Why Has Trump’s Exceptional Corruption Gone Unchecked?

Sep 02, 2019 · 528 comments
Alan (Los Angeles)
Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Barack Obama. These are just four examples of politicians who came into office as persons of little wealth, but either left office as multi-millionaires or quickly became multi-millionaires after leaving office. And the children of some of them also became rich due to their parents. I picked on Democrats, but there are plenty of Republicans of which this is true as well. Does the media ever investigate how Biden and Reid and their children became so wealthy while Biden and Reid were in office? Have they ever wondered whether a President, knowing he can cash in big after leaving office, might craft his policies so that future employers or deliverers of wealth will be willing to do so when they leave office? Not that I've seen -- there is little curiosity, even though that would seem to be serious possible corruption. Yet there are endless column inches on a President who was a multi-millionaire when he came into office, and who undoubtedly lost a lot of money by running for and becoming President, maybe making a small amount of money off some people staying at his hotels. Really?
Stephen (NYC)
Trump did drain the swamp. In its place, he created a cesspool.
Vanessa (Maryland)
Trump’s corruption has gone unchecked for the same reason pedophile priests, Wall Street bankers, crooked DAs, judges, and police officers. They’re white.
talesofgenji (NY)
Personally, I think Albany is worse..... "A Secretive Dinner Where $25,000 Buys Access to Cuomo (and Filet Mignon)" NY Times, March 27, 2019
Greg (Calif)
All I can say is that if Trump isn't eventually prosecuted for his many crimes, our Country's reputation as a Banana Republic will be firmly established.
Ben H (Seattle, WA)
I don't hold out much hope that the supreme court ruling that legislated corruption into the system - Citizens United vs FEC - can be overturned with the way the ideology of the court is being structured. But Trump supporters have no clue that overturning this ruling would do just that and their candidate actually has appointed 2 conservative supreme court judges which have put any hope of this happening to be fairly remote. Corruption happens when you have large swaths of the voting population that are ignorant and easily manipulated by demagoguery.
Jeannie (Canadian)
Interesting that this opinion piece is published the same day as the article about Mike Pence staying at a Trump property! Such a well detailed piece about Trump using the presidency to line his and the family’s pockets.
George M. (NY)
"Why Has Trump’s Exceptional Corruption Gone Unchecked?" The answer is simple: a corrupt GOP. Trump has replaced the swamp with his own cesspool and now he and the entire GOP are swimming in it.
Michael Stevens (Seattle)
Welcome to demockery.
Larry Figdill (Charlottesville)
A huge difference between the two kinds of "corruption" is that the influence of donors is legal (as well as being structural), while the behavior of Trump is clearly illegal. The first form requires a political solution to reform our campaign finance laws. The second form requires prosecution and perhaps even jail time. The only reason that Trump's illegal corruption hasn't been prosecuted is that our DOJ claims that Presidents can't be indicted. As a result Trump's corruption is even worse; his corruption is encouraged and facilitated because he knows that he can't be prosecuted. And he will probably hide behind the custom of not prosecuting political oponents to avoid being prosecuted after out of office.
Tanis Marsh (Everett, Wa)
It is truly exceptional that Trump carries such power. He said he would release his taxes, provide the best health care, build a needed infrastructure, and build a wall paid for by Mexico. Of course Citizens United was passed. Now, however the nation has a judiciary filled with conservative judges at the Federal level as well as the Supreme Court due to his election. I was lead to believe the Department of Justice had some type of mandate to represent the people, not the President. Apparently there is nothing that says that. After Bobby Kennedy became Attorney General a bill was passed to prevent relatives from being appointed to that position. Trump skirted the issue. The Department of Ethics does not seem to exist any longer. The meaning of the Emolument Clause is not understood. There has been no respect regarding responding to the congressional requests to the Executive for information. I feel those who continue supporting Trump have not been interviewed quietly and correctly. I also feel some of the things thought to be written in law or somehow codified are not and stand time for review. The law that allows bills and appointments to never reach the floor cries for review. I would like to see my elected officials debating on the floor. Certain issues deserve to be viewed by the public as the floors of both houses work. We don't see that often. Structurally the Nation should begin a review.
Charles (MD)
There has been much speculation about the possibility of Trump being prosecuted when he leaves office. As deserved as this may be it will never happen. It won't happen because no President will want to be the one who initiates the practice of persecuting a former President. It sets a precedent which not only threatens the sitting President after he leaves office but does great harm to the foundations of U.S. Democracy.
Magan (Fort Lauderdale)
Money, corruption, power, payoffs and bribery have been around as long as human beings have walked the planet. If we want to try and tilt the scales back towards average middle class Americans, we will need to overturn Citizens United and regulate our businesses and government in a way that makes government and the economy more stable. The countries with the most stable economies are also usually regulated and run to benefit the majority of it's citizens. Here are the most stable economies in the world. 1. Switzerland 2.Germany 3 Sweden 4.Canada 5.Australia 6.Netherlands 7.Japan 8.Denmark 9.Norway 10. Finland Why do you think we aren't in the top 10? Do a little research my friends. We are ranked 14th. Because we value greed as much or more than almost any other industrialized nation on the planet our system of government is not in any way set up for the well being and benefit of the most people. Our system benefits the top 5% at best. It's probably closer to 1% to 2%. Unless this changes we will never see a strong middle class again in our lifetimes.
Next Conservatism (United States)
Well, no. The cynicism is bone-deep, and it's not hard at all to "distinguish between decent people who are trying to do the best they can in a difficult system and real malfeasance." As voters, financiers, office-holders, press, and candidates, the latter make themselves known by the (R) after their names.
Philip (Scottsdale)
The vice president and the attorney general point to ethic advisers to validate their actions. But they have pre-positioned those advisers in the first place to give cover. He foxes are appointing other foxes to give them permission to raid the hen houses. Such is the utter corruption of today’s majority party.
Radicalnormal (Los Angeles)
Two words: Nancy Pelosi. in 2006, she let George W. Bush off the hook for lying us into the Iraq War. Now, she's letting Trump off the hook for his almost daily high crimes and misdemeanors. In my gut, I knew she'd do this, i.e., favor political calculation over simply doing what's right. But I still held out hope. That hope is fading fast, especially since her current political calculations are so wrongheaded. If Trump is not impeached on her watch, she will have forever weakened the congress as a check on presidential power.
Juh CLU (Monte Sereno, CA.)
In simple terms, Trump's corruption has gone unchecked due to the GOP majority in the Senate. They prefer re-election to doing what's right for the country.
Paul from Oakland (SF Bay Area)
Trump stated he alone could "drain the swamp" because he was already very rich so he couldn't be bribed. How could anyone believe him when his financial history is riddled phony assets, thousands of lawsuits against him for defrauding, not to mention his vociferous battle to hide his tax returns? His corruption runs so deeply that as President he has the right to financially exploit any opportunity the office gives him.
F Walker (PA)
Corruption is the foundation of our Lobbyocracy.
Jay Sonoma (Central Oregon)
For the most part, people who vote for Trump have corrupted hearts. So its no surprise they are willing to vote for him anyway. They lie to themselves that they are Christian. They lie to themselves that they are not racists. They lie to themselves that guns aren't the problem. They lie to everyone that they need guns to protect against tyranny whilst they engage in it and long to use guns to clean things up. They worship the false gods of extreme-capitalism and nationalism.
Paul Constantine (NYC Upper West Side)
Nancy Pelosi And yes, Citizens United proved beyond all doubt that even most of the SCOTUS can be bought.
magicisnotreal (earth)
@Paul Constantine You sound surprised. Why wouldn't they be for sale? From Scalia forward the conservatives were all expressly chosen for the fact that they were utterly corrupt and willing to do or say anything they were told/paid to.
ejr1953 (Mount Airy, Maryland)
The end result is that those in the middle class in the U.S. are in a world of hurt, but don't realize it, and continually vote against their economic interests. Yet, they vote for these charlatans. Go figure.
William (Memphis)
Blah blah. Smoking gun. Dead body. Wake up. The Senate GOP will NEVER remove Trump. ALL OF THIS is about installing right-wing judges-for-life. The corrupt GOP needs Trump for that. Trump could nuke NYC and McConnell wouldn’t even blink.
Texan (Texas)
Trump wasn't dragged down into any fetid pool; he came from there and has not bothered to try to climb out. Telling ("vowing" seems entirely too generous to use) his base at his campaign rallies that he would "drain the swamp" was just another hollow bit of rhetoric.
It's simple. The repubs are a minority party and do better when less people vote, when people are 'divided'. That is why Raegan's 'welfare queen in a cadillac' appealed to white people with economic anxiety. That is why in the early years of Obama the tea party's blatant racism never raised a republican eyebrow. They need those votes. Obama's presidency enabled Trump. The republicans played their favorite game: 'follow the leader'. The corruption, both blatant and private, went unchecked at a rate beyond memory. Now, perhaps, they see it. Some are not running for r e election. Some are collecting the spoils. The dems won't impeach given the senate make up. But there is a more cynical reason: Impeachment would be a rallying point for Trump and his supporters; a distraction from his other crimes. Without impeachment Trump day by day proves how unfit he is. More important, the republicans total lack of courage or principle becomes more and more clear each day; a long slow process. Imagine focusing a telephoto lesson of infinite length very very slowly until, at last, the image is crystal clear. Disgusted, you turn away. Perhaps too slowly.
CathyK (Oregon)
Unfortunately this has all been said before and yet here we are again, you can blame Newt the lying lizard Gingrich, and Limbaugh but it’s the American people who have let these kind of loosely fact picking people in our heads. In the early twentieth century we had a turn out of eighty percent of the people voting in elections now it’s between fifty five percent. There is corruption and lying at all levels and until we can turn off the televising or the radio and open our eyes to just what is going on around us in our addle cancer heads, or our rocket fuel drinking water, or our opioid cemetery’s passing by previous cigarette graves then we will go as the white buffalo and white rhino. Let me end my rant with a tip of the hat to all the Hong Kong demonstrators as they stand together.
Michael Gilbert (Charleston, SC)
Trump luxuriates in the swamp, and encourages his minions to take any advantage available for their own self interest. Hearing him pitch HIS property in Florida for next year's G7 conference just confirms that his only real interest is to enrich himself and his family. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone as he's been comfortable in the swamp his entire life. The amazing thing is that anyone actually believed that he would clean it up, and voted for him. The most astounding thing is the tacit approval of Republicans. They all don't deserve to be our representatives, let alone Trump being our President.
not an aikenite (aiken, sc)
The simple fact that McConnell, McCarthy and their followers, the republican party, won't address Trump and his ineffectiveness, and poor leadership. Look what just happened in the Great Briton today.
allen (san diego)
trump and the republican party have become a neo-fascist party. they are anti-democratic and can remain in power only through their corruption, voter suppression, and never ending lies.
Lagrange (Ca)
In this administration, it's not only Trump; he is the most obvious and the most blunt one; there was Zinke, McConnel's wife Chao; DeVos, Carson, Mnuchin and his wife; Scott Pruitt; Wilbur Ross ... and these are just off the top of my head!!
Gee, that’s a tough one...the Republican Party?
MikeH (Upstate NY)
Washington politics may be a swamp, but Trump is enthusiastically replacing it with a cesspool, and it stinks far worse than any swamp.
Jim Steinberg (Fresno, Calif.)
Why? Republican cowardice, complicity or a poisonous blend of both.
The final Democratic nominee should take up the slogan "Drain the Trumpian Swamp"
BSmith (San Francisco)
David Brooks own flawed "conservatism" is part of the widespead blinders that have made Republicans the most corrupt party (though there is plenty of corruption to go around for Democrats also, they are realatively petty in size). Why does Brooks, like other "conservative" cheerleaders even mention Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (citing that she can represent her constituents since her district is a "safe" Democratic district). AOC ran on ethical represenation - really draining the swamp against a Democratic leader slated to take Nancy Pelosi's place! Her Democratic stronghold wasn't safe for her predessor. AOC ran on telling the truth. She's an economist who understands fiannce and who had to work as a bartender because that was the only way she could help her mother keep their house in the Bronx! Brooks is all wet as usual. He doesn't see that his "conservative" hogwash is one of the root causes if not an essential condition for corruption on the scale of the Kochs, Kushners, and Trumps.
carlchristian (somerville, ma)
Ranked choice coring so that the choice is no longer strictly binary. Read all about it. It works and it is part of the solution toward enfranchising voters again so they will have a positive reason to cast a ballot rather than the negative and democracy-destroying motivation of 'anybody but that one...' https://www.fairvote.org/rcv#where_is_ranked_choice_voting_used
Carl (NYS)
It's not exceptional - Sorry to say A case study, from 2011 From the NY Times “Handicapping IAC’s Investment in Chelsea Clinton” Chelsea Clinton as a corporate director? Really? Ms. Clinton was appointed last week to the board of IAC/interActiveCorp, the Internet media conglomerate controlled by Barry Diller. For her efforts, Ms. Clinton will be paid about $300,000 a year in cash and incentive stock awards. Not bad for a 31-year-old in graduate school. NY TImes OCTOBER 4, 2011 Note: Mr Diller is a 0.01% , and media are one of the most government regulated businesses in the US From the LA Times "Why did NBC reportedly pay Chelsea Clinton $600,000 a year?" The disclosure raises the obvious question of NBC's goal in giving a person without any measurable journalistic or broadcasting experience .. The answer is equally obvious. Plainly, it was done to curry favor with the Clinton family LA Time, JUN 16, 2014 | 12:08 PM Media are one of the most government regulated business in the US In 2011, Ms Clinton, was Foreign Secretary of the United States
Trevor Diaz (NYC)
Donald Trump will find out what mistake he made coming in public eye on Election Day Nov. 3, 2020 when he loses election leading losing Presidential Shield and be made accountable for violating Campaign Finance rules for which his former attorney Michael Cohen behind bars. Donald Trump will be joining Michael Cohen very soon.
Its because the Republican party is complicit in his criminality and are happy to enable it.
Nate (Manhattan)
his bases' hatred not white straight and Christian means he can literally get away with anything.
Harold (Bellevue WA)
So, today Pence announces that he will stay at a Trump property in Ireland, just under 200 miles from where he intends to meet. Allegedly, he was not instructed to do so by Trump, but admits to a suggestion to stay there by Trump. This has the appearance of a bribe to Trump, much like the emoluments Trump receives at his other properties. It is not credible that the hotel is a convenient place to stay for the cited purpose of the trip. Is this further evidence that Pence is a swamp creature? One serious problem is that articles of impeachment for Trump may include violation of the emoluments clause and bribery. If Trump faces those articles will Pence be named as one of the bribers? Pence must understand that he too could face impeachment, if not for the stay in Ireland, at least for his role with the campaign. He led the transition team after the election. He was in a position to know about Russia and Wikileaks if the campaign colluded. So Pence needs to be vetted to assure that he can assume the presidency if Trump is impeached and convicted. The Ireland trip raises issues of fitness for office for Pence. If draining the swamp means ousting Trump, then let's be certain that he is not replaced by another swamp creature.
Greater Metropolitan Area (Just far enough from the big city)
@Harold I always make sure my hotel is within 200 miles of the site of any conference I'm attending. It just makes logistical sense.
Free Gluten (Plano TX)
Corruption can be masked by legitimate business activities. For example, a business loan is very difficult to distinguish from a "loan-back" which is a money laundering trick invented by the American gangster, Meyer Lansky. A loan-back requires the complicity of a bank. It works like this: Say an oligarch named Ivan has $1 million in dirty money to launder. He wants to create for this illegitimate money a new and legitimate source. As a first step, Ivan deposits the $1 million in cash at a branch bank account in Amsterdam. He commits this $1 million account to the complicit bank as collateral. Simultaneously in London, another branch of the same bank issues to Ivan a formal loan in the amount of $1 million. Ivan has exchanged his dirty $1 million in cash for a clean $1 million formally loaned to him in London with complete and proper legal documentation by a recognized international bank. The collateral account in Amsterdam is invisible. For anonymity, Ivan may have the bank make the loan-back to a shell company. If the destination for the laundered money is US real estate, the loan-back could be made to a complicit US real estate developer. Impeccable loan documents would disguise, as a loan, the international transfer of ill gotten gains from Ivan to this US real estate developer. Notice that the money received by the US developer in this example was not really loaned to him by a bank. The bank loan is a fabrication. The money came to him from Ivan.
Lagrange (Ca)
Overturn Citizens United + Campaign finance reform.
Alex (Miami)
Why Has Trump’s Exceptional Corruption Gone Unchecked? Here is the very simple answer. Robert Mueller and Mitch McConnell. Trump cannot be indicted, and the senate will NEVER confirm an impeachment. DJT is accountable to no one except his base, and they certainly don't care.
Jane (Connecticut)
With Mr. Trump's blatant corruption, the fact that he is still in the White House is troubling. Either our laws and our Constitution are ineffective when we have a leader totally lacking in a moral compass or our leader is surrounded by others who are totally lacking in morality and they are propping him up. In either case, how can we get our country back?
April (California)
I feel like the entire system has been corrupt since Nixon.
brad (seattle)
That is false equivalence. The nuclear version.
CK (Christchurch NZ)
Because he is rich and powerful and government employees have families to feed, bills to pay, and don't want the emotional stress of having their reputation sullied. Mud sticks. Trump is abusive about the NY Times on his facebook page and NY Times are a member of the facebook community and Trump never gets banned or his account closed. It's all to do with money and having to pay the bills, so people just turn a blind eye.
Mark (San Jose)
"Why Has Trump’s Exceptional Corruption Gone Unchecked?" Because he has the Attorney General in his hip pocket and the GOP doesn't care about corruption if it keeps them in power. Vote BLUE no matter who!
William Trainor (Rock Hall, MD)
This article is a good example of trying to figure out the problem. Obviously, money is one aspect, if you have more money you can buy more media time and more ads and if your "message" aka advertisement is effective you may get some votes. There are other problems with our democracy, democratic republic, that involves honesty and honor and truthfulness. There is also a free press that is supposed to provide us with true truth, or something close, so we can evaluate what information is out there. So the other big problems with politics and democracy: First, honesty is hard to find, there is only propaganda, which uses well researched methods also used to sell things like soap and iphones. Without the honesty and honor to spell out truth, like John McCain did when confronted by a propaganda lie repeated at a rally about Obama, we live in a sea of lies. This is an epistemic crisis. Second, the media is beholden to the same Oligarchs as those getting power from CitizensUnited. The media gave T a $billion of free airtime because they needed to sell ads, form the oligarchs, so they led with the crazy stuff. This week Dorian has shut T up, but he will be back grabbing attention. There is that expression form Colbert, "Truthiness", that allows the bad press to keep telling lies, that sound plausible. Opinion is not proof or truth.
