Obama re­minds vot­ers some­thing’s miss­ing

Woonsocket Call - - OPINION - Hunt is a Bloomberg Opin­ion colum­nist.

A CNN poll last week showed that most Amer­i­cans think Barack Obama was a better pres­i­dent than Don­ald Trump has been. The mar­gin was huge: 19 per­cent­age points.

Trump sup­port­ers will yell “fake news,” but they’ll be wrong. Re­spon­dents to the same sur­vey thought Hil­lary Clin­ton would have been a better pres­i­dent than Trump, but only by 3 per­cent­age points. By com­par­i­son, she bested Trump in the 2016 pop­u­lar vote by 2.1 per­cent­age points.

The wide pref­er­ence for Obama over Trump (and Clin­ton) has little re­la­tion­ship to pub­lic at­ti­tudes to­ward poli­cies on taxes, health care or Iran. (Obama and Clin­ton are pretty well aligned on those.)

The ex­pla­na­tion seems sim­pler: a re­spect for in­tegrity. Obama had it, run­ning a largely cor­rup­tion-free ad­min­is­tra­tion. The Trump pres­i­dency, all 16 months of it, has been marked by lies, greed, eth­i­cal trans­gres­sions and crim­i­nal charges.

None of th­ese of­fenses daunts the hardcore Trump base. But an­other 10 per­cent of the vot­ers who cast bal­lots for him in 2016 are show­ing signs of be­ing both­ered, as sug­gested in an ex­quis­ite 15,000-word ar­ti­cle last week­end on Trump vot­ers in the Up­per Mid­west by the Wash­ing­ton Post’s Dan Balz. Th­ese vot­ers, Demo­cratic Con­gress­woman Cheri Bus­tos told Balz, were “Trump tri­ers” who turned to him ei­ther be­cause they were turned off by Clin­ton or want- ed to shake things up. They ex­pect a mod­icum of in­tegrity.

They haven’t got­ten it. It’s fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory worth re­view­ing. Trump has re­fused to di­vest his busi­ness hold­ings and rel­ishes us­ing his pres­i­dency to en­hance them. The lat­est ex­am­ple came this week when it was re­ported that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is lend­ing a sta­te­owned con­struc­tion com­pany $500 mil­lion to build an In­done­sian theme park that fea­tures a Trump-branded ho­tel and golf course.

Trump’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s ad­min­is­tra­tor, Scott Pruitt, is the sub­ject of 11 fed­eral in­quiries into his travel ex­penses, se­cu­rity prac­tices and sweet­heart condo deal with an en­ergy lob­by­ist’s wife, among other things. Trump’s per­sonal lawyer, Michael Co­hen, has be­come best known for ar­rang­ing a $130,000 pay­off to si­lence a porn star about a fling with Trump. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion led by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller into links be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion has pro­duced in­dict­ments or guilty pleas in­volv­ing 19 peo­ple and three com­pa­nies.

Sure, some apol­o­gists ra­tio­nal­ize, all politi­cians have scan­dals and lie. Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton lied about sex, crossed an eth­i­cal line on fundrais­ing and out­ra­geously par­doned the crim­i­nal fugi­tive Marc Rich. An aide to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, Scooter Libby, lied to a grand jury to pro­tect Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney. (Trump par­doned him in April.)

But the scale of Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion men­dac­ity has no modern equiv­a­lent.

And yes, Obama mis­led peo­ple about whether they’d be able to keep their ex­ist­ing med­i­cal-in­sur­ance plans un­der his sig­na­ture Oba­macare health-care pro­gram.

But his sup­posed scan­dals were phony ones con­jured by right-wing gun­slingers.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans whipped them­selves into a froth over the “Fast and Fu­ri­ous” case in­volv­ing a gov­ern­ment ac­tion against Mex­i­can drug car­tels in which a fed­eral agent was killed. A de­tailed in­ves­ti­ga­tion by For­tune magazine, not an Obama apol­o­gist, con­cluded that Repub­li­can ac­cu­sa­tions against Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials were “re­plete with dis­tor­tions, er­rors, par­tial truths and even some out­right lies.”

An­other would-be scan­dal over charges that the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice sin­gled out con­ser­va­tive groups for spe­cial scru­tiny fiz­zled out when the Trea­sury Depart­ment In­spec­tor Gen­eral, in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, found that it was a ca­nard.

There are le­git­i­mate de­bates over whether Trump or Obama de­serve more credit for the strength of the econ­omy, or which pres­i­dent would do better in a room alone with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

There is no le­git­i­mate de­bate, how­ever, about which one is more truth­ful or hon­est.

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