USA TODAY International Edition
Strong U. S. institutions will survive Trump scandals
President Trump is under siege, unable to escape a cloud of Russian interference in last year’s election. As his presidency nears Thursday’s six- month mark, questions followed him even to his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N. J. There he spent the weekend watching golf and launching Twitter salvos at his detractors.
Last week, the Trump administration was buffeted by a series of bombshells made worse by dubious accounts of a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., White House adviser Jared Kushner, then- campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a Russian- government connected lawyer offering Kremlin help in digging up dirt on Hillary Clinton.
First, the revelation of the meeting. Then, the revelation that the Trump camp was told the meeting was with a Russian government representative. Then, the revelation that the White House failed to disclose another participant — a former Soviet counterintelligence agent. That was followed by one of Trump’s lawyers going on TV Sunday to peddle the idea that the Secret Service had approved the whole shady debacle. The agency immediately denied it.
The impact of the scandal is spreading like an infection, paralyzing Congress, poisoning already toxic relations between Democrats and Republicans and sapping the president’s already shaky approval ratings.
Watching the news it is hard not to feel echoes of perilous times when other presidents were under siege, or when government institutions were tested by crises.
But it is those dark days that should give Americans a measure of reassurance and hope. Our government is far more durable than any single president. The Founders created an ingenious system of checks and balances, with three independent branches, that has triumphed over crises throughout our nation’s history.
Watergate was one of the greatest tests of the nation’s stability. There were moments when it seemed the rule of law might crumble. That same system proved its resilience when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved to pack the Supreme Court with justices friendly to his New Deal legislation, igniting a power struggle among the three branches of government. American democracy has also survived the shock of presidential assassinations four times, one at the end of the Civil War. Regardless of the trauma, the country moved ahead.
Now, as the nation faces its latest ordeal, there are new and different worries. In 1974, despite his willingness to flout the law, Richard Nixon ultimately respected Supreme Court orders. And several Republican congressional leaders, at first protective of their president, did what was needed for the good of the country. It’s worth wondering whether such standards will hold.
Russian President Vladimir Putin must be elated at the spectacle Trump has created. Offers from Russia to “help” anyone running for president are simply a guise to wreak havoc with the machinery of democracy. And Russia’s dangerous meddling has clearly done short- term damage.
But America’s enemies have often underestimated the United States. U. S. institutions have survived far more serious attacks in the past. And they will survive this one, too.