Jeffrey (Westchester County, NY)
Trump has not drained the swamp, he has turned it into a toxic waste site. Clean-up starts November 2020.
Lagrange (Ca)
Sorry, I missed the spot where Mr. Schmitt answers the question in the headline. Or did I?
ZenShkspr (Midwesterner)
The author has an excellent point: don't forget that this IS NOT normal. There's a reason this guy wants you to believe that everyone behaves just as badly as him, everyone's equally corrupt, no one ever acts ethically so ethics are for chumps. It makes it easier for him to push his "cult of personality" and "us vs. them" as the only option. If there's no such thing as good people in leadership and everyone's a terrible bully, you might as well have a bully on your side, right? Wrong. Don't fall for it. Demand better.
john kwiatkowski (los angeles)
because his personal lawyer runs the DOJ? isn't that the simplest answer to this question?
Tom Wilde (Santa Monica, CA)
As a multinational private corporation with undeniably immense power to frame not only debates but also global perspectives, The New York Times ultimately decides on its own terms which questions will appear and which questions will decidedly not appear on its so-called liberal pages. So while one may rightly say that the question fed to us at the top of this piece is posed by “the director of the political reform program at New America,” this question is actually also being posed by The New York Times—because The New York Times alone has decided that this question is permissible on its pages. From this fact, the rest of what’s going on here necessarily follows. And from many comments on this piece, one can see that this fact is forgotten—exactly as is intended by a multinational private corporation that advertises itself with: “Support independent journalism” Only the most deeply indoctrinated of the educated classes can take the question we’re fed here as one to answer.
MidtownATL (Atlanta)
Why do political campaigns cost so much? The internet has made communication cheaper than ever before. Television is less relevant that it was just a decade or two ago. Campaigns should cost less, not more, than they recently did. Where is all this money being spent today?
Lagrange (Ca)
@MidtownATL; a good question indeed!
Lagrange (Ca)
One big problem is that too many people mistake or equate capitalism with corruption or crony capitalism. The first one could have the potential of withstanding the test of times. The second one doesn't, as history has shown.
Ben Gusty (MA)
We have a mechanism in place for holding Trump accountable for his kind of corruption. It’s called Articles of Impeachment. But Nancy Pelosi refuses to support her colleagues in Congress by bringing charges against Trump. Running him out of office in 2020 isn’t good enough, as the charges will not be enumerated and found to be crimes he committed while in office against the United States of America. Speaker Pelosi, please listen to the 130 congresspeople calling for impeachment!
Kathy White (GA)
The Founders were well aware power corrupts. Corruption had been a way of life for millennia, a feature of those who thought most humans were expendable or commodities to increase their personal wealth and power. Our Founders essentially said things do not have to be this way; our Founders claimed empathy for the individual for the first time in recorded history, where the individual had unalienable rights, freedoms, and liberties. No longer would power, rights, and liberties rest with kings, queens, and princes of the world, but with people. Yes, I am leaving out a lot of inhumanity, arrogance, and false superiority that are a part of American history, but the bottom line was empathy for the individual, for their Rights, Freedoms, and Liberties came to include all individuals. Self-government and democracy must be humane, empathetic, and inclusive or it is not self-rule nor democratic. No American voter today has to accept corruption in government. Though our Founders took great pains in balancing powers and creating a System of Checks and Balances, these unique powers have to be used to be effective against corruption. Corruption in government is an abuse of power that betrays everything this country has come to represent and every Founding idea and value that empowered individuals. If left unchecked, individuals will lose precious freedoms, rights, and liberties.
Linda (Toronto)
Trump and Citizens United have brought the crisis to a head. It is clear. As Jimmy Carter and many others are now stating. The U.S.A. is an oligarchy struggling to look like a democracy. Excellent analysis are provided by top economists like Joseph Stiglitz in his recent "People, Power, Profits". Some of the top .01% of wealth holders also see the inevitable alternatives: the collapse of the Constitution or some form of revolution, political or violent. Is it too late? Has government of the people, by the people and for the people passed into history?
Marcelo Brito (porto alegre brazil)
The American constitution was designed to protect property, the inalienable rights of individuals to pursue wealth, lyrically described as the pursuit of happiness. The electoral system embedded into this new republic of prosperous land owners, the electoral college , giving it precedence over the public vote. Within this system a candidate to an elected seat becomes de facto an influence dealer, and mr Schmitt tries to establish a distinction between two types of influence peddling, a small vs a gigantic variety.By the end of his op-ed ,one senses that he realizes how difficult it is to design a fresh path out of the swamp: "American politics is in urgent need of repair, but the idea of the swamp feeds a cynicism that’s not only inaccurate but also makes it harder to distinguish between decent people who are trying to do the best they can in a difficult system and real malfeasance — and even allows the latter to flourish unchecked." Clearly he marks his preference ,yet admits it is hard to distinguish between decent people and real malfeasance. The fact that nearly 40% of Americans continue to support the president ,illustrates the limits and falt lines of the current American political structure: the protection of the wealthy has always been the prime concern of the American political system, and mr Trump's supporters are thrilled with this president's dedication to this goal. The GOP agrees wholeheartedly,they found their champion and can't believe their good fortune.
Tom (Des Moines, IA)
Just because something is hard doesn't mean you don't try to do it. Expanding publicly supported campaigns so that pols aren't always fund-raising and beholden to moneyed interests has always been a noble cause and deserves the spotlite of reform. If Dems are elected in proper numbers in 2020, it will be an opportunity for a great tide of long-delayed electoral reform. But proper perspective on corruption now requires that that of "The Great Divider" Trump, singled out by the Mueller Report in its case-2 clarity, be showcased by an impeachment inquiry, so that his kind of corruption be hilited as worthy of the strongest of sanctions. If Mr Schmitt wants his readers to have such a perspective, then this swamp-draining activity needs to be more than mentioned here.
Daulat Rao (NYC)
Why? - MItch McConnel!
Guillemot (Maine)
Mitch McConnell.
Citizen-of-the-World (Atlanta)
I would like to see house representatives' terms extended to, say, four years, instead of two, to eliminate the need for near-continuous fundraising, which is flooding the so-called "swamp." On top of that, it might not hurt to limit representatives to, say, four consecutive terms, after which they could take their record of achievement and policy expertise, if indeed they can make such a boast, to a different area of politics — or they can get out altogether (nothing wrong with that). Really, we need a new Constitutional Convention to revisit some of the Founding Fathers' original plans, which might have worked fine back in the late 1700s but don't serve us well today.
Fred (Baltimore)
When you drain an actual swamp, the first thing you get is huge amounts of mud and rotting vegetation. It is past time to retire this metaphor. Otherwise, the calls for real public financing and professional staff are spot on.
berman (Orlando)
While the press has assumed responsibility for exposing incompetent, hypocritical, and corrupt officials, its so-called watchdog function fares less well in the social media era. Trump has received more press attention than any president, nay, any person, in the electronic communications age. However, his access to digital technology in the form of Twitter weakens the press. Despite the fact that many journalists are skeptical of Trump's motives and actions and are quick to pounce on any sign of his public wrongdoing, his frequent tweets prompt reporters to to drop whatever they are covering and chase the latest incident. Yes, Trump's tweets attract a large audience, but most people are exposed to them through stories generated by the mainstream media.
carl bumba (mo-ozarks)
I think Americans may have a particularly hard time separating the message from the messenger. Trump's critiques of our Washington-based "swamp", of globalization, and of few other things have merits that his supporters recognize. But those who believe our political leaders must also be our role models have a hard time seeing these messages. This subjectivity has been been manipulated by our political and media establishment that is threatened by these messages. Trump, himself, may be very unsavory. But a number of his viewpoints (particularly since he started channeling America's working class) are accurate and important. Supporting these views does not mean we must then deny climate change or learn to goose-step.
Lagrange (Ca)
@carl bumba; interesting point. You are unto something there. But, and this might be only me, I have to "trust" the messenger at least to some degree in order to listen to him/her. If don't think I have ever seen a more untrustworthy person in my life than Trump!
carl bumba (mo-ozarks)
@Lagrange Thanks. Maybe I'm like Spock, but I don't need to trust someone to evaluate their views. Of course, trust and character assessment are important to predict future views. In 2106, I deferred somewhat to the "wisdom" of common people where I live who, IMO, are (were) greatly misunderstood by more educated liberals, many of whom seemingly want(ed) to see us as foolish, base, narrow-minded, xenophobic/racist, etc.. Shouldn't they prefer that we're NOT that way? Those that were treated worse by society than me believed that Trump (of all people) felt their pain. Who was I to say otherwise, especially with the alternative being Hillary Clinton?
Good article, Mark. MONEY makes this rampant corruption possible because, in today's society, it can buy power and office. That's just wrong - it's immoral and unethical and it demeans the very essence of a Democracy. I blame this on corrupt people - both weak, malleable ones like the average Republican Rep or Senator and inherently corrupt ones like Trump. A Michael Bloomberg would not have been a party to this discussion but an example of how money can be used to insulate and HELP society instead of corrupting it. I have long proposed that we take money out of political office, strictly limit ALL funding per candidate and make PACs like Citizens United Illegal again. Every other email I receive is for fundraising for some politician - it is nauseating and offensive. We should pick our BEST based upon their accomplishments, honesty and intelligence, pay them well and INSIST upon exemplary performance. If we had done that we would not now be having to deal with the most clear and present danger (and IDIOT) in American history. The Billions wasted on political campaigns and Republican lies would better be used for curing cancer, feeding the hungry, saving our planet and anything but a narcissistic monument that Mexico did NOT pay for.
Lagrange (Ca)
@RealTRUTH "The Billions wasted on political campaigns" could be used to better things ... how right you are. What a massive waste and it gets worse with every new campaign.
MRod (OR)
Among the many things that perplex me about politics is why we continually use the destruction of nature as metaphor for doing something good. Draining the swamp as a metaphor for ending corruption makes as much sense as saying 'Drain the lake' or 'Burn the forest' to mean the same thing. And not content with drain the swamp, this commentator adds 'fetid tide pools' as a metaphor for becoming corrupt. It's like describing a mountain landscape as ghastly and putrid. We betray our foolish distaste for nature in the way we metaphorically abuse it, not to mention the way we actually abuse it. Going forward, may I suggest the word cesspool- large, manmade, stinking, polluting pits of animal waste- as a much more apt metaphor for corruption?
William Burgess Leavenworth (Searsmont, Maine)
Trump's exceptional corruption goes unchecked because we have a Congress more concerned with making itself a life-tenured tax-skimming operation than serving the people whose taxes pay it. We need legal prerequisites to shape Congressional contests. Our original Congresspeople lived together in boarding houses and ate at common tables. They went home during recess to see their families. Too many of today's Congresspeople make far more than their constituents and seek perpetuity in their cushy parasitism. We need term limits--12 years in office, max, then out of DC and back to the state that sent them for two years--and we need to peg Congressional salaries to the median income in the district represented, with Senatorial salaries pegged to the median income in the states represented. Too many Republicans are loyal to Trump out of fear for their cushy jobs, and too many Democrats are afraid to impeach for the same reasons. In a responsible Democracy, a fraud like Trump would die in prison.
Meredith (New York)
A 2015 Huff Post article quotes ex Pres Jimmy Carter re the Citizens United decision: “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected." "Same applies to governors, senators and congress….it’s a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over. ... the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell.” Also, Princeton researchers Gilens and Page found that with big money campaign finance, “only the desires of the richest citizens end up being reflected in governmental actions......The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact on public policy.” (see their interview on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart) Also , NYTimes front page 2 August 2015: “Small Pool of Rich Donors Dominates Election Giving.” Majorities of voters favor changing how we pay for campaigns----but so what? We the People have no clout. It was removed by Citizens United. Our media doesn't report on this, as it keeps track of candidate fundraising for 2020.
slogan (California)
@Meredith Decent Americans should have seen the pig with lipstick, he wasn't wearing all that much on his lips. As much as I'd love to pass blame to Citizens United, in the end, we cast the votes. We have to fix this at the ballot box and take things a little more seriously this time around.
JPM (Palm Springs)
Come on, Donald Trump is one of the biggest con men in America. He became President to enrich himself and his family. Some 8 months of golf already and more to come. He never has cared about America or its' people unless he can take them for a ride. And he has.
John Mullowney (OHIO)
Has Trump begun to share his Soviet booty with the rest of the Republicans, those directly enabling him? I suppose so, but remember, that simple vice, soon becomes a habit
NY Times' bizarroworld continues with a headline about Trump's exceptional corruption, not in fact backed up by any tangible examples, only aspersions. You don't need to go too far back to remember Hillary Clinton's $1bn plus campaign, backed by big donors (she raised way more than Trump), her lucrative speeches at Goldman Sachs and the surprisingly dead-ended Clinton Global Initiative, who's fund raising mysteriously dried up after her defeat. Now she wants to produce documentaries and films for Netflix - getting some of that Obama net neutrality payoff cash. Whose exceptional corruption has gone unchecked?
Lagrange (Ca)
@TL; did she also invite world leaders to her own resort and make them pay? which goes directly into his pocket? How is that different that those .ithole countries Trump talks about? And why doesn't that bother you?
S.L. (Briarcliff Manor, NY)
The GOP, by accepting Trump as their candidate, has normalized behavior that they once abhorred. Since the base of evangelical Christians decided to accept the thrice married, crotch-grabbing, business cheat as their hero, there is nothing else he can do that will diminish him in their eyes. No matter what unethical practices he has, like enriching himself by making us pay for his entourage to stay at his failing businesses or referring to the free press as the enemy of the people, they refuse to criticize him. Each time he takes the next egregious step in corruption, it has no effect on much of his base. The man could not run a legit business before he became president, and now that he is in office he is continuing his corrupt ways. Until the GOP stand up to him as a group and remove him from office, this corruption will continue.
Eddie B. (Toronto)
"Why Has Trump’s Exceptional Corruption Gone Unchecked?" The answer to the above question appears in a brilliant article published in The Guardian yesterday. The article, under the title: "Confidence in Trump’s whims is unlikely to survive a recession," is written by Robert Shiller, the 2013 Nobel laureate in economics and professor of economics at Yale University. The article suggests that Trump has been pursuing a "contagious narrative" since 1983. That narrative has managed to attract, among others, a portion of the US public that has been struggling in their daily lives, looking for a iconoclast to raze all obstacles in their way and bring back "the easy days". And it is for that portion of the population that Mr. Trump's words, while they have no foundation in reality, are unconditionally accepted as reality. Below is a key paragraph of that article: "Consider his interest in professional wrestling – a form of entertainment that attracts crowds who by some strange human quirk seem to want to believe in the authenticity of what is obviously staged. He has mastered the industry’s kayfabe style and uses it effectively everywhere to increase his contagion, even going so far as to take part in a fake brawl in 2007." The fact that Mr. Trump's base "by some strange human quirk, .... want to believe in the authenticity of what is obviously staged" should not surprise anyone. After all such "human quirk" is heavily nurtured in our childhood by religious teachings.
William Burgess Leavenworth (Searsmont, Maine)
"Drain the swamp?" Ha. Trump has expanded it and filled it with alligators. He must be going into the luggage and boot business with MBS or KJU.
Lisa G (Knoxville)
His actions have gone unchecked because the House did not utilize its constituionally given powers. Instead it relied on the courts to pursue its agenda. This was, in my opinion, a strategic mistake. Asking a third branch of govt - one that is controlled by BIll Bar, to grant its authority was a bad move. If the courts do have the authority to lock folks up directly for being in contempt of congress - it should have. If the house is indeed as powerful as any other branch, it should have wielded that power. Talking about it - means nothing. DOING IT - means everything. And... the house didn't.
carl bumba (mo-ozarks)
Trump supporters who want to "drain the swamp" should be prepared to eschew the federal disability checks in their rural communities that support drug habits within their families, the over-use of taxpayer/federal lands and a number of other abuses by them (which I think they might). Likewise, Democrats should be willing to dismantle entrenched hierarchies of self-serving federal bureaucracy that should be redeployed to more local levels of government, closer their targets - the true people they mean to serve (which will requiring taking on a powerful establishment, supported by corporate media).
Dadof2 (NJ)
Because "The Swamp" is a code word to conservatives for social welfare programs that are endorsed by liberals and primarily benefit People of Color. It's as simple as that. Just blatant racism, and used to fire up a base that doesn't realize they benefit more from those programs than do non-whites. Hence their signs like: "Keep your Government Hands off My Medicare!" To Trump, "corruption" is any graft he doesn't get to partake in! That's why he MUST be Impeached.
I think one of the mightiest American historical moments President Trump is creating right before our eyes is the steady preparation of Washington DC's ground through a phalanx of backhoes and bulldozers inexorably operated by decent American incorruptible dogged unsentimental gimlet-eyed members of his administration, eg. AG Barr – with the channels, culverts, sluice boxes, and slag heaps needed for the coming Great Drain. I always knew the idea Trump colluded with the Kremlin to steal the 2016 election would turn out a ludicrous fantasy (cf. the Mueller Report, it's definitive) irresponsibly whipped up in a truly embarrassing tantrum by massively uncomprehending sore losers (i.e. Hillary Clinton) – – But I had absolutely no inkling how precisely the boomerang would return upon those who threw it! The recent Comey Report is sickening and damning. It can't be ignored. It's just the start. Whether the swamp will be drained still in Trump's first term, or whether it's the great task of a Trump second term – or indeed even if he's not reelected! – the swamp, friends, is a' gonna drain! You hear that Giant Flushing Sound rumbling down on us from the future? It's the wailings of Comey, Brennen, Clapper, McCabe, Strzok, Baker, Rice, Powers, Rhodes, Clinton, Clinton, Lynch... Can it go any higher? We'll see. Yes, friends, let us drain the swamp.
1blueheron (Wisconsin)
Warren and Sanders both understand that you cannot have unlimited corporate money in the political system. The system knows that - and they will be the more resisted by it. The 2010 SCOTUS ruling on money as free speech and corporate personhood must be overturned or we are essentially cementing into place a plutocracy with autocrat puppets and dictators. 20 states have passed referendums. Naysayers abound. But until there is address of the money problem - the corporate swamp persists.
Bob Fiedelman (Saugerties NY)
Bush's purchase and subsequent sale of the Texas Rangers, Hillary's speeches at Goldman Sachs, Obama's purchase of his vacation property, Newt Gingrich's book deals, Biden's plagiarism, Warren's"honest mistake" to get a Harvard job, Harris' old tried and true method to getting ahead are all examples of political and personal corruption across party lines and the political spectrum. The only difference with Trump is the scale and the shameless manner in which he goes about it. Our author while wringing his hands and gnashing his teeth seems to give a wink and a nod in his first example, thereby encouraging even more corruption. Without serious and meaningful campaign reform the problem will continue to fester. That is only the first step.
