I have always been fascinated by the concept of irony… And in these past few weeks, irony has smacked me in the face more than once. Every new political revelation that surfaces reminds me of events in days gone by. And every new such revelation also reminds me how often America fails to learn from its past.
In 1994, Kenneth Starr was looking into Whitewater—a real estate controversy involving Hillary and Bill Clinton–a failed investment that cost the Clintons more than $46,000. While doing so, Starr uncovered the whole Monica Lewinsky/Clinton affair and began investigating allegations of sexual harassment and later perjury. Ironically, a current Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh, was a deputy on Starr’s team and wrote a portion of the final Starr report which went into excruciating, almost pornographic detail, describing Clinton’s escapades. In an internal memo at that time, Kavanaugh wrote to Starr, “It may not be our job to impose sanctions on him, but it is our job to make his pattern of revolting behavior clear—piece by painful piece.” Ironic, don’t you think, when those chickens came home to roost for Kavanaugh, and later for Trump? Starr’s investigation of Clinton cost more than $52 million and lasted more than four years. It was the most expensive investigation of its kind in American history.
After his investigation of Clinton, Starr was a hero to fellow Republicans. However, Starr’s “star” fell in 2016 when he resigned his position as chancellor of Baylor University after allegations that he had mishandled a rape case involving football players. Such allegations did not deter Trump from adding Starr to his first impeachment defense team. And there is still more irony when you consider Trump’s many controversial real estate and bankruptcy transactions that were being investigated during that time. Apparently, a decade later, Starr had no problem representing a man with a ledger full of questionable real estate transactions, as well a series of sexual allegations and one rape allegation.
During Trump’s 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly chanted “lock her up” referring to Hillary’s email server and missing emails. He also said that if she were elected, we could very well have a president under felony indictment and ultimately involved in a criminal trial. And then Trump and his allies published innumerable stories that Hillary was solely responsible for the deaths at the embassy of Benghazi. Ten investigations were conducted regarding Benghazi. None directly blamed Hillary for the death of four Americans. (Let me also note that during George W. Bush’s presidency, there were 13 attacks on embassies and more than 60 people died. No investigations were held.)
Simultaneously while Trump was maligning Hillary, he was paying off a porn star, a Playboy model, and a door attendant who allegedly knew some tale of a Trump child born out of wedlock. During that time, David Pecker at The National Inquirer agreed to a “catch and kill” scheme financed by Trump in which Pecker would buy stories, pay off people involved to be silent, and either kill the story entirely or hold the story from being printed until after the election. In addition, there are now several investigations involving Fox News knowingly spewing forth false information to sway voters towards Trump. One such case currently underway involves Dominion Voting System’s claim that Fox was amplifying a lie about its voting machines simply to maintain its pro-Trump audience.
Plus, during that same time, FBI Director James Comey, who also worked on the Whitewater investigation, made the unprecedented move of announcing that he was reopening the investigation regarding Hillary’s treatment of classified documents. His announcement came less than two weeks before the election—a move unprecedented for an ongoing FBI investigation. Comey later described Hillary’s actions as extremely sloppy but not prosecutable. Many believe that Comey’s statements in those final weeks before the 2016 election cost Clinton precious votes.
One cannot help but wonder if only these events had been different—if the Trump stories had been divulged, if Comey had not announced a reopening of an investigation and Trump had lost the election, how different would our society be today? Would we be a more civil and less-polarized society—less likely to be crude, and mean-spirited? How different would the Supreme Court look? Would Roe v. Wade have been overturned? Would we have progressed further in dealing with climate change issues? Would we have continued our tradition of a peaceful transfer of power? And then there is the fact that if Trump had not won, the U.S. would finally have elected a woman President–something long overdue.
Pro-Trump defenders will say the 34 indictments against Trump represent Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg making mountains out of molehills. It is difficult for that argument to hold water. Many New Yorkers have gone to jail for far less. And couple that with current ongoing investigations involving inciting an insurrection, attempting to overthrow an election in Georgia, the handling of classified documents, lying to lenders and insurers by fraudulently valuing assets, and the E. J. Carroll case that charges Trump with rape—in short, an overwhelming number of pending cases.
The list of politicians who have been charged with indiscretions is long—Gary Hart, John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, and Bill Clinton come to mind. And the number of screwups are many—think Chris Christie and Bridgegate for one. But it is difficult to come up with another politician who has faced as many credible allegations as Trump.
Is there anyone out there today who really thinks Trump made America great again? The vitriol, cruelty, overt racism, and juvenile name-calling alone have reduced America’s stature throughout the world. Recovery will take time. Let us hope that Catherine the Great was right when she once said, “I beg you take courage; the brave soul can mend even disaster.”
Maria Grant was principal-in-charge of a federal human capital practice at an international consulting firm. While on the Eastern Shore, she focuses on writing, reading, gardening, piano, and nature.