To What Standard Do We Hold Presidents?
by Rebekah Chodoff Kuschmider
It was 1998. I was a 25 year old liberal. President Clinton, the first president I had ever voted for, was embroiled in an investigation and an impeachment proceeding that was about perjury and obstruction of justice and adultery and real estate and some thread of thick contempt for an arrogant man with a southern accent and not enough Washington gravitas.
I was of the “It’s just a blow job! Chill” school of thought. What was the big deal? He had affairs, he lied about them, a million other people have done the same.
Then someone pointed something out to me: adultery is against the military code of conduct and can result in disciplinary action. Bill Clinton, as president, was Commander in Chief of the military. Why should he not be held to the same standards of behavior as the rank and file?
It was a good question. One I have never forgotten. To what standard do we hold the president? Should it be higher or lower than the standard to which we hold others?In 2016, I was in a discussion with a friend about another Clinton, this time the former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. We were discussing the endless coverage of the private server, the questions about classified information handling, the repercussions. I was of the “It wasn’t critical data and she’s learned her lesson” school of thought. My friend is married to a member of the U.S. Navy. “I’ve known people in the military who lost their careers over less than what she did,” my friend told me.
The same question once again. To what standard do we hold a potential president? Should she be allowed to be less careful than other public servants?
Yesterday, I read a news story about President Trump, sharing classified information supplied by a foreign ally. The ally had not given permission to share the information. The mere fact of sharing it probably had major implications for the operation to which it pertained. That the President shared the information with Russian officials adds even more texture and conflict to the chain of events.
Trump supporters are of the the school of thought that says, “The President has the authority to conduct foreign relations and to declassify information so he was not in violation of a law. Let it go.”
I asked two friends, one with a military background and one with an intelligence background what would have happened to them if they had done what the president did. Their answers contained words like “court martial” and “stripped of clearance.”
I ask this of President Trump’s supporters today: To what standard do you hold this president?
Rebekah Chodoff Kuschmider is a co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and writes her own blog, StayAtHomePundit.com