Thomas (Washington)
The attachment we have to authority prevents us from blasting him. The bullet proof vest is patriarchy and the questioning of it would create a neurotic situation for his rewarded and confident followers.
Karen H (New Orleans)
Trump's corruption has gone unchecked because Republicans are afraid to stand up to him. Period.
John (NYC)
@Karen H, they're not afraid, they're riding on the coat tails of this administration and getting all that they can before it's all over. He is their gift horse!
fdc (USA)
We can deal with run-of-the mill corruption but it seems that overwhelming corruption has paralyzed us. A wantonly corrupt president with a bevy of lawyers , a syncophant AG and a co-conspiratorial senate are all you need.
Patron Anejo (Phoenix, AZ)
@fdc Indeed. The problem is that by their inaction, the House Dems are allowing current, aberrant criminal behaviour become the "New Standard" for POTUS. The next autocratic crook POTUS probably won't be as inept. Something for Nancy P to ponder as she navel-gazes her way to November, 2020......
franz fripplfrappl (madison)
It all comes down to perception. Those on the outside looking in can see the corruption clearly whereas those on the inside looking out are seeing their world as near perfect. How many millennia of humans misbehaving badly and you really expect things to be different today? Check back tomorrow and let me know.
Sari (NY)
Good question. There has always been corruption in politics, but this administration has taken it to new heights. We all have wondered how he gets away with it day after day. A few days ago he was complaining about how much money he is losing by being President. Easy fix, resign. Meanwhile he's lining his pockets with the likes of the NRA, so don't look for an intelligent plan for gun control. The other day he appeared on TV rambling about budgets. He seemed to be in some sort of a catatonic state. He keeps on proving he's unfit for office. Looking forward to 2020 when we will vote him out of office.
Mike T (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
With their infamous Citizens United ruling the Supreme Court built a gigantic legal luge for oligarch money to corrupt the election process. Justice Roberts has belatedly expressed concern about how the public views the Court. The problem is trust and legitimacy. The Brett Kavanaugh hearings shattered all pretense of legitimacy and fair-mindedness. If the public doesn't trust you, you are a Federalist Society soldier who wears a black robe while exercising overreaching power over ordinary people's lives — Mitch McConnell's corrupt obstructionism bearing its poisonous fruit. A question for the next presidential debates: Raise your hand if you trust the Supreme Court to be a nonpartisan body.
Marylee (MA)
There has never been such disregard for the principles of the 3 branches of government by its occupant in our history. 45 is corrupt, as well as cruel and needs to have the consequences. The republican party members do not deserve to be reelected or serve due to their failure to do their duty. How dare they collect pay for doing nothing but obstruct. The Senate is the worst, particularly Moscow Mitch.
Steve (Seattle)
Problem is that it is getting harder to tell the good guys from the bad. Trump was and is still one of the biggest pythons in the swamp and he never intended to try and end corruption in government and politics, can we say Russia for starters. Yes we desperately need campaign finance reform, McCain-Feingold was a start but we saw how far that got and we got crushed by Citizens United. Now the wealthy and big corporations hold our government hostage. So where are all of the good guys in government, certainly it isn't the SCOTUS especially after Citizens United and McConnell's dirty trick to appoint Gorsuch. We have a corrupt Attorney General. will he prosecute federal crimes , not likely. Finally we have a legislature content to stay silent while trump rapes the country. Good guys, there are not too many of those. Campaign fiance reform, a pipe dream.
diderot (portland or)
The American swamp began ab initio. Its foundation rested on the savage decimation of Indian populations and the importation of slaves. It was enshrined by a constitution that deemed some people (white men) more equal than others (blacks, women). Although women were people who just couldn't vote, blacks were just fractionally human.(I'm not sure whether Indians merited a fractional number.) It mistakenly created states, giving them equal representation in the senate and an electoral college that severely overweights the power of the senate. Except for a brief period after WW2 (1945-ca.1970) the rich have always gotten richer at the expense of the less fortunate. It has become the most powerful country in the world thanks to the "kindness of strangers", aka non anglo-saxon immigrants, who worked overtime to enrich the 1%, nee, robber-barons. The swamp is deep and wide and it will take a Sisyphean effort to either drain it or get over it. I'm not holding my breath.
carl bumba (mo-ozarks)
@diderot The travesties you rightly address are more the result of unfettered capitalism than of uniquely American activity. America has been the most potent driver of capitalism - and is indeed responsible for the consequences of this. But focusing on 'America', which is the MEANS by which capitalism dominates the world's economies, or on 'racism', a social CONSEQUENCE of this domination, we miss seeing the "true" CAUSE of the problems. Distinguishing byproducts and proximate causes from more ultimate causes is important for making lasting change.
Paul Wertz (Eugene, OR)
I wonder, when trump is out of the White House and has been indicted, tried and convicted of a string of federal crimes, and has been sent to federal prison, will the taxpayers be on the hook to provide in-prison Secret Service protection?
Steve Cohen (Briarcliff Manor, NY)
I will be happy to pay my share of that bill.
Mike T (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
@Paul Wertz To start they could set aside one of the facilities where they caged the kids and designate it a federal prison facility for people of orange coloration. It would save us a bundle on operating costs.
Carol (NYC)
TAXES! TAXES! TAXES! Where are Trumps taxes??? Why and how has he been able to ignore them?
Toronkawa (Tarrytown, NY)
Americans and European politicians, like to lecture Africans and African governments about corruption. kleptocracy they called it. All the while they are more corrupt than we could ever hope to be. Europeans and American companied are for centaury engaged in outright theft of natural resources in Africa and their banks is where Africans parked their looted wealth. Before Trump the supreme court have legalized corruption through Citizen United; President Trump just took it to a different level with G7 going to Dorian in Miami Mr. Trump private property or the suggestion of buying Greenland for 100 million dollars for a nation that has mineral resources worth 300 trillion dollars not to talk of the 50 to 75 thousand inhabitant of the island, which would come with the sale
PaulB67 (Charlotte NC)
The answer to the question raised by this article is easy: Trump is enabled by his adoring base and given a complete pass by the spineless Republican Party, which has substituted its own survival for any kind of moral or ethical behavior. Trump is enabled in the same way families often enable drunks and wife beaters and drug abusers. They know the behavior is obnoxious, self-destructive, deeply troubling and even dangerous, but for whatever reason, they don't gather the courage to intervene or just leave. We will see in 2020 whether Trump's rotten, immoral and troubling behavior gets a new four-year pass.
Rich Fairbanks (Jacksonville Oregon)
The democrats and the press gave Nixon a pass on his white collar crimes. Trump now takes it a step further, selling his presidency to foreign adversaries. Why? The one group in society that truly seems to be deterred from crime by the threat of prison is the white collar criminal. A rich man has much further to fall than someone raised in poverty. A Jeffrey Epstein, accustomed to pate, would rather die than eat balogna sandwiches for breakfast. You must support real jail terms for crooked politicians and grifter businessmen. They will be deterred from crimes.
Lagrange (Ca)
@Rich Fairbanks; "The democrats and the press gave Nixon a pass on his white collar crimes." ... Nixon was pardoned. Not sure what you expect the Democrats should've done after that.
Charles Justice (Prince Rupert, BC)
The writer is making some excellent points here. If you believe that all government is hopelessly corrupt, then it is much more likely that you will fall prey to malevolent actors such as Russian trolls or out and out cons like D.J. Trump. lt is important to trust in something, but if you completely lose trust in government your chances for falling down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories is dangerously higher. How many lone shooters, fanatics, and suicide bombers have gone down this path already?
Meredith (New York)
There are many articles about Joe Biden and his big donors. From Salon: Joe Biden ‘assured rich donors at a ritzy fundraiser that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he is elected. “….that he would not “demonize” the rich and promised that “no one’s standard of living will change…” Biden wants to attack our poverty rates, but “his plan would not involve big tax hikes on the rich." “I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money,” he said. “The truth of the matter is, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change.” Biden said that "the rich should not be blamed for income inequality, pleading to the donors, “I need you very badly.” Biden feels perfectly comfortable with this. It's an American norm. Only now are some rebelling from the system. But many candidates and office holders say they can't do "unilateral disarmament" by refusing big money, as they compete for office. What we have is a big money arms race, spiraling upward as our standards go down. Trump is a symptom of this political infection.
Lagrange (Ca)
@Meredith; That might be Biden's attitude towards donors but most candidates understand the implications and many candidates especially Democrats distance themselves from big donors and their donations. Just because Biden is on board with it, it doesn't make it right.
Meredith (New York)
@Lagrange.....Of course it's not right. That's my point. I'm CRITICIZING Biden, not approving of the big money ties.
Brian (Here)
It's worth reading, or re-reading, Robert Caro's "The Power Broker" for an understanding of how the seeds of New Wave corruption flourish when eliminating the old wave. Kudzu in government.
Ben (New York)
I would add that to many of Trump supporters the "swamp" isn't necessarily corruption in Washington, but Washington itself. In that view, firing scientists and other bureaucrats is sadly part of draining the swamp. This is why adopting the republican language and verbiage is dangerous, they intentionally use words to have a double meaning, one for their fox news/conservative talk radio audience and another for everyone else. When you adopt the same language the people that they were intending to talk to (fox news/conservative talk radio audience) they percieve it in the way it was meant for them and it further reinforces their view that fox news/conservative talk radio is the only one telling the truth and that main stream media won't say it unless forced to by the fox news/conservative talk radio "news outlets"
Michael N. Alexander (Lexington, Mass.)
Not only is “swamp” inaccurate, as Mr. Schmitt says — it’s a bad metaphor, a libel on swamps and other wetlands. Wetlands are not there for the draining, as people around Houston and other areas should have been taught by repeated flooding. Draining real swamps often has a variety of seriously bad consequences for the neighbors, as well as for wildlife. Watch that metaphor!
Robert Briggs (Tulsa, OK)
Look who has lasted in the cabinet the longest? What connection does our transportation minister have with China? With Vulcan Materials? Check out the price of Vulcan Materials stock since Trump was elected. Guess who is going to supply the concrete to build Trump's concrete wall?
Lagrange (Ca)
@Robert Briggs; Also worth mentioning is the 1.7 billion dollars the sanctioned Russian company Rusal is going to spend in Mitch McConell's Kentucky or McConnel's wife Chao's shipping company's connections with China. She is the Secretary of Transportation. Corruption as far as you can see.
Silvio M (San Jose, CA)
I believe most US Citizens (i.e. voters) acknowledge the fact that many former elected officials know how Washington DC operates, so it's understandable that many of them become lobbyists when they're out of office. Trump himself is from the real estate and construction business, and his daily activities were built around influencing people in powerful positions. The problem we witness continually with the Trump Administration is overt pandering (and bidding) lead by Administration officials who have already represented the companies and industrial sectors which they now oversee. In addition to this, large sums of money are "donated" to the Trump re-election campaign from these same entities as "compensation" for serving their particular interests. This activity should be illegal. Trump has often referred to "draining the swamp"... well he and his Administration ARE the swamp!
nzierler (New Hartford NY)
Contributing in a major way to Trump seemingly having carte blanche to do and say outrageous things is the Democratic controlled House acting too timidly by not impeaching him. Pelosi is fighting off over half her caucus out of fear that Trump will emerge from impeachment hearings better off than he is now. So those in Pelosi's camp continue to blather how they have over 20 investigative committees doing their due diligence but failing to do the one thing that would force Trump to turn over the information they are demanding and that is impeaching him. We all know the Senate will not remove him but that is a lame excuse for the Democrats to ignore their constitutional duty, given that they have him on at least 10 acts of obstruction of justice.
Barbara (SC)
Some years ago, I met a state representative from Rhode Island. As we talked, he told me he had cosponsored a bill requiring urine tests for SNAP beneficiaries, something I strongly oppose. His reason? His buddy asked him to. While this was not corruption per se, it was certainly typical of the tit for tat that goes on in legislatures. But one has to ask, what if next time someone asks him to do some small thing that tilts toward corruption? Would his tendency to go along to get along lead to a slide down Corruption Lane? I suspect so and I suspect he's far from alone.
Girish Kotwal (Louisville, KY)
Corruption is in built in some democracies and democracies need to reform to wipe out corruption. One way to end corruption is to slip the wings of government and the absolute power of congress and return the power to the people with referendums rather than a once in 4 years ballots.
carl bumba (mo-ozarks)
Despite the pictures, headlines and colorful descriptions, this article is actually an admission from NYT that there is significant corruption on "their" side, too - a fact that is obvious to most Americans. The example here of deep, widespread corruption that is intrinsic to our government (and surely many others) is not as unseemly and grotesque as the scenario provided of Trump's administration and character. But it is also not a partisan interpretation; it's well established (intuitively, anecdotally and empirically). The problem with highly critical views of Trump's world is that they often come from the Washington-based, political and media establishment or "the swamp", itself. Apples should be compared with apples - and oranges, oranges. A Clintonian swamp scenario would be a fairer comparison. As Democrats, we should not focus on the corruption of their "side" if it comes at the exclusion of recognizing our own corruption, which we can actually do something about. Taking the low road is almost never the way to go over the long run.
MKR (Philadelphia PA)
In answer to the title question: because the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and still control one and Trump controls the Republicans.
IndyAnna (Carmel, IN)
If trump had done one or two things that were obviously corrupt, I believe there would be a more concerted effort to "check" him. But because there is a scandal every week, sometimes every day, the public consciousness is simply overwhelmed. Where to start? Which is the worst thing that needs to be prosecuted? How to find all the data points and connect the dots? This is part of trump's strategy; he knows that we can't drink from a firehose so the sheer quantity of corruption shields him from consequences. Of course, the duplicitousness of the GOP is a big help.
Rob (SF)
Reading articles like these are always disheartening. As a salve, I like to listen to Rosanne Cash's version of Laura Nyro's "Save the Country." Seems appropriate.
Rob (SF)
It's really should be Drain the Trump. At this point, the difference is the magnitude of the harm.
Rob (SF)
There is a distinction, I'm afraid most will not be able to articulate the difference.
Jazzie (Canada)
Face it, there’s a lot amiss in your country right now. From seemingly regular mass shootings as a result of ‘the right to bear arms’ (legislated before the advent of automatic weapons), to horrendous border issues, to the abrogation of women’s rights, to your electoral college tacitly putting Trump into office etc., etc. Maybe it is time to revisit your Constitution and ameliorate those statutes that are no longer relevant in today’s complex world. Yes, POTUS promised to ‘drain the swamp’; anyone with any intelligence understood that he was the last person inclined to do so. He was definitely NOT ‘dragged down into the fetid tide pool himself’ – he intentionally enlarged and deepened it a hundred fold.
mrfreeze6 (Seattle, WA)
@Jazzie, you are absolutely correct. The U.S. needs to update the play book (constitution). It needs to be modernized and reengineered to deal with the realities of the 21st Century. Unfortunately, Americans are in love with their cultural and historical myths and for them to admit that the U.S. isn't "the greatest country in history" is, simply put, impossible. Add to this the fact that the government today has been purchased by the top 10% who can always prosper in spite of the the flaws in the government. In fact, they like an ineffective government. I makes their lives easier.
Eddie B. (Toronto)
@Jazzie There is little chance for that to happen - even under present, largely chaotic conditions - my dear old friend. There are multitude of interests, big and small, tied to every word in that constitution. It would take a horrendous disaster - something of biblical proportion - to get enough people in the Congress to support changes to the US constitution. HB.
Dave Compton (Destin)
What struck me while reading this piece, was the need for it at all? When my mother-in-law gave me Trump’s book, The Art ofthe Deal, I threw it in a box never to be opened. I am guessing that was 1990. I was Republican, at the top of my field, heading into real life(crisis/get up/crisis/get up/. Trump was dishonest then and much worse today. These are simple facts. Why so many people chose to ignore them or just tell lies instead is an indictment of human behavior in an age of technology advances well beyond our biological capabilities. Anecdotally, I meet more people who seem to be testing the waters of lying about anything to see if they can follow their leaders.
Michael Eddins (Durham, NC)
Let’s get real. One cannot hire (or by a fluke of the electoral college elect) a would-be alpha alligator to drain a swamp. Trump only knows how to breed and to enlarge it. He’s a creature of the swamp of New York real estate and his father’s obsessions for power and prestige at any cost. He surrounds himself with other swamp-creatures who will obsequiously do his bidding in selling snake oil to all the rest of us or limp away to find higher and dryer land. Drain the swamp? Start by pulling the plug on Trump.
Meg (Troy, Ohio)
Corruption in government has been normalized and come out in the open in my lifetime. Beginning with Nixon it has been one scandal after another that has made this corruption not only more acceptable but also actually normal. Trump has carried his transparent corruption to an extreme and it has paid off not only for him but also for those politicians in the GOP now and those who will come after him. Increasingly, the media reports this corruption as normal and unprosecutable. Trump is even keeping the House from investigating his corruption through blanket refusal of all subpoenas and requests for information. And we stand and watch. Shrug our shoulders and hope that the 2020 election will erase the blackboard so we can start over. I'm not sure that there will be a mulligan here. As a country, we have let Trump go too far without any accountability. I believe he wants to be an authoritarian dictator. It is his goal. The unchecked corruption is his power. And we stand and watch.
DSD (St. Louis)
@Meg - No corruption from Jimmy Carter. Perhaps that’s why he was do hated by the DC political establishment.
Carol (NYC)
@DSD It seems the Republicans hold the record on corruption - Reagan, Nixon, Bush and now Trump. Corruption can also be defined as aiding their friends grow their income....
MKR (Philadelphia PA)
@Carol What was the corruption under Obama? I don't recall a single indictment or conviction. And prosecutors, who are mostly political animals, will go after any government official they can.
Rich Grant (Hackensack, NJ)
"Griftee" should be a word.
Patron Anejo (Phoenix, AZ)
@Rich Grant It's synonymous with "Kushnered".
David Walker (France)
“Donald Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’ but” and you’ll find dozens of mainstream articles that take seriously the idea that he actually set out to reform politics but, like naïve reformers before him, was dragged down into the fetid tide pool himself. Wow, you mean there’s people out there who took him seriously? When, if ever, over this man’s ~70 years has he ever displayed sound judgment, compassion, assiduous attention to nuance with difficult problems? Answer: Never. So why would anyone have believed his bombast during the 2016 campaign—as well as since entering office? One of the greatest tragedies, which goes mostly unnoticed (especially by Trump’s supporters) is the systematic hobbling and dismantling of US Government agencies all across the board. I worked in one of those Federal agencies for most of my career, and my experience echoes that of the author’s intent in this article: For the most part, the people I worked with were intelligent, hard-working, and dedicated to advancing the public good. An excellent overview of what Trump has done—and is actively engaged in today—is Michael Lewis’ book, The Fifth Risk. There are parts of that book that are hauntingly familiar to me, as he talks about the agency I worked in.
