One of the most predictable things about the current Administration in the White House is that at least three times per week the cable news outlets will broadcast a segment with some presidential historian answering the inquiry “Have we seen anything like this before?” Well, yes we have, but just not in a single administration in a single year.
We’ve had some foreign policy related scandals — most recently the Iran-Contra Scandal during the Reagan Administration. 14 members of that administration were charged with criminal activity, five were pardoned, and the President gave an apologetic speech in 1987.
Richard Nixon still holds the modern lead for number of administration members indicted. Watergate swept up 69 individuals. Nixon resigned in 1974.
In 1922 the public witnessed the Teapot Dome scandal, in which a cabinet official got Interior Department control over oil deposits in Wyoming, which were in turn given out in no-bid contracts to private oil companies to extract oil and gas from the lands.
The New York Sun exposed the sham railroad construction conspiracy “Credit Mobilier” in 1872. The scheme was extremely lucrative for the directors of the Union Pacific Railroad and its shareholders. The scandal included Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax, and several Congressional representatives.
Even Richard Nixon didn’t reach the number of indicted and convicted enmeshed in the Whiskey Ring scandal of 1875 during the Grant Administration. The Secretary of the Treasury exposed an organized conspiracy of whiskey distillers to keep tax revenue for themselves by bribing IRS employees to look the other way. There were 238 indictments and 110 convictions.
We’ve even experienced a major fight between a President and a member of his cabinet. Andrew Johnson was impeached over his failure to enforce the Tenure of Office Act when he fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. His 1867 impeachment failed by one vote in the Senate.
There are various and sundry sex scandals to titillate those interested — Gary Hart 1987 (Donna Rice); Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton; Larry “Wide Stance” Craig in 2007; Elliot Spitzer, he of the extremely high priced prostitutes, in 2008; Nevada’s own John Ensign’s activities with a staffer’s wife in 2009, and David Vitter’s 2007 excursions which led to his inclusion in the DC Madam’s infamous phone book. It must be admitted that for all the rumors of infidelity attributed to Kennedy, Harding, Cleveland, etc. none were accused of saying “Grab ’em by the P—y.”
What makes the current mis-administration unique in the annals of presidential history is that this incarnation seems to be well on track to equal if not exceed all the scandals of the previous 44 administrations. Grant was bedeviled with administrative scandals, but the present Oval Office Occupant has already exceeded his quota. Little wonder the parade of presidential scholars has plenty of air time — and they’ll be getting a great deal more as the Special Counsel indictments continue to make the headlines.