There’s quite a bit to chew on in the new national Quinnipiac poll, but there was one question that stood out for me.
“Do you think it is ever acceptable for a presidential campaign to obtain information on a political opponent from a hostile foreign power, or do you think that is never acceptable?”
As it turns out, this was one of the few questions in which Americans were largely on the same page. Overall, 79% of Americans said it’s never acceptable for U.S. campaigns to get dirt from foreign adversaries, and the consensus was fairly broad: even 69% of Republicans agreed.
Among white voters without college degrees – a constituency that tends to make up the bulk of Donald Trump’s base – 79% said it’s never acceptable, which is the identical figure to overall national sentiment.
And at a certain level, the question may seem boring, if not wholly unnecessary. Of course the American is going to balk at the idea of presidential campaigns obtaining information on a political opponent from a hostile foreign power, right? Who’s going to argue the other side of this fight?
The answer, it turns out, is some of Trump’s allies, who are worried about where the Russia scandal is headed.
As we discussed two weeks ago, National Review’s Andrew McCarthy recently argued on Fox News that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the president’s political operation possibly having turned to a foreign adversary to help win an American election.
“Look, I don’t think that it’s bad if campaigns are turning to foreign governments for dirt,” McCarthy said. “It’s not collusion, it’s not something that’s impeachable, it’s icky. But that’s what this is.”
A day later, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway wrote, “I don’t have a problem [with] getting dirt on election opponents from foreigners.” Fox News’ Tucker Carlson quickly endorsed the line, telling his viewers, in reference to the infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, “Nobody is claiming that any information changed hands, though, even if it did, so what?”
I’m well aware of the circumstances. Based on what we already know, top members of Trump’s campaign met in private with Russians in the hopes of obtaining stolen materials that could be used to put Trump in power. Then they lied about it.
Faced with a scandal like this, it’s understandable that the president’s supporters would start to lay the groundwork for an awkward defense, suggesting to the public that maybe it’s acceptable for an American presidential campaign to cooperate with a hostile foreign power ahead of Election Day.
Indeed, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) recently said, in reference to the Trump Tower meeting, “There’s not a person in this town who would not take a meeting to get material like that.” The California Republican admitted that he would.
Evidently, nearly 8 in 10 Americans have a very different perspective.