Eileen (Austin TX)
Mr Walker, I often think about what it must be like for the employees of the many governmental agencies that are now being led by people who despise the purpose of the very agency that they are now being asked to lead. Watching them dismantle regulations and programs that safeguard our nation and our citizens must be heartbreaking! I am sorry for you and your many colleagues. I also agree that this aspect of trumps so-called leader ship is not getting sufficient coverage. This will take many many many years for us to recover and build back the talent that has chosen or has been forced to leave.
Buffalo Fred (Western NY)
@David Walker: Concur, as a current Federal careerist in a "somewhat insulated command structure," we can pat those know-nothing appointees on the head and move forward with serving the nation through more direct Congressional interaction. However, my cohorts in USEPA Region 5 in Chicago, for example, are administered by a high-school graduate from Wisconsin. So imagine explaining human-health risk assessments and the execution of large-scale remedial actions to a low-education appointee that constantly asks the dumbest questions on earth. They shed tears.....of laughter. They have requested solutions with large implementation risks just to "create anything" to show progress and buy time until the "smart people are back" when proper solutions with less externalities can be implemented (i.e., remedies that won't drive a local community crazy). We recognize this and thank our organization's senior leaders for the insulation. A Trump-free January 2021 can't come soon enough.
@David Walker: You describe long-term possibly permanent damage impinged on our government by donnie trump. He is filling government positions with corrupt unqualified people who remain only to fill their own (and the trump family's) pockets. It will require decades to find, prosecute, and remove each trump-appointed criminal, and their multiple hires, from our government. It will be akin to fighting the cancer of metastasizing organized crime -- with which donnie has infected our government.
Meredith (New York)
Our system traps politicians and creates legalized corruption as a norm. I’m waiting for 1 NYC op ed discussing how in other capitalist democracies, acc to Wikipedia, they ban paid campaign ads on the media. That is our biggest expense, needing mega donor money to finance. It makes profit for our media. How does this all compromise our whole political culture? And our free press? In other countries they use more public funding for basic campaign expenses, with shorter campaigns. Their highest courts have not blessed unlimited donations to elections from the wealthy and corporations, equating this with 1st Amendment ‘Free Speech’ rights, as our Court did in 2010 Citizens United. Our court used our Constitution to muffle the voice of the We the People who need representation. Other countries are able to finance long-standing health care for all, low cost college tuition and better upkeep of their infrastructure. Americans have to fight for all this against powerful forces. Now US voter majorities want to overturn Citizens United to stop the legalized corruption in US politics. No progress can happen otherwise. We see some candidates say to refuse mega donor money would be ‘unilateral disarmament’. They’re forced to compete by our system of legalized bribery. The ways countries finance their election campaigns should be extensively covered by the NYTimes, a paper with international resources. Compare, contrast, debate---and get our politics unstuck.
ZenDen (New York)
The supreme court supported government corruption with the Citizens United decision which gives a form of citizenship to corporations and allows them to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns as an expression of free speech. But wealth is far from equally distributed and one corporation's free speech in the form of money far overpowers the influence of small donors and puts wealthy donors and corporations in the drivers seat. That is institutionalizing corruption!
Bill (NYC, NY)
@ZenDen, In Citizens United and McCutcheon the Supreme Court equated unlimited spending by corporations and the wealthy with speech. If corporations and the wealthy can "speak" so loudly with their money that the rest of us can't be heard, do we still have freedom of speech?
Phyliss Kirk (Glen Ellen,Ca)
@ZenDen Thank you. I say a corporation does not have a mouth, ears,eyes and brain. it cannot speak therefore it is not a person. it does not walk, eat, sleep, play, communicate with real people. How in God's name did law ever contort such a ridiculous concept and support it with the constitution.
Michael N. Alexander (Lexington, Mass.)
@Phyliss Kirk Moreover, a corporation cannot be incarcerated, whereas a real person can The Supreme Court made corporations into legal uber-persons.
Nancie (San Diego)
The whole country is "unchecked". Unchecked: gun ownership Unchecked: the infrastructure plan Unchecked: funds transferred from FEMA to the wall Unchecked: tossing paper towels Unchecked: trump golf days Unchecked: Kushner's Unchecked: tax audit lies Unchecked: payments to prostitutes Unchecked: Steven Miller and other crazy hirings You get the picture.
hearthkeeper (Washington)
Supposedly, tRump's exceptional corruption has not gone unchecked. It's just taking a long time, and in the meantime, this charlatan and his associates are milking the system for all it's worth. https://www.newsmax.com/Politics/donald-trump-lawsuits-bankruptcy-casinos/2016/06/01/id/731815/ https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/02/04/federal-district-judges-have-blocked-trump-actions-30-times-a-record-rate/
Jack (Ohio)
Gen X kids were taught at a young age by family, institutions, media, etc.. that criminals are criminals. Moreover, that in America no one goes unpunished under the great american justice system. Generation X has grown up. Went to work. Voted. And learned that much of what our influencers preached were lies. That is not how our system works. Mr. Schmitt is continuing his generation's lies. Americans have witnessed what power and money have done to our culture, government, and families. These opinion pieces preaching to us that our system has flaws but for the most part these are good people and if they had the chance they would do the right thing. Do you want to bet our future because Mr. Schmitt wrote that most politicians would not be criminals if the system was better? Millennials and Zs, I hope for United States of America you are not listening. If you want criminals out of your government vote them out. This article reminds us of the media's infatuation with electability. Anyone is electable if enough people vote for someone. We can vote criminals out of office and in jail if we vote for that to happen. It is a defeatist attitude if we think and vote like the previous generation. Let us come up with our own plan and stop listening to them. Look where they have lead us to date. Ask why is Mr. Schmitt correct? Because he is from Yale. Trump went to Wharton. We might want to question more than listen to people from Ivy league schools?
TommyTuna (Milky Way)
Why has Trump's exceptional corruption gone unchecked? Because the Republicans enabling him are also exceptionally corrupt. Remember, BOTH parties are needed to make the president accountable. The Republicans know this, and they do not care. The organizing principle of "party over country", manifested over the last few decades, has ruined the GOP.
john sloane (ma)
Had a real laugher with this article. Hillary & Bill's Clinton Crime Family Foundation was used to pay for their daughter Chelsea's NYC $7+ million apartment. Chelsea has never had a real job. The NBC job was given to her simply because she was Hillary's daughter. A job even the "brilliant" Chelsea could not handle, and had no experience in even though they were paying her $3-400,000/yr. Corruption and pay for play have been the Clinton's stock in trade for many, many decades.
Wohl (Maryland)
@john sloane I love the logic of this defense of Trump posed by so many of his supporters. To paraphrase, "Sure Trump is corrupt, but so is everybody!" Pretty weak.
caljn (los angeles)
@john Sloane But, but, but...Clinton!
B. Lassiter (NV)
There is nothing "conservative" about Republicans anymore. Moscow Mitch, Republicans supported by NRA foreign slush fund, evangelicals who have lost their moral compass and jaded population shrugging off everything the most ciminal, amoral president does are the harbingers of democracy lost. Russia got more success than it imagined in buying the American Republicans.
Southern Boy (CSA)
Corruption? What corruption? Yeah, Democrat corruption, but Trump corruption? Don't see it. Not there. Nada.
DJ (Tulsa)
Hard to get around the old truism that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Talking around this truism by looking for shades of gray in a sea of black is a fool’s errand. Human nature is what it is. The only difference now with our Wharton-uneducated corrupt simpleton in the White House and his cohort of hyper partisans in the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the Judiciary, is that they have institutionalized the corruption, gotten rid of even the slightest feeling of shame, and made it policy. Yes, the Republicans drained the swamp, but only of the waters that provided a layer of protection to the worst impulses of our human nature. And what they left at the bottom for all to see is the muck; dirty, odorous, and repulsive.
Dennis W (So. California)
Multiple reasons. First involves the sheer volume of infractions committed by this President and his administration. From self dealing, emolument violations, campaign finance felonies, etc., the problems are massive and on-going. Secondly, his party from day one has decided not just to look the other way, but instead bury their heads in the sand. It would seem that staying in power and loading SCOTUS with right wing sycophants is worth any price to accomplish. Lastly, an opposition that insists on dealing with this utterly corrupt administration using Marcus of Queensbury Rules. The lack of understanding by Democratic Leadership that you don't attend a gun fight armed only with a knife and their fierce belief in our 'rules' is naive at best and idiotic at worst.
Dennis W (So. California)
@Dennis W One more thought after reading about Vice President Pence's meetings in Dublin and his delegation (including family) staying on the Trump's golf resort on the West Coast of Ireland, necessitating a shuttle flight back and forth to his meetings aboard Air Force 2. This was at the suggestion of the President. Pence is purportedly paying for his extended family to stay in Doonbeg, but we are all footing the bill for the Secret Service and staff, which goes directly to the President. Like I said before.....it is happening literally everyday.
Tom Wilde (Santa Monica, CA)
To give the (obvious) answer to the question we’re fed at the top of this story: Trump’s “exceptional corruption” has “gone unchecked” because it’s nothing compared to the corruption that is business as usual behind the curtains hiding the world’s economic “titans” and “masters of the universe.” But to keep us from understanding that private, multinational power operating behind the curtain is running the U.S. and the global economy, we’re given this question—by whom? By the the private corporation that is charged (by this global, multinational corporate power) with preventing the raising of this curtain: The New York Times.
Sparky (NYC)
Trump's corruption has gone unchecked because Republicans in Congress have put party over country time and time again. They know Trump is corrupt, venal, totally unfit for office, and likely actively engaging in treason by promoting Putin's agenda in exchange for keeping his financial empire in tact. Yet they willingly ignore their oath of office to preserve their careers. They are profiles in cowardice.
Chaudri the peacenik (Everywhere)
Trump played a lexical trick with his slogan. He meant SWAMP THE DRAIN. His political ancestors came out with the catch-phrase: "Trickle down". Trump does not even ACCEPT things trickling. He deems it his god given right to SWAMP (overwhelm) the drains to stop the trickle. He and his ilk can now syphon-off the cream from the TOP.
Howard (Arlington VA)
Trump's immunity derives from his mastery of the most powerful force in American politics: white racism. As long as he rides that bull, anything he does is Ok. Obama was criticized by John McCain for the routine replacement of the Marine One helicopter, which was not even Obama's decision. But when Trump uses Air Force One for frequent golf trips, no one cares. The difference is skin color.
Erik (California)
The answer to the title question is that his supporters are too ignorant of law and politics to understand the corruption, and too driven by white supremacy to care.
Raymond L Yacht (Bethesda, MD)
A good start might be for the MAGA hats to finally realize that Trump isn't for them at all and, in fact, they will suffer the most under this corrupt regime. As long as Trump plays the divisive race card, they will continue to lavish him with adoration as their savings accounts and their children's inheritance evaporates.
Blackmamba (Il)
After tropical rainforests and coral reefs swamps are the most diverse and productive ecosystems on Earth. Draining a swamp is akin to deforestation of the rain forest and polluting coral reefs. It is the most damaging destructive dumbest thing that you can ever do. There is no science in politics nor history nor law. There are too many variables and unknowns to craft the double-blind experimental controlled tests that provide predictable and repeatable results that are the essence of science. The notion that corruption and governing and politics are endemic and enduring stems from historical experience and an understanding of human DNA biological genetic nature and nurture. The one and only human race species began in Africa 300, 000 years ago as one of three closely related surviving African apes aka bonobo, chimpanzee and us. By our nature and nurture we are programmed to crave fat, salt, sugar, habitat, water, kin and sex by any means necessary including conflict and cooperation. From that perspective all governing political corruption is equal.
Norburt (New York, NY)
Yes, good to call out Trump's extraordinary corruption skills and unpunished criminal behavior, but: 1) no one but MAGA people took his drain the swamp promise seriously, and they meant something other than corruption; 2) the system IS fundamentally corrupt when corporations have free speech and dark money is virtually unlimited. Public funding of campaigns, people! No one gets to donate. Playing fields level out. Legislators can spend time on legislating rather than fundraising.
TommyTuna (Milky Way)
@Norburt Add to that term limits on elected reps and senators, and severe restrictions on lobbying, and we just might get a functioning government after all.
Margot LeRoy (Seattle Washington)
I am so weary of the lack of integrity in DC...We want our children to believe they can be President someday if they so choose to serve. Does that mean we teach them to ignore the law, court and reward high dollar donors with government contracts, and look the other way over flagrant wrongdoing and law breaking? The biggest part of solving this problem is realizing that few real patriots run for office. You are getting the failed lawyers who would not make partner, the business people whose only trip to the board room is to empty the wastebaskets. The cream of the crop stays in the private sector. They don't need to be in full pucker mode to make money or live a life of purpose. Until voters rebel against the bottom feeding normalcy, it will not change. Citizens United will be recorded in history as the moment when Democracy began to die. It was an open invitation to those who adore sanctioned and legal corruption. And count how many elected officials now dance on command. The solution is in the hands of those who cannot survive without those campaign checks. Really think they will walk away from that?
Gregg (OR)
It's going unchecked because of McConnell & Co. The Party of Trump embraces corruption with a zeal and fortitude unwitnessed in America before. Until they are banished, America is in deep trouble.
Jefflz (San Francisco)
How much more economic and political chaos does the United States need to undergo before the ignorant, incompetent Trump can be removed from office? He is a great threat to the well-being of all Americans and to the standing of our nation in the world. Trump was inflicted on this nation by a distorted electoral process. The Republican Party has not only undermined our democracy through gerrymandering and voter suppression, they have also undermined the global role of the United States in every way. The disgrace that Trump brings to our nation is unbearable. Trump is the face of Republican Party. He is living proof of their total disregard for our country. Only a massive voter rejection of Trump and his Republican enablers can end the nightmare.
J c (Ma)
This isn't about Trump or his sycophantic senators. It's about his voters. They hate you and want to hurt you. Just listen to them. Really listen. It's: 1. Minorities 2. Women 3. Liberals that think the above two should have equal rights That's it. There is no other plan, or principle. Trump was hired to smash the people they hate and fear, and they absolutely love that he is doing just that.
TommyTuna (Milky Way)
@J c As cynical and depressing as that sounds, I think you hit the nail on the head. Trump is a WILD success with these people because they are just as happily bigoted and imbecilic as he is. And he acts proudly in that way, which endears himself even more to them.
Steve Ell (Burlington VT)
ask mike pence for his answer to this question - you can reach him at trump's hotel in Ireland. apparently there are more convenient locations for his entourage, but trump suggested staying at his place. who cares if the government isn't paying for it? trump is still collection the payment. absolutely disgraceful. a conflict so obvious as to make me sick to my stomach. (and this is truly minor compared to trump's other offenses.)
John Rollins (Philadelphia)
It’s hard to envision either version of the swamp being drained when somebody like MoscowMitch is standing firmly on the drain plug insisting unlimited political contributions deserve his heroic, free-speech protection on one hand, while with the other, he preens and feathers his own nest accepting mega donor largess.
Rufus (SF)
Trump is merely an extremely visible symptom of a political system which is in the process of dying of stage 4 malignant corruption. When Harry Truman left the White House in 1953, he went home to his existing house in Missouri. He needed Congress to bail him out in 1958 with a Presidential pension bill because he had no money. How far we have come since then. Campaign finance reporting was much more stringent in 1968 than it is now. When Nixon entered the White House in 1969, he had a net worth of $380k. When he left in 1974, he had a net worth of $25M. His annual salary was $200k. You do the math. Bill Clinton never held a good-paying job in his life and started out in a trailer, yet he is worth hundreds of millions (that we know about...). Barack Obama never held a good-paying job in his life, yet he just bought a $15M *vacation home* on Martha's Vineyard. You do the math. When senators and Supreme Court justices are paid $250k, we *guarantee* that at least 90% of their true earnings is under the table. The reality is that it is impossible for someone to live a normal senator's life on anything close to $250k per year. Having Trump pimp out the Doral Golf Club while sitting as President is just the next logical step.
JK (Bowling Green)
I think the US should go to totally public funded elections. If you don't have to spend half of your workday (and long vacations) drumming up donations, you can concentrate on what your constituents really want, and have the time to read all the legislation and talk to experts to make an informed decision. Money is not speech. A destitute person has no voice according to the Supreme Court...doesn't that violate the Constitution?
TommyTuna (Milky Way)
@JK Agreed. Completely. this has been so obvious since Citizens United. Add to that: 1. Term limits for elected reps. and senators; and 2. Significant restrictions on lobbying. Do these things, in addition to funding campaigns with public money, and we just might someday get a functioning government.
Mary Melcher (Arizona)
There needs to be a limit on the length of these campaigns----6 months is enough. Campaigns should be publicly financed---no other funding allowed. The corruption is encouraged by the outlandish length of campaigns and the insane cost of them. Until we do these things, the USA will be political corruption central of the entire globe.
GUANNA (New England)
As Trumps as admitted his base would and now does turn its back on any crime he commits. Short of fleeing to Russia Trump need to be worried about the post Trump world of 2020. The GOP our compromised attorney general and his fanboys won't be much help. I do believe he could be the first incarcerated president. That should make him happy, it would be a historic first Obama never achieved.
Heidi (Upstate, NY)
In order to prevent more serious crimes like mass murder, law enforcement doesn't spends all it resources and time cracking down on traffic violations. Talking about historical political corruption, is how this administration can deflect the topic from it's astonishing level of corruption. This article, while very good, just spent more time on the lower level 'crimes'.
RLW (Chicago)
The best way to drain the swamp is to throw all the bums out of office in the next election and replace them with progressive legislators who want to do what is best for the country and their constituencies, instead of all those political hacks who just want to keep their cushy jobs and will do whatever it takes to stay in office.. A fantasy of course, but can't help dreaming that American voters will wake up and smell the stench coming from Washington and their state and local governments.
Doug McDonald (Champaign, Illinois)
The best way to drain the swamp is to throw out all the Democrats and replace them with conservative Republicans. A fantasy of course, but can't help dreaming that American voters will wake up and smell the stench coming from Washington and their state and local governments. Its too bad that I had to plagerize the previous sentence I wrote.
