involving the president during the Obama administration, but there was a similar situation, in one sense: The Obama administration represented a great missed opportunity for conservatives, because conservatives spent so much time criticizing him for the wrong things. It’s not that there wasn’t serious criticism of the president’s thinking and his policies (see eight years worth of this magazine, for starters) but much of the popular/populist criticism was pretty dumb: He plays too much golf, he takes too many vacations, his family spends too much money on fancy hotels and resorts, etc. Some of these stupid criticisms were made in a similarly stupid fashion by similarly stupid people for similarly stupid reasons when George W. Bush was president.
A lot of those stories went something like: “Heavens, it costs $x for the Obamas to spent six days at Martha’s Vineyard!” But that $x is generally misleading, inasmuch as it costs tons of money to keep Air Force One staffed and prepped and ready to fly irrespective of whether the president actually is traveling in it, and we pay those Secret Service (the name of that agency is odious) agents irrespective of whether the president is in the White House or Hawaii. It isn’t lobster tails and upgrades at the Ritz that really drive the cost of presidential travel expenditures: It is the presidency itself.
The presidential entourage is bloated and monarchical, and it is an affront to our republican traditions. But “even if his household entourage does resemble the Ringling Bros. Circus as reimagined by Imelda Marcos when it moves about from Kailua Beach to Blue Heron Farm,” the cost of operating the presidential household is small beans in the context of federal spending. It just doesn’t matter — it is boob bait for Bubba.
Now, we’re getting the same thing about Trump. It costs $x for him to keep moving about from Trump Tower to the White House to Mar a Lago. Some have tried to make hay out of the fact that some $500,000 in Trump campaign funds (not tax dollars, contrary to some claims) has been paid out to Trump-affiliated companies. This is deeply silly criticism: If there is a campaign event at a Trump hotel or another property, then of course the campaign has to pay for it: If it does not, then the Trump Organization almost certainly is making an illegal political donation to the Trump campaign. Trump did not write the rules.
(They’d probably be a hell of a lot worse if he had.)
The income-tax documents are turning into the Obama birth certificate of the Trump administration. (Sometimes, poetic justice takes the form of rank stupidity.) I think Trump ought to release his tax returns, just as I think Obama should have released his college transcripts and such. I want to know if Obama ever took Economics 101 and whether he passed it, just as I am curious about Trump’s personal finances. I’m a curious man.
But, for Pete’s sake, of all the things to hate on about President Donald Trump and his administration, the Democrats are really going to focus on tee times and presidential travel and whether he claimed some Clinton-style tax deductions for gently used underwear? You would think that it would be impossible for a political party led by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to actually underperform intellectual expectations — that’s like an earthworm losing at limbo — but the Democrats seem to be intent on doing so.
(Autocorrect renames the gentleman from New York “Chuck Schemer,” which is perfect.)
There are many pieces of evidence in the case against Trump. The fact that he prefers the climate in Palm Beach is not one of them.