In Watergate, the public originally knew very little about the litany of crimes that would bring down President Nixon. The obstruction of justice, the witness tampering, the lies to federal officials, and all the other grave offenses were topics of speculation until the truth finally came tumbling forth in a burst of revelations.
With President Trump it’s quite different. These same charges that cast Nixon into infamy – the obstruction of justice, the witness tampering, the lies – all one really needs for proof is the President’s Twitter feed. The truth is hidden (if you want to use that term) in plain sight. Now add all of that other serious criminal concerns around collusion with a foreign power and it seems the President’s brazenness is his final line of defense. We will see how well that works and how long that lasts. One can feel the vise tightening rather rapidly.
All of this certainly deserves the attention it is getting, but I worry that with the focus on the very serious legal and ethical questions swirling around President Trump and his administration, we are losing a more basic foundation for outrage.
Even without Russia, or the corruption of cabinet members, or emoluments, or the threatening of the DOJ, the President could well be judged as a threat to our democratic institutions. We should be asking, is it presidential to be so divisive, to lie, to denigrate science, to stoke racial animosity, to be distracted, to attack the press, to be uncivil, to lack empathy, to not visit our troops on deployment, and all the other things big and small that separates this president from those who previously held our most exalted political office.
This is a Rorschach Test for what type of mettle we should require of those who would serve as our president. The oversight by our Congress, the scrutiny by the press, and the judgment from our fellow citizens should not be limited to questions of criminal and Constitutional law. That is far too low a bar, nevermind that it is one by which the President seems to be failing.
We need to recognize and remember how a president should behave. When we repair our national fabric, let not the character of President Trump become in any way the mark of the acceptable.