Richard (McKeen)
Why has Trump’s exceptional corruption gone unchecked? I think it may be because the country has never experienced this level of corruption and amorality flaunted, in open view, in the highest office in the land. The key is "open view" - all politicians are, and always have been, corrupt (from the POTUS to the local PTA president). But there was a time when they kept it out of view. It seems quaint now, but there was a time when Americans were capable of feeling guilt and shame - that time is long gone.
kevin cummins (denver)
Yes the U.S. is in trouble, thanks to the greed and corruption of the dollar. And will we be able to save our selves from the destruction brought on by ignoring global warming, and the social unrest which it will trigger? Our greedy leader Trump and his followers reminds me of the old Jack Benny joke, when a robber in a dark alley sticks a gun in Benny's back demanding "your money, or your life." When Benny hesitates, the robber asks: "Well, which is it?" And Benny's response: " I'm thinking, I'm thinking!" Like Jack Benny, the U.S. must quickly choose between assured global chaos, or pursuing an aggressive plan to address global warming and social reform. For now, we seem content to follow Trump down that dark alley, and unless we turn around, things won't end well for us.
hark (Nampa, Idaho)
All this is true about corruption and the most insidious form of it exemplified by Trump, but it does not explain the phenomenon of Trump himself, who has managed to bully the government, the American people and foreign leaders into helpless submission. We are at his mercy for perhaps another 5 1/2 agonizing years. The problem is his base, the 40% of the American people whose messianic faith in this fraud knows no bounds. Nothing the rest of us can say or do, nor what Trump himself says or does can penetrate the shield of admiration and devotion he commands. That in turn has terrified the Republican legislators to the point where there is total gridlock when it comes to Trump. The man should have been expulsed from office within six months for corruption and gross incompetence, but instead, because of the unprecedented devotion of his huge base, we are stuck with him unless the 60% of us who know better come out to vote in huge numbers next fall. His base certainly will Will we?
Martin (Virginia)
Trump's "exceptional corruption has gone unchecked" because the Speaker of the House apparently doesn't believe that she has any obligation to check it.
Joe Arena (Stamford, CT)
Drain the swamp, to Trump supporters, never meant cleansing the government of corruption, reducing lobbying, reigning in money in politics and the revolving door of big corporate influence on Government. No, instead, to Trump supporters, it meant, 1) voting democrats out of office, 2) bashing immigrants, minorities, and other poor people, and 3) "Sticking it" to the media and coastal "elitists." Lobbying, money in politics, big corporate influence on government is a feature of their style of governance, not a bug.
Maureen (philadelphia)
Pence, his family, aides and Secret service are commuting by helicopter from Trump Doonbeg to meetings with the taioseach in dublin by helicopter, costing us more than a quarter million. there are manyfine hotels in Dublin, an Irish economy that could benefit from the Vice President and entourage and goodwill to be gained by staying in your host city. this entire Trump/Pence administration is venal and corrupt. Where are the executive branch and Congressional beancounters hiding? Such practices in the private sector would bring immediate dismissal for fiddling expenses and inept business practices. Says it all really.
KG (Pittsburgh)
There is an organization americanpromise.net that is organizing to get an amendment (28th) passed that would address the problem of big money on our electoral system.
Eugene Windchy. (Alexandria, Va.)
"Mr. Trump is not singular and that versions of his plunder" What plunder?
DaDa (Chicago)
Trump's version of drain the swamp was to get rid of any regulation or oversight that would keep him from running the country as if its his own cash cow, even though thousands will die of dirtier air and water, more labor accidents, and all the other reasons these laws were put in place to prevent. Corruption to rival any of the small dictatorships he emulates.
Steve (Washington)
trump's exceptional corruption isn't anything more than an extension of his private life. as long as he continues to carry out their destructive agenda, nobody is going to challenge him. his refusal to commit to gun control legislation, his campaign to abolish abortion, his massive tax breaks for greedy corporations (and himself) as well as wealthy donors. he has effectively turned the gov't. into a personal profit center with the blessing and support of his donors.
Dan (Challou)
Answer: Corrupt Republicans control the Senate, and there are plenty of corrupt Democrats as well. Corporations are people, and there is vitually no control of who gives money to any politician, and really no limits on the amount of money that corporations and people who want to buy a Federal representative or Senator can't get around. How about an amendment to stop this forever? What a good idea!
Skeexix (Eugene OR)
This was largely the topic on "Morning Joe" today, and the push and shove was about how much people care or do not care that our president has committed felonious acts while in office, examples of which are the hush money paid to women with whom he has had affairs and the brazenly open operation of his businesses in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Count me among those who care very much about the lawlessness of Individual #1, which, considering the outcome of the popular vote in 2016, puts me in good company. If the rabble are not at all times screaming in the streets, it might be because we live in a representative democracy (see 2018 midterms) and have little time, what with our three jobs and shuttling kids back and forth to daycare, for organizing peaceful protests of the myriad crises our nation is facing. Perhaps the Wall Street bankers will take to the barricades. We the People did our job in 2016 and were defeated by an ancient 'fix' that worked exactly an intended. We did our job again in 2018, but remain stuck with a money-grubbing sellout Senate that hates America. It's time for Congress to do its job.
Rob Brown (Keene, NH)
Because fearful politicians are terrified of lazy Americans who don’t vote. It is a huge bump in net worth when you get elected. No conflict of interest here. Even if you do want to do right by your constituents all you have time for is seeking campaign contributions. We have seen the enemy and he is us.
dca (California)
One reason no one cares about Trump's corruption is because he is rich. People care very deeply about corruption among the poor. If you receive an entitlement of any kind, for instance, you will find yourself contending with legions of "good citizens" trying to prove that you don't deserve what you are receiving, even if you have paid into the fund you are drawing from for decades. These good citizens do not care if Trump makes money at his hotels hosting foreign dignitaries. Rather, they applaud him for his business acumen. Americans have always been this way, championing the rich while hating the poor, especially when they engage in exactly the same behavior. It is a disgusting character trait, but a real one. There is nothing more American than hypocrisy.
rich (hutchinson isl. fl)
Putin's puppet appetite for corruption is beyond anything we have seen outside of Russia and other outright, family dynasty dictatorships. Use the Russian example of a criminal organization of industry owning billionaires doing Putin's bidding in order to understand where Trump wants to take America. 2020 is our last chance to save the nation.
Freak (Melbourne)
Because it, like other things he’s doing, has the “racial OK” to go ahead. Trump was voted above all else due to racism, as he shows daily with his divisiveness. Till corruption is a bigger problem than people who look different than his supporters, his corruption is just fine. He can do whatever else he wants as long as he makes most white people in the country happy.
Chris (Boston)
The pressure to corrupt government also comes from those "beating the drum" to deregulate. Want access to public lands for your particular business? Get rid of laws and regulations that protect those public resources. Want to sell more bottled water? Undermine the laws and regulations that protect public water supplies. Want to keep pork products cheap? Fight against rules that help product watersheds from massive sludge ponds. Want minerals from Alaska? Trash rules that protect salmon runs. Regulation, though never perfect, has helped rescue us from the worst we human beings do to each other and to the planet.
I was jubilant when I learned of Scalia’s death. Too bad it didn’t happen 30 years earlier. I am still a nice guy. The only thing that will save us will be a “French” Revolution. Our 0.1% aristocracy will never abandon their psychotic greed.
Bob (Portland)
Trump has manages to "drain" the Federal government of competent, career employess & failed to attract (or repel!) seasoned knowledgeable people to have a functional administration. It is going to get worse.
Pen (San Diego)
Corruption is indeed universal. It exists in every sphere of organized human activity. There will always be people eager to exploit the system for personal advantage and, of course, the more potential advantage (wealth, power), the more enticing it is to exploiters - thus the inherent corruption in politics. Certainly there are also always people of principle and honor who act as a countervailing force. They are fighting an uphill battle, though, when blatantly foolish governmental actions such as the SCOTUS ruling in the Citizens United case so effectively empowered the forces of corruption.
NRK (Colorado Springs, CO)
We have allowed rich people and, thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, businesses and big corporations to literally buy our government (See Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, et al) . This is a discouraging situation because it is self-perpetuating. Wealth and power, political or economic, tend to beget more wealth and power. The only solution available to us "commoners," today, short revolution, is the ballot box and that is likely a hard and slow path to reforming our present system. Regardless, we have to elect politicians at all levels of government, regardless of their party affiliation, who will address campaign finance reform, blatant gerrymandering, political patronage and blatant abuses of power highlighted in this column. If we fail to do so, the consequences for our country will be disastrous. It is hard to conceive of an armed revolution in the United States today but at least one self-described plutocrat, Nick Hanauer, a wealthy entreprenuer, has already tried to gain the attention of his wealthy peers by warning that "The pitchforks are coming." They don't seem to be listening starting with our current president. Think it can't happen here? (See French Revolution, 1789, et al).
Raymond L Yacht (Bethesda, MD)
@NRK. The problem is those holding the pitchforks adore him and think the wealthy are here to help them. Weird really,
NRK (Colorado Springs, CO)
@Raymond L Yacht I agree. But Trump's supporters are not the only people in our country and, from a casual reading of the news and what I see on TV, his support may be eroding, particularly in the midwest where farmers are starting to realize they have been "had" by his trade war with China. I saw a commentator about 18 months or so ago, whose name I do not remember, make the observation that there were two things Trump could do that would prevent his reelection with certainty: 1. Start a war, 2. Be president at the start of a recession. I hope that neither of these events happen for the good of the country. I do not think he will actually start a war with Iran, the most likely "candidate" today. He is unpredictable, however, and the Iranians may do something that he reacts to with his usual petulance and without thinking. Or the US has to jump in to to assist Israel against Iran. Then there is North Korea... And there are "storm clouds" on the horizon for the US economy. As for why he currently has such a loyal base despite his many failings, I do not understand either. It is weird, but people do vote against their own interests. The only reason I can think of is they believe(d) his lies and promises. At some point, I hope they will wake up and realize what a disaster he is for the United States.
alank (Macungie)
Part of the reason for Trump's corruption going unchecked is that the House Democrats have not brought impeachment proceedings against him, which in essence lets Trump off the hook politically.
AH (Texas)
@alank Or maybe it's the Senate Majority Leader's refusal to investigate or take a stand against the president's unconstitutional, immoral, or self-serving policies that are detrimental to the people of the US and around the world. Don't blame the Democrats when the Senate & House were controlled by Republicans for the first two years of this administration.
J. Waddell (Columbus, OH)
If you want to reduce corruption in government, reduce the power that government has over our lives. As just one example, auto makers wouldn't be lobbying for increased tax credit subsidies for electric vehicles if government didn't mandate the sale of such vehicles to meet fuel economy standards. And reflecting the perverse effect of much regulation, it's the rich Tesla buyers who benefit most from the tax credits.
jsn (Seattle, WA)
@J. Waddell You get the same tax credit when you buy a Chevy Bolt and it covers a greater percentage of the vehicle cost, so the impact is likely greater in getting middle class people to think about getting an electric car.
Nanj (washington)
How can we ever hope our legislators will do the "right" thing? If long established legislators and congressional leaders do this, what kind of message does it give to the more junior members and others wishing to do public service. Party leadership has a role in selecting and guiding its candidates. When over time our leaders build a generous-sized nest egg, can they ever represent their constituents?
Charlotte K (Mass.)
His corruption has gone unchallenged because we have a Senate that doesn't care. As someone who lived through Watergate, this is the bitterest aspect of the Trump presidency (well, along with the manipulations of Supreme Court membership by Mitch McConnell). What is the point of the House of Representatives taking action when the current Senate will quash the attempts? I suppose many of us are hoping the elections of 2020 will turn out Trump; but I'm hoping even more that it turns over the Senate.
Occupy Government (Oakland)
MSNBC's American Swamp could not find a single senator who would even talk about campaign finance and the implications of Citizens United. When it takes millions of dollars to win a seat in Congress, the voices of a few people at town halls or campaign rallies fade in the roar of those of mega-donors. We need mandatory public campaign financing. That requires a new Supreme Court or new legislation. But the current crop of legislators won't even consider that unless they all do it at once. We have allowed the rich to occupy our government. We need to find a way for people to take it back.
Earl Wynter (Atlanta)
@Occupy Government So you think that the government has the right to stop the release of a documentary about Hillary Clinton? Because that was what "Citizens United" was all about.
Occupy Government (Oakland)
@Earl Wynter First, the court overreached to expand the question far beyond the case presented. Then they came up with the absurd characterization of money as speech. Finally, the effect has been the gross proliferation of "dark money" so we have no idea who is driving the ship of state. Clearly, it's not the people -- the ones who ordained the Constitution to promote the general welfare.
RA GoBucks (Columbus, Ohio)
@Earl Wynter Citizens United was about allowing corporations to buy elections. That is all.
Cass Phoenix (Australia)
Thought experiment: Assuming in each of the scenarios provided, the protagonists have functioning moral compasses and live by their ethical values, had the simple question: "Is it right?" been asked, would the outcomes have been different?
Tony (New York City)
@Cass Phoenix This country was founded by people who never had a moral compass and their ancestors dont have character. your simple question would be answered the same way it is answered now. As long as it is good for white elites no matter the consequences, we just dont care.
PeterE (Oakland,Ca)
Here's another way to look at Trump: He is an agent of the people who put them in office-- his principals. The people who put Trump in the Presidency are right=wing (most of the very rich, the evangelicals, and the white working-class), and-- perhaps--Putin. Trump is doing what his principals want; he's a reliable agent. His principals want lobbyists running government agencies; Trump has obeyed their wishes.
Rolfneu (California)
Money is the corrupting ingredient when its sources are shielded from full disclosure. The idea that donors can give unlimited amounts of money to bundlers is an open invitation to corruption. The ruling that corporations have 1st Amendment free speech rights equal to real people is absurd. We need dollar limits on political donations but more critically we need all contributions to be timely publicly disclosed. Also, no such contributions should be deemed 'charitable donations ' and tax deductible. The financing system currently in place is rigged and inherently corrupt
Tony (New York City)
@Rolfneu If Bernie, Warren can do well with small donors and I believe there are a few pacts out there then why cant everyone else? those pact commercials are ridiculous and I am tired of hearing about not being able to get the message out. Half of these messages arent even based on facts. Warren and Bernie are right if your taking money from Wall Street, the hospitals how in the world are you going to support the common man, your not. Which is why Booker, Harris arent catching fire because they are wall street candidates. Now we have the insanity that will break the back of democracy unless we get out and vote, hold townhall meetings when we think our representatives are going off the rails;
Chris Kule (Tunkhannock, PA)
Trump sees, apparently, that notoriety can be purchased for a price. Then he matches this realization with his electorate, which does not distinguish between acquired notoriety and purchased celebrity. And we don't see it for what it is??
David Godinez (Kansas City, MO)
The ability to raise campaign funds is a core test of political viability. If you can't get people to give you a lot of money on faith, after all, you probably don't have any business running for office in the first place. Any system that channels taxpayer money to legislative races, state or federal, will also invariably be gamed to benefit the incumbents, and the result will be even more permanent governments then we have now. it's preferable therefore to deal with provable cases of corruption through legislative censure or the courts, rather than go chasing after its mere possibility.
Reforming the way political campaigns are funded -- i.e. to only allow funding by small donors -- will have cascading effects to empower the electorate (people, not corporations) over our governments. The majority now recognize that Citizens United decimated the power of each citizen's vote. That ruling gave inordinate power to companies and outside entities (foreign governments, through shill corporations), to interfere in our government and to elect their candidates -- who will further erode voting rights. This created a vicious cycle. Seeing that Citizens United is here to stay for a while (until the Supreme Court again becomes bipartisan and non-republican), we need reforms to how political campaigns are funded. The simplest most effective change is to prohibit ANY campaign donations above $10,000 from any single entity/donor, and to eliminate all PACs. PACs, as political organizations, supercharge money to benefit select politicians. This is the MOST serious corrupting issue in American politics. Without curtailing this issue, everything else in our government will degrade -- caused by a vicious cycle that perpetually empowers politicians over citizen voters. Every action by trump is done to either "reward" or punish (through twitter, his rallies, and Fox "News") every politician, corporation, and government official to ensure they help him.    > --> To remove trump, we must protect GOP politicians from him. >
mak (Syracuse,NY)
The real solution to the corruption problem, whether they are 'good' people or 'bad' people originally, is to take the money out of political elections. And take the lobbyists out of Washington. The problem with that solution is that those politicians, who have misused and abused the system, are the only ones in the position to make the changes needed. Catch-22...and likely will never happen
Elizabeth (Roslyn, NY)
Trump's and his administration's exceptional corruption has gone unchecked because the corruption benefits Trump and the GOP and their 1% backers. Trump is like the doorman to Ft Knox with a big 'Come On In' smile offering new ways to game the coffers of the US taxpayer. Mitch can get Russian money and Chinese money (through his wife) to pump up his personal bank account and that of his district. Wilbur Ross is talking with his stock broker every day to sell or buy thanks to Trump's tweets. Lucrative federal contracts going to the GOP faithful. Trump's inauguration was the signal that POTUS was open for business to the Republicans quick enough to get on the Trump train. And seeing the writing on the wall, Jason Chaffetz ran on his hurt ankle all the way back home to Fox News rather than having to perform 'Oversight'. Those in the GOP who might have a smidgen of conscience are dropping out and not running. Why bother? They don't do anything in DC unless approved by Mitch.
@Elizabeth: Most people don't remember trump's phrase during and after his campaign, that "America is open for business". That was his invitation to corrupt companies & governments, to tell them that "the American government (and he) is open to bribery and emoluments." There was no other reason for him to keep saying that dog-whistle phrase.
Sdtrueman (San Diego)
To those who believe Trump is doing as he promised to drain the swamp, you simply have no standing on this issue any more since you repeatedly choose to ignore the facts: that his administration is fundamentally corrupt in every sense of the word; has had more scandals and more officials resign in disgrace and go to jail than any other in modern American history. The swamp may have been corrupt before Trump arrived, but instead of draining it, he filled it to the brim and turned it into an ocean.
J. Swift (Oregon)
It's gone unchecked because all republicans are as morally bankrupt as trump. The republican party has no moral ground to stand on.
Robert (Seattle)
Is this part of the general pattern? Cynicism, in and of itself, a destructive untruth. It is an untruth that only Trump benefits from. For example, if all politicians are corrupt, and all of these flavors of corruption are the same, then Trump is no worse than any of the others, so why not vote for him? At least Trump is entertaining and can be counted on to punch the other side in the mouth. Many factors contribute to the inability and/or unwillingness of the Trump base to recognize the unprecedented corruption of the Trump McConnell Republican administration. Racism: Trump might be a crook but he is their white crook. Conspiracy theories, gaslighting, lies, propaganda and chaos: These call for an unprecedented skepticism and thoughtfulness among the voters. The servile acquiescence of Congressional Republicans, and the in-house Trump propaganda Fox empire: These have normalized this unprecedented corruption.
