A fellow approached me in church about a month ago to ask who I support in the 2008 presidential election (haven’t made up my mind yet; there are very good people running on both sides, though it would take a major tsunami to get me to vote Republican for president over any of the Democrats). In the course of the conversation he mentioned the “dozens” of convictions of officials in the Clinton administration, and expressing hope we didn’t ‘return to a time when many government officials make such a mess of things.’
I felt the cold hand of Santayana’s ghost on my shoulder as Santayana reached past me to slap the man into reality.
So, later, I tried to find a comparison I had seen of corruption investigations in presidential administrations, one that listed who was charged with what, and the result of the investigation. I can’t find it.
Is anyone keeping score? Please point me to the place, if there is one, where such scores are accurately kept.
I did find this in Sean Wilentz’s piece in Rolling Stone in April 2006, about the worst presidents in history:
A total of twenty-nine Reagan officials, including White House national security adviser Robert McFarlane and deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver, were convicted on charges stemming from the Iran-Contra affair, illegal lobbying and a looting scandal inside the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Three Cabinet officers – HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce, Attorney General Edwin Meese and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger – left their posts under clouds of scandal. In contrast, not a single official in the Clinton administration was even indicted over his or her White House duties, despite repeated high-profile investigations and a successful, highly partisan impeachment drive.
Twenty-nine? Who were they? (This claim, based on convictions only, would leave out Reagan’s Secretary of Labor, Ray Donovan, who was acquitted on charges of corruption for his actions in business before being nominated to the Cabinet.) Wilentz continued:
The full report, of course, has yet to come on the Bush administration. Because Bush, unlike Reagan or Clinton, enjoys a fiercely partisan and loyal majority in Congress, his administration has been spared scrutiny. Yet that mighty advantage has not prevented the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on charges stemming from an alleged major security breach in the Valerie Plame matter. (The last White House official of comparable standing to be indicted while still in office was Grant’s personal secretary, in 1875.) It has not headed off the unprecedented scandal involving Larry Franklin, a high-ranking Defense Department official, who has pleaded guilty to divulging classified information to a foreign power while working at the Pentagon – a crime against national security. It has not forestalled the arrest and indictment of Bush’s top federal procurement official, David Safavian, and the continuing investigations into Safavian’s intrigues with the disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, recently sentenced to nearly six years in prison – investigations in which some prominent Republicans, including former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed (and current GOP aspirant for lieutenant governor of Georgia) have already been implicated, and could well produce the largest congressional corruption scandal in American history. It has not dispelled the cloud of possible indictment that hangs over others of Bush’s closest advisers.
A year after Wilentz wrote that, Libby has been convicted, and we face an entirely new scandal in the Justice Department that produced the mighty odd case of a woman being wrongly convicted and jailed by a U.S. attorney – I’m not even sure how such a thing would be counted. Clearly these things do not stick with the public; I had forgotten the name of Safavian. I suspect most people have forgotten all about Safavian and the affair for which he was convicted.
Is there any tally of charges, and convictions during a president’s administration, anywhere that you know? Please advise.