For much of Barack Obama’s presidency, his detractors seemed annoyed by the lack of credible scandals surrounding his White House. The more the Democratic president stayed out of trouble, the more Obama’s critics searched for a new “Watergate.”
At one point, I counted at least 10 separate “controversies” that various observers labeled “Obama’s Watergate,” each of which turned out to be meaningless, further diluting an already over used cliché.
And yet, the historical touchstone endures. Here was Donald Trump yesterday during a Q&A with reporters on the White House’s South Lawn.
REPORTER: You told me last week you thought that the uranium sale to Russia was one of the big stories of the decade. Three congressional committees are now looking at that. We haven’t heard you comment on it since those investigations were launched.
TRUMP: Well, I think the uranium sale to Russia and the way it was done, so underhanded, with tremendous amounts of money being passed – I actually think that’s Watergate, modern age.
As a substantive matter, no honest observer could possibly think the uranium sale to Russia is like Watergate. On the contrary, based on the available evidence, there is no meaningful controversy, apoplexy from Republicans and conservative media notwithstanding,
But the president’s comments yesterday got me thinking about just how regularly Trump thinks he’s uncovered the latest “Watergate.”
In March, for example, Trump falsely accused Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the election, which, the Republican claimed at the time, was a “Watergate”-like abuse. As it turns out, the president’s claims were delusional, and there was no wiretap.
But this wasn’t the first time. Before Trump thought imagined wiretaps were a modern-day Watergate, he argued that the 2012 attack in Benghazi was like Watergate. This, too, proved to be ridiculously untrue.
Before that, Trump noted that Joe Arpaio’s investigation into Barack Obama’s birth certificate could be even bigger than Watergate.
Yesterday, the president made his pitch for yet another “Watergate.”
When George W. Bush recently lamented the fact that American politics “seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication,” he had a point.