Pragmatist (Austin, TX)
It is about time someone asked this question in an editorial. What took so long? Instead of wringing their hands Americans should attack. Citizens United, one of two idiotic decisions that ruined Kennedy's reputation, has led to this. The solutions are fairly easy to envision, but it is hard to get the beholden to change their gravy train. It will probably take a Constitutional Amendment. We might fix other thing too, like prohibiting former Congressmen from lobbying, making most lobbying illegal (recognizing it is institutional corruption), term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court, largely public funding of elections, etc. In the meantime, I would like to hear a chant of STOP FILLING THE SWAMP TRUMP. EMPTY IT NOW!
Robert Chambers (Atlanta)
This thoughtful article bears little resemblance to its headline which amounts to a hard-charging anti-Trump editorial in its own compressed way.
BB (Washington State)
Donald Trump is likely a criminal as well as a traitor. Unfortunately, our system requires members of his political party to not be cowards, to have backbones and to do what is best for the Country, not just themselves. The Republican Party has failed on all these accounts.
Ralph Petrillo (Nyc)
Basically he is buying the Republican Party and the wealthy with tax cuts, no environmental safeguards which help Big Business and supporting gun rights. This was the deal he made with them as long as taxes were not released and offshore accounts.
teoc2 (Oregon)
The Republican Party, as an institution, is a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the Republican Party that has chosen to collaborate with him.
Eric (Ohio)
Excellent, thoughtful reminders--including some points that too many of us haven't understood clearly enough. A keeper column. The first steps are (1) get and stay informed, from a variety of reliable sources, and (2) get registered and vote blue. (Or red--if you can find a Republican who regularly opposes Trump's evil campaign against us the people and our environment.)
Greg (Colorado)
It really does feel that our political system is broken - from the minority rule enabled by the Electoral College, to the ease with which republicans can minimize Democratic votes through gerrymandering and outright voter suppression, to the corrupting influence of money that the horrible decision of Citizens v. United has allowed, it's impossible not to feel discouraged. But there is only one solution - VOTE! Democrats are a majority of the country; if all Democratic leaning voters went to the polls we could return to majority rule and correct the many corruptions that the republicans have put into the system.
M Vitelli (Sag Harbor NY)
We may never get corruption completely out of government but we can try to make it better. First- repeal Citizens United- This gave corporations the legal ability to "buy" any politician they want. Second- cut campaigns down to 6 months. With the internet and TV most of the nation can be reached inexpensively. Re instate the Fairness Doctrine so if Fox lets trump talk all day then they have to let those running against him have the same time, as would CNN, MSBC etc. At this time in history there is no reason it should cost millions and millions of dollars to run a political campaign. That kind of money just begs for corruption
GUANNA (New England)
@M Vitelli Begs, it is corruption.
M Vitelli (Sag Harbor NY)
@GUANNA true!
FreddyD (Texas)
The solution seems obvious. Publicly financed campaigns and term limits. I know! That's wishful thinking! Be that as it may, the level of corruption that we now have in 'the swamp' is devouring our democracy.
terry ellis (washington dc)
Lobbyists don’t pay just to be in the room with a politician, they pay to keep others out of the room. If a politician required a lobbyist to make his or her case in a room with someone opposing or at least unconvinced about it, and the results would be less predictable, and, perhaps, more likely to benefit the public.
Brooklyncowgirl (USA)
Of course Donald Trump has always enjoyed the protection available to the wealthy and unscrupulous. In addition to his own considerable talents as a media manipulator he was long a generous donor to politicians of both parties all of which served to make him untouchable. Trump is unique in his brazenness but he was nourished by a system that is increasingly designed to serve the needs of the rich and powerful to the detriment of everyone else.
Mike B (Ridgewood, NJ)
Because we've raised a nation of citizens who lack critical thinking. They say "Every generation blames the one before." I say every generation fails the one that follows. We teach them just enough; not good enough.
G. Sears (Johnson City, Tenn.)
Drain the Swamp! Never explained, never fleshed out, never made effectively operational but shouted at hundreds of Trump love fest rallies. Quintessential Trump flimflam and bait and switch in which the true aim is cover to the end of stripping the government of functionality and purposeful regulation intended to benefit and protect the general welfare — effectively pandering to the excesses of powerful moneyed and privileged interests including Trump’s personal enrichment.
Michael (Ecuador)
@G. Sears For that person holding the placard in the photo, you can guess that it means cleaning DC and the entire political system of anyone that challenges the Great Leader -- the D's, the MSM, and other reality checks. It has nothing to do with corruption.
justsaying (Midwest U.S.)
@G. Sears, Well said. I figure the reason Trump's exceptional corruption has gone unchecked, is that we're way down that road you describe, the one that leads to consolidation of power by moneyed and privileged interests. Kind of like Rome circling the drain in about 400 AD...
jimi99 (Englewood CO)
His swamp obviously refers to regulatory agencies, social programs, and public servants in general. He is keeping his campaign promises.
Sdtrueman (San Diego)
@jimi99...that's what he's referring to, but he sure hasn't done that no matter what Russian trolls say. And what about the swamp of corruption he's created around himself and his cabinet - no other President in history has had more scandals and/or administration officials resign in disgrace and/or go to jail. Or is that all fake news?
bob lesch (embudo, NM)
are the problems djt creates on a daily basis even solvable w/o completely dismantling our entire partisan political system?
Cliff howell (west orange nj)
I do not think the article answered the title question? But, my idea is that Trump's corruption is tolerated by the elites because our system is corrupt. Nancy Pelosi will not impeach him because she and the elite Dems are corrupt. By not impeaching him, she makes the destruction of Democracy easier. She must be opposed as well. This is a slow motion coup of our government. The bold corruption must be met with a strong counter.
Bergermb (Cincinnati)
@Cliff howell That’s not Pelosi’s motive. She’s slow-walking for partisan advantage. In her view, an impeachment effort will ultimately fail in the Senate and give Trump an advantage in arguing (1) that a negative Senate verdict means he’s totally innocent and (2) that he’s being unfairly persecuted, thus firing up his base and collecting the support of nose-holding Republicans. Not that all other politicians are squeaky clean, but viewing her and elite Democrats as equivalent to Trump makes it harder to deal properly with Trump’s degradations of democracy.
Van Owen (Lancaster PA)
Why has his corruption gone unchecked? Because there is no one left to "check" it.
bob lesch (embudo, NM)
why has the corruption gone unchecked? that's easy our 1st amendment GUARANTEES the RIGHT of all politicians to lie. they can lie to get elected. they can lie to stay in office. they can lie about anything and everything. they can change their lies from on e day to next. if we ever want to end corruption - ALL LYING must END first.
Kathy (CA)
The first corruption system discussed here, pandering to donors, has led to weakening financial regulations, inadequate healthcare, deterioration of services, trade deals that hurt American workers, and the like. Decades of genteel corruption gave way to the "smash it all" corruption of the Trump administration. Both have to be eliminated for our Democracy to work again. The first form may be more palatable, but it gives rise to such injustice that a fascist government is naturally to follow. These forms of corruption may not be the same, but they lead to the same place.
Stephen Merritt (Gainesville)
It appears, both from some of their usage of the term and from some of their actions, that for Donald Trump and many of his allies, "the swamp" is the so-called deep state, meaning anyone who opposes them. Of course they were depending on voters misunderstanding them and taking "the swamp" to mean corruption when for Donald Trump it includes anything that could prevent corruption.
Jethro Pen (New Jersey)
He will be former president not later than January 2025 and possibly 2021, apart from unlikely earlier conviction after being impeached. What makes anybody think that even when he's gone, the 41.4% who approve of his presidency - see FiveThirtyEight analysis of virtually all polls, just 2 hours ago - are not going to be at least formidable, if not insuperable, obstacles to reducing, much less excising, either the unabashed Trumpian corruption or that which has to have always underlain it?
abigail49 (georgia)
We really need to start over. Knowing what we know now about "the system," we need a constitutional convention and a new constitution written, this time, by a body truly representative of the American people. not just the white male landowners and social and business elites. The Trump administration in collusion with the Republican Party has shown us the practical limits of the checks and balances the founders gave us. Can we get a new constitution, a new system, without revolution? Two candidates in the presidential campaign recognize the need for structural, systemic change but can it be accomplished within the existing structure and system? It all depends on how concerned and involved -- how patriotic -- the citizenry is and how well-informed. Do we really want a government "by and for the people" or are we content with reading about and complaining about corruption, keeping our heads down and making as much money as we can? This election is a critical test of our patriotism. We shall see.
citizen vox (san francisco)
Fortunately, our democracy is based on the separation of powers; Congress and the Judiciary are empowered to check Executive abuse of power. The Founding Fathers couldn't have known Trump, but they were familiar and fearful of Trump's type. The Constitution was written to protect our democracy from just such a president as Trump. Unfortunately, the Department of Justice is now the Department of Trump. Unfortunately, half of Congress enables this would be king that sits in the Oval Office and the other half thinks inaction is the best weapon against tyranny. So let's wait for Trump to self impeach and hope the voters turn him out. That would allow Congress to keep its hands clean. But where in the Constitution does it say another run for the Presidency is the best trial for ridding us of a lawless president? And when does inaction become dereliction of duty?
Steve Bolger (New York City)
@citizen vox: In reality, the states send drones to Congress to avoid adult supervision by it.
David (Virginia)
For many years, I have felt that the single most enduring and important issue in US domestic politics is campaign finance reform. Setting up centralized campaign funds (federal and state level), limiting campaign events -- like rallies -- and prohibiting or limiting the amount of money that individuals and corporations, etc., can contribute would significantly reduce the amount of fund-raising our pols do every week/month/year. First Amendment issues notwithstanding, it would do wonders toward focusing our lawmakers on doing their jobs, not campaigning nonstop.
Rob C (Ashland, OR)
I have to agree with George Will, term limits will greatly help fix this. While not completely fixing the problem, it is simple with few (if any) ways to bypass. Reduces the dialing for dollars and the value of retired public servants as lobbyists.
hewy (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
@Rob C Term limits are not the answer. They only result in less experienced politicians more vulnerable to special interest. We need to get money out of politics. It should be illegal for a public servant to take anything from anybody. Elections should be publicly funded.
Michael Meo (Portland, Oregon)
At the beginning of his post Mr Schmitt suggests he is going to make clear two different sorts of corruption; yet, after reading it twice, I am still in the dark about the difference. Since he fails in his effort to explain to me the difference -- all he does is say, They're Different -- I am unable to follow him when he claims to have explained why Trump's corruption has been ignored.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
This article suggests that Trump is guilty of something in comparison to an idealistic activist who makes a poor policy decision innocently. Fabulous beginning to the narrative. As if any innocent idealistic activist has been elected to congress with $28,000 in donations. If Democrats had any interest in limiting corruption, they would make it illegal for government officials and their families from engaging in the appearance of conflict of interest. Bill Clinton would not be permitted to receive $1.3 million from the Kenyan government, whether or not they were seeking to get the IM/EX bank to finance a pipeline. Bill Clinton would not be permitted to receive $1 million in speaking fees from Russian oligarchs whether or not they were seeking approval for the sale of Uranium One. Biden's son would not be able to serve as an advocate for pro-Russian or anti-Russian oligarchs in the Ukraine while his father was VP. A former Obama cabinet appointee would not be able to serve as an unregistered agent for a foreign government. Harry Reid's son would not be eligible to be an agent for Chinese oligarchs. With respect to dark state corruption of the rule of law, former employees of the EPA would not be allowed to work for "non-profits" whose business model was to sue the EPA and have their fees funded by the government. They also would be ineligible for employment at non-profits seeking research grants from the government. The IRS would not silence the opposition.
The great irony of American political corruption is that the preferred "solutions" of the public are likely to make it worse. This column is correct that independent policy expertise is a counterbalance to corporate lobbyists and mega-wealthy donors, but large numbers of Americans think the real problem is a lack of term limits for elected officials and overpaid congressional staff. For many Republicans, the "swamp" isn't corrupt influence, it is the federal workforce. They want to make the system even more dependent of lobbyists, and their knowledge. Citizens United has shown that there is almost no hope for campaign finance reform that actually limits the power of the wealthy. Trying to differentiate between the campaign corruption that our system demands due to its design (the first example) and the corruption that is entirely optional and goes dirctly into the pockets of politicians (the second example) is all we can do now.
trump reflects republican business owners - greedy and corrupt - get the profit and to LLLL with the ethics & morals those characteristics are for losers. The child abusive evangelicals laid hands on trump so he has to be OK - so naturally trumps and his base's behavior has/ will go unchecked.
SW (Los Angeles)
How do you spell McConnell? P-E-L-O-S-I It took two, both parties are at fault.
Tom (Hudson Valley)
You raise a question that has baffled me since Trump's inauguration. This man is so terrible, corrupt, a liar, a racist... the list goes on, and yet very few have called him out publicly. What happened to boldness? Trump should be shamed and humiliated publicly at every opportunity. That's one of the ways you diminish a bully's power. And I blame the Democrats to a large degree. Our Democratic leadership (especially Schumer and Pelosi) is largely complacent and lacks the ability to capture the media. Neither of these leaders is compelling, and no one would describe them as bold.
P R (Boston)
Trump NEVER set out to "drain the swamp"; he only used that phrase as a selling point. Trump set out to enrich himself and he continues to do that at the American taxpayer's expense. Trump is an amoral, narcissistic, malignant man who engages in pretend leadership. In addition, he has laid bare the outrageous moral corruption of the entire Republican party. History will look at his administration as lost years wasted on one man's ego.
Russ Wilson (Roseville, CA)
At what point does the NYT editorial board realize that all these anti-Trump pieces have risen to the level of the Boy Who Cried Wolf? It's getting old, fellas.
RLB (Kentucky)
Mark Schmitt is correct in listing Donald Trump's misbehavior, but we have grown "nose blind" to the stench of the swamp. Trump has visited so many wrongs upon the American people that they no longer register. While praising the intelligence of the American electorate, Trump secretly knows that they can be led around like bulls with nose rings - only instead of bull rings, he uses their beliefs and prejudices to lead them wherever he wants. If DJT doesn't destroy our fragile democracy, he has published the blueprint and playbook for some other demagogue to do it later. If a democracy like America's is going to exist, there will have to be a paradigm shift in human thought throughout the world. In the near future, we will program the human mind in the computer based on a "survival" algorithm, which will provide irrefutable proof as to how we trick the mind with our ridiculous beliefs about what is important and what is supposed to survive - producing minds programmed de facto for dirty tricks and destruction. These minds see the survival of a particular belief as more important than the survival of us all. When we understand this, we will begin the long trek back to reason and sanity. See RevolutionOfReason.com
GEB (Florida)
Why hasn't all the corruption by the Dems and media unchecked? Let's call a spade a spade .
Wohl (Maryland)
Please give examples!
Brad Price (Portland)
Name and compare these things to the Trump admin, and see if they seem the same. Bet they don’t.
johnlo (Los Angeles)
@Wohl: I provided such an example but it appears it won't be posted.
new york newbie (NYC)
As to Mr. Trump rallying cry "Drain the Swamp" you can't do that by adding alligators.
Number23 (New York)
We do live in an upside down world, where the president can call for draining the swamp days after suggesting the next G7 be hosted at his country club, which he then described in flowery terms that would make a chief marketing officer blush. And then, of course, there's his insistence that Jews not voting for him, the king of the white supremacists and who referred to neo-nazis as "fine people," was tantamount to spitting on their faith and culture. We don't need a better understanding of the differences between corruption. We need people in power with the courage to condemn it in all forms and to not let any Potus get away with trafficking in Roy Cohn-worthy absurdism.
John MD (NJ)
Ever see the video of the crocodiles eating the wildebeests as they try to cross the river. That's' Trump and that's us, the ignorant uniformed voter who voted for Trump because he was going to drain the swamp and Make America Great Again At the side of the river is the baboon with a megaphone saying "go ahead and cross the river. The crocodile is nasty but he'll never actually do anything." People like Brooks and Douthat shouting the alarm about Trump sicken me. Brooks, you had your chance in 2015 and you weren't smart enough to do it.
sharonsylvie (Laceyville, PA)
The rich are no longer afraid of the proletariat because they control the narrative. As a result, we have become fat, lazy and stupid--and unwilling to die in the streets or attack the source of the problem. U.S. history is actually full of people dying for our rights--mostly Socialists and Communists, I might add--and just look how they are demonized now. Anerica needs a revolution--the French kind!
P2 (NE)
Because - He is a leader of GOP; a most corrupt political party I have seen in my life in the USA; who is ready to sell America for mare $$$.
Frink Flaven (Denver)
Yeah, he “drained the swamp” and replaced it with a cesspool.
annever (Fishkill, New York)
why has Trump gone unchecked as we watch daily his abuse of all law, rule, legislation w/regard to his $$ take from properties he owns? Charity and business endeavor, others pouring time and money into his pockets? Your article asks the question and then leaves us with a portion of one sentence? "the extreme and unprecedented corruption of Mr. Trump and his allies." Hoping for some answer, (none here) - one can only conclude, eyes are on all others, rather than scandal ridden 45, our nemesis.
Matthew (Nj)
Co-conspiratorial Republicans. Selling racism to racist “Americans”. Any other questions?
Pathfox (Ohio)
"It's a different party..." about Republicans. What a great Dem campaign slogan. It sure is, and not a single truly patriotic American should want to belong to if they are concerned about the future of our democracy and their freedom.
ChuckG (Montana)
Take local politicians, multiply that by 1000, that’s who is serving us in Washington. They have better haircuts and suits but the mentality is the same: If it benefits me, how can it be wrong? Pretty simple ethics...
just Robert (North Carolina)
When a Trumper is challenged about their hero's corruption they will rarely answer the question rather answering the question with a comment about President Obama, Hillary Clinton or just say every body does it. But no president before Trump has condoned a foreign power aiding there election or openly refused to face the corruption of the people they have chosen. When Al Franken was confronted with an allegation of sexual abuse, probably created by a politician with an ax to grind, he resigned without a hearing and when Al Gore lost an election possibly by Supreme court Fiat, he for the good of the nation, stepped aside. The list goes on to the point that Democrats are accused of being door mats for GOP politicians who assume their corruption is a right. I am one am sick of false analogies between democrats and Republicans, the latter of whom have created an atmosphere where corruption of all stripes is the norm.
Observer (California)
Here's another comparison: There are two presidents: one is a maverick who is often on his own, going against counsel of his own team, making it difficult for staff, doing questionable things. Another president has a tightly-closed and close-lipped team who never breath a word about anything going wrong, even after the administration is over. The president is careful, and coordinates his speaking and action with the members of the team. Both presidents do questionable things, or corrupt things, one baldly, the other with carefully stated and eloquent responses to questions, using plausible deniability as a strategy to escape blames and public or legal consequence. Which president is more scarily corrupt: the lone wolf, or the carefully-scripted "team player"?
bob lesch (embudo, NM)
@Observer are you suggesting that chenney and djt are different? i see both being driven entirely by greed and an unquenchable thirst for POWER.
