When Donald Trump's Ukraine scandal first started coming into focus in the fall, the public learned of an abusive scheme in which the president extorted a vulnerable ally in the hopes of receiving domestic political assistance. Republicans experimented with a variety of underwhelming talking points, but Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) seemed fond of one in particular.
Assessing the controversy, the Florida Republican told Fox News in October, "[T]he only person that's been transparent so far is President Trump." A month later, Scott appeared on Fox Business to claim that Trump was "the only person in this who's been transparent."
Yesterday, the GOP senator appeared on Hugh Hewitt's conservative talk show and once again repeated a familiar line.
HEWITT: [I]f I was [a senator] right now, based on everything I have read and seen, I would vote to dismiss the articles [of impeachment]. If you had to vote only on the basis of what you have seen and read produced by the House, will you vote to acquit President Trump?SCOTT: Absolutely. I mean, the Democrats have proven the guy's, Trump's innocence. The only guy that's been transparent during this is Trump.
To paraphrase The Princess Bride, Rick Scott keeps using that word, transparent, but I don't think it means what he thinks it means.
Just for the sake of conversation, let's put aside the broader questions about whether senators should value the rule of law and have a problem with presidents who are so eager to cheat in an election that they extort allies. That's obviously the fundamental concern at the heart of the scandal, but it appears Rick Scott is unfazed by the core allegations.
Let's instead consider the Florida Republican's argument on the merits.
If there's one thing that's become clear in the Ukraine scandal, Scott has suggested, it's that Trump deserves praise for having been "transparent."
There is, however, another way to examine what's transpired. When the president ordered a hold on military assistance to Ukraine, for example, the White House made a point to hide the decision and keep the information from Congress. When Trump's extortion scheme came to light, he lied about it, hoping to hide the truth.
Once the investigation into the scandal was underway, Trump blocked witness testimony, withheld documents from investigators, directed officials to ignore subpoenas, and refused to participate in any way with congressional proceedings.
Putting aside questions of propriety, how exactly would any credible observer watch these developments unfold and decide Trump's commitment to "transparency" is worthy of incessant praise?