RA GoBucks (Columbus, Ohio)
It has gone unchecked because the massively corrupt GOP controls the Senate. Those in power are getting richer and protecting their fatted calf. It's all about the money.
JWT (Republic of Vermont)
Is nepotism included in corruption? Just asking because I wonder what on earth Jared and Ivanka, the Ken and Barbie of the White House, actually do? I know that Jared is involved in bringing peace to the Middle East, solving our difficulties with China, etc, etc. but what has he accomplished besides cozying up to Saudi murderers and acting as a prop so that his father-in-law can claim not to be an anti-Semite. Well done, Jared. As for Ivanka, well, I am speechless.
Tracy Rupp (Brookings, Oregon)
Answer: The Christians and their GOP. Christians have been forcing republicanism on us for decades. Without the Christian support the GOP would have nowhere near the power to do evil that it has today. Republicans are the reason. They bomb. They incarcerate. They callously destroy the environment. They proliferate guns and weapons of all sorts. They blame the poor for their poverty. It's all part of the new morality brought to us by the Churches of the Republican Way. Beliefs matter more to them than truth.
gratis (Colorado)
The people of the USA accept Trump's corruption. Polls show that most Americans do not want impeachment. Corruption is A-OK with Americans.
John Taylor (New York)
I just completed watching a short series on Netflix entitled “Charite at War” produced for German TV. It takes place is a hospital in Germany from 1943 to 1945. I recommend every American watch this “based on actual events and persons” series and contemplate Trump and his “very fine people” and associates. And then determine to flush him into oblivion on November 3, 2020.
Mr. Jones (Tampa Bay, FL)
The truth will come out eventually, even Nixon got reelected by a large majority before the impeachment proceedings. Nixon didn't have Fox news so its going to take longer for the truth to come out, but it will. Follow the money and listen to the women Trump has in all likely hood assaulted. As they say; time heals all wounds and wounds all heels.
gmh (East Lansing, MI)
I don't get the point. Some critical difference between the congressperson who votes the change a piece of legislation for no apparent reason (so it is described) than that some significant donor(s) want it, and Trump, elected President, and is in every regard a money-grubbing narcissist gasbag? Minor and major cases of the failure of democracy. So Schmitt takes a cheap shot at Sanders and Warren, who "seem to speak in the language of universal condemnation" (whatever this is supposed to mean). Let's not get too focussed on the Trump problem; we elected him, and despite everything continue to give him a chance at winning again in 2020. It is easy enough to see that THE critical problem is all the money at the whim and command of the wealthiest 1% --which readily explains problems at both ends of Schimtt's continuum.
Michael Meo (Portland, Oregon)
@gmh, I had the same problem with this piece as you; the author fails to make his point. He believes that saying there's a difference, where there is no apparent difference, is sufficient.
CPMariner (Florida)
The problem will, or would be, loopholes. Try as I might, I can't construct legislation that'd bulletproof against cracks and holes through which the plutocrats always find a way to slip with the help of their legal beagles. "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." - Shakespeare, Henry VI -
Dallas Crumpley (Irvington, NJ)
Trump's corruption shouldn't be surprising. When is the media going to accept the fact that he's a dictator? He suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder, a common trait of dictators. The fact that he has rabid and absolutely loyal supporters is normal for dictators. The fact that members of his political party who originally detested him are now his most loyal supporters is normal for dictators. The fact that big business supports him is normal for dictators. His behavior is, basically, no different than that of other past and current dictators.
Phyliss Dalmatian (Wichita, Kansas)
Love the photo of the Loyalty Rally. It looks like the crowd of Contestants at a TV Game Show. “ Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader ? “. Sadly, the answer is readily apparent.
McCamy Taylor (Fort Worth, Texas)
Trump pretends to be the bandit king---the defender of "little people" who are "down by law." This means that he is allowed to break the law with impunity, because his supporters see the law as corrupt. Indeed, his ability to get away with criminal activity is what makes him great in their eyes. He is Robin Hood versus the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. He is the American Godfather.
Marathoner (Philly)
It seems that no one seems to care this president spends our tax dollars on stays at his golf and hotel properties. Check out VP's recent stay in Ireland. And so many more....
john (pa)
Trump meant to say that he was going to swamp the drain. The republicans and the DOJ have decided that the president, or maybe just this president, is above the law. And Trump has made it clear that those who break the law for him will be pardoned (but of course trusting Trump is foolish).
NLG (Michigan)
Unfortunately our "representatives" (I use the term loosely) do anything but represent we the people. They sidle up to the troth of $$ from lobbyists and those benefits they set up for themselves. Greed is the one trait that is common for all, but the politicians have brought it to new levels and Mr. Trump is the "best" at it.
Alexandre Rocha (Brasilia)
Mr. Schmitt should be more careful when mentioning foreign countries. His assertion that Brazil is an example of powerful people using investigations and allegations of corruption as a weapon is extremely ill-informed. We had exactly the opposite. A powerful clique of corrupt politicians was unmasked by their own greediness and economic sloppiness. It is really disappointing how much biased is the overall NYT coverage about Brazilian politics.
Renee Margolin (Oroville, CA)
To see why Trump gets away with so much immorality, corruption and law-beaking you need look no further than his base, all members in good standing of the Republican Party. Tens of millions of them look at a man who is a bigot, a sexual predator, a liar, an adulterer and a criminal with nothing but admiration for what he gets away with. Read social media posts by Trump supporters and you will quickly see that, beneath the thin tissue of their claims to believe that Trump is doing good things for America, is the reality that they see him getting away with all of the criminal and immoral things they wish they could do without repercussions.
Lilou (Paris)
Trump has epitomized "bottom of the swamp" politics, leading a charge against American health, safety, interests and the Constitution to line his pockets, aided and abetted by lobbyists and hefty corporate and Super Pac donations. Both parties have high ticket fundraisers, but their candidates carry opposite messages. The Right is very white, very "law and order", condemns "Social Security", a social safety net, works for tax breaks for the rich, suppresses wages and unions, and denies climate change. The Left is the "the party of inclusion", including everyone and every cause Republicans don't. But both parties need ever higher budgets to mount campaigns. Codifying the old truism, "money talks", into law with Citizens United really opened the floodgates to obscene financial influence in campaigns and on legislation. France pays for elections. There are no TV ads. Posters are put up. The candidates' detailed programs are available via thick pamphlets or on-line. Voters must read them. Debates are televised free, with strict "equal time" speaking limits. France has proportional representation, not a 2-party system. More viewpoints are represented. France does have lobbyists pleading their cases. They lack the bribery power that American donors have. The U.S. must pay for low key elections, like France, and reduce the root of cause of corruption in legislature -- money. Now, big oil, chemical and pharma rule the U.S., at the cost of American lives. This must stop
kkm (NYC)
Actually, Mr. Schmitt, Donald Trump's "exceptional corruption" has not gone unchecked. In his remarks to Congress, the then Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller stated, “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” If Robert Mueller identified Trump's criminality but was not permitted in his position as Special Counsel to issue subpoenas it is up to Congressional committees to do so ...and the sooner the better. Donald Trump's criminality as Robert Mueller indicated certainly "trumps" - "exceptional corruption" - by any definition.
Ma (Atl)
We need limits on campaign spending. Why won't Congress prohibit corporate (and union) spending and limit the amount that can be spent? Also, whatever is collected for campaigns should have to be spent on campaigns; candidates should never be allowed to keep those dollars or spend them personally. When I think if all the millionaires in Congress, the wealth they accumulate the longer they 'serve' it makes me sick.
Buoy Duncan (Dunedin, Florida)
What makes American corruption so unique is that it is legalized and institutionalized. Other countries at least make a show of resisting it in their legal systems if not fighting it outright
gratis (Colorado)
@Buoy Duncan IT is legalized in many 3rd world countries. Where it is not legal is the Socialist countries in Europe. American Exceptionalism.
Dominic (Astoria, NY)
This is also what is so pernicious about "both siderism", a lazy fiction that has infected our media discourse around politics. People are imperfect, and make mistakes, but there is only one political party that has spent decades dedicated to corruption and the dismantling of our government for private gain- the Republican party. Why has Trump's corruption gone unchecked? Because his entire political party is corrupt. Republicans have been working to create our new Gilded Age since the election of Reagan in 1980. They're simply not hiding their motivations any longer. Trump was not interested in "draining the swamp" out of some idealistic, reformist ideal, he is simply a lifelong, insatiably greedy, con man who saw the biggest haul of a lifetime in siphoning our tax dollars into his bank accounts. It's what the Republicans have been doing for 40 years. Every single Republican on the ballot in 2020 needs to lose decisively so we can begin to repair the decades of damage they have done to our nation.
Let's face it. A great deal of this corruption is happening right in plain view. I suppose people de-prioritize criminal behavior when it's right in front of their faces. Also, like Jeff Epstein, Trump benefits by having a cadre of defenders and enablers like Fox News and the GOP. Last, we have to hold a mirror up to our society that unquestioningly takes his gaslighting as gospel. The good and honest people of America cannot let this corruption go without consequences.
Joyce (pennsylvania)
Does anyone dare to suggest that our leader doesn't tell the truth? Can he help it if visitors chose to go to his hotels or his golf courses? Can he help it if he happens to like dictators like Putin and Kim? Can he help it if the NRA wants to support his presidency? Can he help it if he would rather play golf than do almost anything else? I think we are judging this man by unfair standards. We are expecting him to act like the leader of our country and he is simply incapable of doing that. We elected a misfit and we now bear the burden of his leadership such as it is. Hopefully this will not remain a stain on our country for more than one term. Hopefully we will survive.
Keith (Merced)
Trump and the oligarchs who want to fleece our national treasury are desperately trying to convince Americans that dedicated civil servants are the swamp, but attire is the only thing robber barons change from one generation to another. Their desire to lord of the rest of us never changed and was thoroughly repudiated in 1776 by Americans who believed the public good is far more preferable than government designed for private greed.
gVOR08 (Ohio)
Good column. Yes, we need to take the pervasive malignancy of money out of our politics. But a couple of comments: First, the answer to your headline question is Moscow Mitch and Republicans generally. Second, to understand conservatives you have to understand that nothing they say means quite what it seems to mean. To them “swamp” isn’t the swamp of corruption, it’s some nebulous combination of academics, media, “activist” liberal judges, and “deep state” bureaucrats that tells them they can’t smoke in public and can’t taunt gays and stops Trump from building his wall and banning Muslims like common sense demands.
Clayton (New York)
Words do matter, and I'm happy that 'corruption' is finally entering daily discourse. For too long, corruption was a word reserved for developing countries in Africa and LatAm. A Congolese warlord taking bribes from a Russian arms distributor; a Mexican police officer turning a blind eye to cartel trafficking after receiving threats to his family. People thought the US was always 'above' corruption. Instead, politicians and media used 'money in politics' or 'the swamp' or 'rigging' to describe it. Sure, these are all fair, but they never went far enough - especially with this president. People in the US have finally realized and built the courage to say that *corruption* is the source of our biggest ills. Layering federal, state, local, and interstate authorities was designed to protect corrupt slave owners. The system has allowed for extreme hiding of corrupt policies end enabled suffering. Whenever a lobbyist or interest group fails to convince one bloc, it can move on to another jurisdiction or court to get its way anyway. In our system, the norm is for leaders to neglect the public good in favor of their own self-interest. That's why our food poisons us, why health care bankrupts us, why our infrastructure is crumbling, why gun violence is endless, and why we are locked in an 18-year war. It's not failed but well-intended policy, nor is it cultural influence. It's corruption, plain and simple. It's only a matter of time until this country eats itself alive.
The Iconoclast (Oregon)
People still buy Volkswagens, still bank at Wells Fargo, and still value convenience over sustainability or even their own values, or survival. Our global culture, or humanity, however you want to look at it, is selfish, and corrupt.
hawk (New England)
Mr. Schmitt, you misunderstand what us deplorables refer to as the swamp. It is the Administrative State. Government agencies with so-called "experts" of unelected officials creating mandates and dictating how we live our lives. The Obama Administration embraced the Swamp. and made it as bad as it ever has been since first suggested by Calvin Coolidge. From Lois Lerner to James Comey.
WHR (Sacramento)
@hawk I find it ironic that "deplorables" detest the "Administrative State" only when it helps someone else. But let them be the ones in perceived need--whether from natural disasters or needed relief from things like trade tariffs--and they are the first in line with their hands out. One might deem their world view as, oh I don't know, hypocritical perhaps?
Howard Eddy (Quebec)
Shortly put, there is a difference between systemic petty corruption, perceived conflict of interest and purchased access -- inflicted on nearly all politicians by Citizens United, cable news and continuous campaigns -- and putting your snout in the trough. Trump is clearly a passed master at the latter. From the Trump Foiundation's pecadillos to the emoluments scandals and the tangled overseas finances of the Trump empire, we are in territory that will make Teapot Dome seem like small change. The game of 'connect the dots' has only begun.
William (Atlanta)
How does Trump get away with anything? It's called Fox news. If you haven't figured this out by now you haven't been paying attention. When we were in school back in the seventies we were taught about propaganda. We learned how some foreign governments misinformed the public in order to keep support and control. For the people who watch Fox and support the president there is no corruption. Same with Georgw W. before him. Get it?
BeauB (Florida Keys)
I think a proper 'Draining of the Swamp' would remake the American marketplace and change how these 'legacy' businesses run. If your company takes heat from the public, instead of throwing money at a consultant, or a dozen consultants, perhaps consider dealing honestly and openly with the public instead of retreating behind a row of consultants, or some fancy advertising designed to make your chemical company look somehow 'angelic'. Wearing your 'Trueface' as a company is refreshing, liberating and can open your eyes to new processes, materials, and ideas. All that gets suppressed when you deploy consultants to deliver your corporate 'Personna'. It's 2019 and time to get real.
PubliusMaximus (Piscataway, NJ)
Why? Because the Republicans in Congress allow him to. That's why.
Lane (Riverbank ca)
The swamp is alive and well local,state and federal in the form of public employee unions. Their political influence can completely overwhelm political influence of citizens. There was good reason Franklin Roosevelt was against public employee unions. Whether school board meetings,city councils etc, attending such meetings is pointless as decisions seem predetermined as unions and the Democrat party invariably prevail and are one and the same.
Beltway Bob (Nevada)
Your scenario for the Congresswoman and her lawyer friend is simplistic and doesn’t take into account that (hopefully) most Members of Congress look to the economic well being of their constituents; jobs are paramount. Lobbyists, or advocates as in your example, who can’t make the jobs case often have little impact. Question: is it corruption to lobby for legislation that will bring jobs? If so, does that count out citizens and non-profit lobbying? I understand what you’re getting at: big-time lobbying is national, not local, and has no concern for local issues. But your example distorts the issue.
Sean Daly Ferris (Pittsburgh)
Citizens United is not sound policy and it is rote with corruption. Public paid for election and no political donation makes sense. If a member didn't need lobbyist nor party they would be free to vote without undo pressure. Either follow the party line or your out
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@Sean Daly Ferris Citizens United was indistinguishable in organization from ACORN, moveon.org, Media Matters, the ACLU, the NAACP and other left wing advocacies other than in partisan leaning. Review the ruling, rather than believing the summary presented by the NYT and the lie of Obama. The provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, that any non-profit corporation involved in policy advocacy was legally obligated to reveal its donors, was determined to be a violation of free speech rights. In order to deem it legal for Hillary and the FEC to silence CU because they had organized as a corporation would have required all non-profit corporations, including the NAACP, all unions, Moveon.org to also be silenced for 30 days prior to a primary and 60 days prior to a general election. Scotus had previously ruled that the state of Alabama was not entitled to the membership list of the NAACP, and could not compel its membership list to be public record. Those who feared retaliation from the Democrats of Alabama were entitled to be silent in their support. It was a prescient decision given that Democrats changed democratic norms in short order. Hillary and Trump were opposed to same sex marriage in 2016, the same year that a majority of Californians voted in agreement to ban same sex marriage. Two years later, an individual who had contributed $200 to the cause was hounded out of employment by the philosophical followers of Jim Crow Alabama Democrats.
Sean Daly Ferris (Pittsburgh)
@ebmem citizens united was authoriztion of big party donors to use unfettered money to poor into the political process reinforcing property as having rights as a human
Susan (Home)
Trump knows how to work the legal system. He has been ordered to pay fines, close down his charity and file bankruptcy 6 (?) times. But he gets things tied up in court, as he is doing with Congress right now. He gets people to sign non-disclosure agreements and he intimidates his banks. Now he has William Barr looking after him at the Dept of Justice. But when we get him out of office, he will be in trouble. Don't expect him to go quietly.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@Susan William Barr is protecting the presidency, not the president. Trump waived executive privilege for the duration of the Mueller investigation and Mueller did not find any evidence of collusion on the part of Trump and associates while explicitly ignoring the documented illegal conspiracy with foreigners of Democrats. The current Democrats, having failed to discover any impeachable offenses of Trump, now wants a redo, in the hopes they can find some discrepancy between what an executive branch employee testified to Mueller's team and what words he might use today. Or, perhaps they can get some political mileage out of revealing to the public that Trump contributed to Planned Parenthood or took a perfectly legal conservation easement that yielded tax savings. In 2001, Clinton made arrangements with his Justice Department involved a plea agreement, fine, and no jailtime, in order to forestall a federal indictment for his admitted perjury and obstruction of justice. No Republican state prosecutor indicted him, although he was disbarred by the Arkansas Bar. Bill Clinton was a partner in the bankrupt and corrupt Whitewater land development scheme that also fraudulently brought down an S & L. All of his partners went to jail, except his wife. Hillary was legal counsel for the corrupt Whitewater, but couldn't remember any details. Trump, with zero evidence of any crimes, will likely still be persecuted in 2025, because Democrats are vindictive.
Regards, LC (princeton, new jersey)
It’s too soon to conclude that trump’s corruption will go unchecked. He’s been indicted at least once as an unnamed co-conspirator. He’s named as a defendant in dozens of lawsuits. State law enforcement agencies, including the NY AG and the NY County DA are investigating him, his business and his family. The House returns today and the numbers of representatives in favor of initiating an impeachment inquiry has already reached a majority of Democrats and continues to grow. The redacted Mueller report and Mueller’s testimony suggest other inquiries and investigations that, for security reasons, remain classified. As Yogi said, “It ain’t over till it’s over”.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@Regards, LC An unindicted, unnamed co-conspirator has not been indicted, despite your dreams. His supposed guilt in having paid off a couple of sex workers for their silence, is not even a crime. Cohn threw in his guilty plea on that charge in exchange for a reduced sentence. Even if Trump were someday indicted for the offense, he would be acquitted because it isn't a crime. John Edwards established that when he was acquitted. And John Edwards didn't use his own money to pay off his woman, a campaign contributor used her money.
JL (Los Angeles)
America is in decline. If Trump and McConnell are not evidence of that then nothing is. I also think Pelosi can't not escape blame either; she prioritizes political expediency no less than the two of them.
Keen Observer (NM)
@JL No. No, she doesn't. Stop with false equivalencies. Pelosi is not Trump or McConnell, and such assertions are typical of Bernie's supporters.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@JL We are pulling out of the decline of the Obama years. We no longer believe that the Obama "new normal" will impoverish us. Wealth inequality is declining, with those at the bottom of the income scale getting higher pay increases than those at the top. Pelosi is well aware that impeachment of Trump, desired only by a small number of Hillary-bots, will cause her to lose her slot as majority leader, will result in Senate losses and zero chance of the presidency in 2020.
Serban (Miller Place NY 11764)
The US political system will remain legally corrupt as long s Citizens United stands, paid Congressional lobbyists and large contributions to campaigns are allowed. In all democratic countries the wealthy have more influence than the poor. The US is unique in that corruption through campaign funding is legal. Trump's corruption, however, transcends the standard US corruption, it violates basic constitutional constraints on the President and his family. That Congress cannot find this corruption sufficient to initiate an impeachment process is a surrender of legislative power to the executive and augurs poorly for the future of this country as one where the law applies to everyone equally.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@Serban How is it possible that Hillary spent four times as much as Trump, had the full support of the Democrat establishment ground organization and the help of foreigners in fabricating the Steel dossier and yet still LOST the election? Trump had nothing except a media that reported negatively about every move he made. Could it be that the ability to raise money doesn't mean that you can buy an election?
James Ricciardi (Panama, Panama)
Once in a very long while, we have a president who is willing to defy all the swamp creatures, even among his own advisers. When LBJ got the civil rights act, the voting rights act, the fair housing act, Medicare, Medicaid, Headstart and Foodstamps passed all the swamp creatures were against him. Much more often the wrong kind of swamp creatures win, from Warren Harding to Donald Trump. I don't remember the name of the book, but a concept similar to what you are describing was written about more than a century ago. The book distinguished good graft from bad graft. Fortunately when it came to domestic policy, LBJ rejected all graft and all swamp creatures. Had he not we would have been living in Trump's US since the assassination of JFK.
Doug McDonald (Champaign, Illinois)
"When LBJ got the civil rights act, the voting rights act, the fair housing act, Medicare, Medicaid, Headstart and Foodstamps passed all the swamp creatures were against him. " Exactly! They knew that all these would eventually lead to three things: 1) economic stagnation 2) a government paralyzed from doing the important things, like infrastructure, with unstoppable "entitlements" that prevent setting budget priorities correctly (i.e. "right" as opposed to "left".) 3) dividing the country politically and socially, with nasty results, into the "getters" and the "taken fromers" And it has now come to pass.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@James Ricciardi Who are you kidding? The swamp creatures loved every one of LBJs initiatives except the war in Vietnam. LBJ was supported by organized crime. There is no good graft.
Sam Hilt (Newark, NJ)
When Conservatives these days use the expression "drain the swamp," it doesn't generally refer to bribery or financial favors. The reference is, rather, to the deep state, the bureaucracy that obstructs and subverts the President's agenda. Also included in the scope of the phrase are the government agencies which are supposed to remain "above politics" but which have engaged shamelessly in partisan activities.
Wolf Kirchmeir (Blind River, Ontario)
Why not pay out of the public purse? The 2018 US Federal election cost about $5.725 billion, or about $17 per US citizen. Or about $50 per voter. As a price for democracy, it's cheap, really. But the elections could be cheaper, and more effective. A direct subsidy would give the parties and candidates an incentive to pay more attention to the voters instead of special interst groups. A vote would represent cash as well as support.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@Wolf Kirchmeir We have public financing of presidential elections, which McCain and Obama both vowed to follow. Obama reneged, McCain didn't. Any public finance scheme favors incumbents wo win 80% of the times they run for re-election. Are the Democrats going to insist that upstarts get more funding than incumbents to help them overcome the bias that favors incumbents?
Wolf Kirchmeir (Blind River, Ontario)
@ebmem Good question. I think you've raised one confounding factor, but there are others. The subsidy would be based on the previous election's vote count. If that vote reflects the actual distribution of political support, then a close-vote runner-up would get almost as much funding as the winner. If the winnning margin declined becasue incuiment support dropped, the subsidy funding difference would smaller. IOW, a public-funded subsidy would change some electioneering strategies. Every party would try to get all its voters out. It would also encourage 3rd-party candidates, since they would have some guaranteed funding in the next election. And so on. I don't think the effect of a public subsidy would be predictable until it became the norm.
JoKor (Wisconsin)
Republicans know that many people just give up when it comes to civic involvement. Ordinary Americans need to work and have a life, be it family, friends, hobbies, etc. People can only fight the system so long before most are worn down. But soldier on we must or the politicians, corporations and the wealthy will continue to walk over our democracy. Freedom is hard work.
Nolapdog (Australia)
I think its time US citizens accepted that Trump and other politicians are a reflection of American society, American psyche. Not until this mindset changes will American citizens know peace and tranquillity. Expect another hundred years of war and chaos.
S B (Ventura)
Trump turned the swamp into a cesspool. Trump has been corrupt his whole life. He thinks he does not have to follow the rules, and that he is above the law. When elected officials are blatantly corrupt, like trump is, "regular" people follow the lead and start acting corrupt as well. That is how a country deteriorates into total corruption.
ChuckG (Montana)
@S B. At this reading he is, apparently, above the law. The Lawyers Employment Act initiated on January 20, 2017 is being successfully implemented beyond anyone’s expectations...
The O’Hanlon (Bay Area)
Like your analogy: a swamp can be a thriving natural environment; a cesspool has little to offer but toxins and disease.
Bill (Madison, Ct)
We know how trump gets away with it. The republican senate led by moscow mitch who has his own ethical problems give him total protection. The conservative courts give him protection. Give me an example of a trump appointed judge ruling against him. I believe they all sign loyalty oaths to him, not the country.
B. Rothman (NYC)
The purpose of the Trump Presidency is the dismantling of the federal state — not rooting out corruption. Republicans believe that regulations and rules get in the way of the free market and are ipso facto destructive. What you see in Trump’s every statement and action is the aggrandizement of PRIVATE BUSINESS UNFETTERED BY GOVERNMENT. This is not getting rid of the swamp. This is adding new creatures to it with new camouflage. Don’t be confused by thinking this Administration bears any resemblance to those that promoted “the general welfare.”
Thomas Bishop (Campbell River B C)
Yes, one part of the problem is fuzzy thinking about what makes Washington swampy. The real swamp is inhabited by corporate interests, lobbyists and politicians corrupted by money. But Trump and Co. are attacking the civil service (for example the recent gutting of the Department of Agriculture) using the "drain the swamp" mantra as cover. What really makes America great is that it has a largely professional and honest civil service which allows the economy to thrive and citizens to be safe and productive. Think of conscientious judges, police, and numerous other public servants. Of course there are bad apples but compare America to Honduras and you will get the idea. It is ironic that Trump is trying to turn America into the kind of corrupt country that the border migrants are fleeing.
Athena (California)
@B. Rothman Agreed. Trump represents the triumph of Reganism, which mobilized the religious right to cover its subversion of the government. While the Democratic party focuses on Trump as an individual, the Republicans ae focused on achieving what the Regan corruption set in motion. They don't connect the dots.
Yes, this President presents a very serious problem...... BUT The real issue is a totally complacent Republican Senate let by the unfathomably partisan Mitch McConnell..... This senate led by McConnell is willing to not only look the other way but actually accept and endorse every corrupt, every Constitution violating move made by this totally unqualified president...... The damage being done to our country, to our international standing, to our relations with our once staunch allies, to our democracy, to our Constitutional form of government will take years, possibly decades to rebuild and repair - if even possible at all......Or will we, are we today already morphing into a despotic, fascistic form of government?............. History will not be kind to this President or the Republican Party's willing destruction of our three branches of government checks and balances system.......
Lagibby (St. Louis)
@RB "The real issue is a totally complacent Republican Senate let by the unfathomably partisan Mitch McConnell....." Yes. In fact, McConnell is the man behind the curtain for a lot of the bad things Trump has done. Every Senator since 2009 when McConnell pledged to "make Obama a one-term president" is to blame for the erosion of our democracy, but especially Republicans who should have removed him from his post as Senate majority leader when he started obstructing the will of the people. The Democrats should have done everything in their power to take him down when he refused to bring to a vote Pres. Obama's lawful nomination of Merrick Garland.
whatsnews (nyack,ny)
@RB History is written by the winners, as an avid "informed" History buff throughout Grammar and High School, I was shocked and disbelieving in College when we studied Japanese Internment during WW2. The Battle is upon us.
Earl Wynter (Atlanta)
@RB You speak of "our Constitutional form of government" but yet demand that Mitch McConnell do what you want. He works for the people of Kentucky. Not for you.
TS (Ft Lauderdale)
Corruption, both small and large, IS our system now. Citizens United sealed the deal. Packing federal courts sealed the deal. Refusal to indict or impeach Blondie sealed the deal. Gerrymandering sealed the deal. The Electoral College sealed the deal. All we can do now is navigate the sludge.
Alex Kodat (Appleton, WI)
It's the voters' fault. As long as voters don't bother to learn what's going on, bad politics will drive out good. As an occasional canvasser, the one kind of voter that really gets my goat is the one that says something like "I don't pay any attention to politics, all politicians are liars and crooks." Not only are they reveling in their laziness and ignorance, they paint themselves as somehow morally superior to politicians, most of whom really do want to make things better, though they often disagree on the right way. And their laziness and ignorance facilitate just the kind of thing they claim to despise. The bizarre thing is that many of these people do indeed vote, based on nearly random criteria. The only solution is to do the hard work of trying to convince people to pay attention and themselves do the hard work of trying to understand what's going on. It's a long and slow process but I believe progress is possible. As bad as some believe things are now, I'm not convinced that today's voters are any more clueless than those 50, 100, or 200 years ago. If anything, people are probably on the whole better informed than throughout most of our history. But... we still have a long way to go.
Christy (WA)
Why indeed. Trump's corruption has raised the mire of the GOP swamp to flood level with no one to say him nay. Not only are Trump, his children and his cabinet using the presidency to enrich themselves, we also have naked greed running rampant in Congress. Worst of all is Moscow Mitch, now in the pocket of a Russian oligarch, with a wife who is making millions off the Chinese shipping company she is supposed to be regulating as Transportation Secretary.
Christopher M (New Hampshire)
Certainly having a partisan and thoroughly corrupt Attorney General in William Barr explains why Trump's open corruption has gone unchecked.
DameAlys (Portland, OR)
Among several cogent comments here, I'm most interested in Wondering Woman's critique focused on the need for the Fourth Estate to step up and do its (real) job--not just pick the low-hanging Twitterfruit, etc. It is indeed time the NYTimes & Washington Post (these two in particular) jumped ahead of the immediate topics of the day (and there's always a Trumpload of 'em) to get to the raw meat that still needs to be cooked: How is this being permitted to happen, and why can't something be done about it? It should have been professional journalist--editor, opinionator, analyst, in-depth reporting team--who took the step that guest columnist Mark Schmitt takes. That's all I (and Wondering Woman, I suspect) are trying to say.
Uncle Jim (Strawberry Fields)
Two words: "Citizens United".
Rupert (California)
@Uncle Jim "Citizens United to Bring Down Our Government" is the full title.
EJW (Colorado)
The system of government we have was made by white men for white men. White men know how to work the system better than anybody because they created it. They will not give up their power easily, obviously. Hilary knew how the system worked because she was married to one of those powerful white men. She was a threat to the system so she had to be ruined. Everyone that come close to changing the system is eliminated or ruined because they know too much. A threat to the system puts the haters in overdrive.
Jeff (California)
@EJW: Isn't it odd that nations of color throughout the world have adopted this "white men's" form of government. Isn't odd that people of color throughout the world have modeled their Constitutions on ours. I, as a white male really grieve that when the rest of the world struggles to form a democracy they base their ideas and form of government on the "white man's" degenerate US Constitution. It so sad that the American far-left is so ignorant and paranoid that they can't think rationally.
D. Lieberson (MA)
An interesting thought experiment. What if: all campaigns were entirely publicly financed and, each candidate had the exact same amount of money with which she/he could communicate to the American people what they believe and support, what they think is working and not (and why) and what they would change and how they would change it and, debates were dignified events, an opportunity for candidates to thoughtfully, civilly, clearly and respectfully share their vision for the country they hope to lead I know – dream on. . .
D. Lieberson (MA)
@D. Lieberson An interesting thought experiment. What if: All campaigns were entirely publicly financed and, Each candidate had the exact same amount of money with which she/he could communicate to the American people what they believe and support, what they think is working and not (and why) and what they would change and how they would change it and, Debates were dignified events, an opportunity for candidates to thoughtfully, civilly, clearly and respectfully share their vision for the country they hope to lead. I know – dream on. . .
johnlo (Los Angeles)
@D. Lieberson: The result would be that there would be more candidates then the available public money thus forcing the government to choose who is permitted to run and who is not leading our country down the slippery slope toward dictatorship.
Rupert (California)
@D. Lieberson Might actually work!!
drindl (NY)
American politics has been swimming in too much money for some time. But Citizens United opened the floodgates all the way, and now foreign governments and corporations are buying vast amounts of influence here, while the very wealthy are getting everything they want at the expense of the rest of us. Most of this largesse flows to republicans, of course, and they are rapidly dismantling our institutions and regulatory framework.
WR (Franklin, TN)
How did Mitch McConnell win reelection? He is the least popular candidate in the Senate. I wonder if his financial ties to Diebold and ES&S are involved? Are the Kentucky elections rigged from the start? He blocks the repair of the voting system because he cannot get reelected without a hacked voting system.
Lagibby (St. Louis)
@WR And every Republican Senator who voted to elevate him to power shares the blame. I never voted for McConnell. I never had the chance to vote against him. But he wields immense power over MY government and MY life, because a few dozen Republicans elevated him and continue to choose him.
Me (USA)
The reason the corruption hasn't been checked is Mitch McConnell. Plain and simple. Nothing else.
Lagibby (St. Louis)
@Me And every Republican Senator shares the blame for allowing him to make a mockery of the legislative branch.
ChesBay (Maryland)
Are you kidding? Our elected officials, particularly at the very top, hardly do any real work for their constituents, at all! When they arrive in DC, they are very carefully tutored on the routine of using their days for fundraising. Even the most altruistic newbie soon learns that there will be inordinate shoulder rubbing with donors, and 24/7 back-scratching. They will have to go along to get along. That's why Progressives, who have vowed not to take corporate money, are not beholden to the criminal element, and can spend their days doing the jobs they were elected to do. This cannot be said for all Republicans, and most Democrats. Get a grip. ELECT PROGRESSIVES, if you want to begin to curb this overwhelming corruption, and get your government to work for YOU, as it is supposed to do.
ChesBay (Maryland)
@ChesBay--I should have also made the point that while Republicrooks commit THEIR crimes, they look the other way when their leader commits his crimes. None of them has a leg to stand on to criticize him. It's one huge, well organized criminal enterprise, and should be swept out in the next election. That said, when you elect Democrats to "fix" things, keep a very close eye on them to make sure they keep their noses to the grindstone. Most people can fall into self-serving behavior, while protecting each other from discovery, because there is SO much money floating around, and it is so alluring! GET THE MONEY OUT OF POLITICS! Abolish "Citizens United."
Paul Lief (Stratford, CT)
@ChesBay Let's face it. A newly elected Congressperson gets a 2 year term. That forces them to start running again before they even get the boxes in their office unpacked. Want to drain "the swamp"? Then we need to overturn Citizens United, reset the amount of years a term runs (Congress and Senate), and, set term limits. Without those changes the status will remain quo.
Trevor Diaz (NYC)
He will find out his fate on election night Nov 3, 2020. If he is not reelected, he will end up with his former attorney Michael Cohen for Campaign Finance Violation of 2016 election. FEDS at SDNY are waiting. If he is not elected again, he does not have Presidential Shield to protect him from indictment. He has been run-in with laws all his adult life. He is 73 now. Lets see what happens in election results of PA, MI, WI and OH. In addition FL has 29 Electoral College votes which will decide who takes Presidential Oath in January of 2021.
Rupert (California)
@Trevor Diaz It's either the White House or prison for the Trumpster.
John ✅Brews✅ (Santa Fe NM)
This subsection of categories of corruption misses a key point. The GOP and the Trump Administration are agents of a few billionaires that run them. These billionaires have been in charge for quite a while, and now own the GOP, the Senate, many State Legislatures and half the Supreme Court. Their power is partly due to a hugely successful propaganda machine that includes Fox, talk radio, putrid web sites, and manipulation of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Google Search etc. keeping almost half of voters glued to alternative facts and conspiracy theories. Corruption on this scale goes far beyond the distinctions outlined here. Until this brainwashing system is stopped, the deluge of propaganda will continue to drown out common sense, fact, and observation.
cmd (Austin)
In all likelihood we are talking about the wrong swamp. The swamp the current president and supporters referred to is the institutions of liberal democracy and a multicultural society- who can tolerate that?
Michael (California)
This op/ed presents a very valid framework for thinking about this issue, and the commenters remarks are insightful. Please pardon a descent into the specificity of the current moment. It has to be thoroughly traceable that Jered and Ivanka are running “Trump, Inc.” from the West Wing and cutting deals, feathering the family company’s nest. Can someone please tell me how it is that no State’s Attorney General, nor nonprofit law activist organization, has sued under the RICO anti-racketeering statutes? I’ve heard about the suits related to violations of the emuliaments clause (although actually not enough about their process through the courts) but if Danny Sheehan was able to get “standing” to challenge the Iran/Contra traitors under RICO, how is this corrupt racketeering going along unchallenged?
Michael (Evanston, IL)
Always consider the source. For the record, Mr. Schmitt’s organization, New America, is a centrist, conservative-leaning think tank that is funded in part by the Peter G. Peterson, a billionaire, who, according to Wikipedia “uses his wealth to underwrite a diversity of organizations and PR campaigns to generate public support for slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, citing concerns over ‘unsustainable’ federal budget deficits.” In addition, New America is funded by Google who threatened to cut off funding when it was criticized by a New American critic who was immediately dismissed. This prompted the Times to write: “New America, a Google-Funded Think Tank, Faces Backlash for Firing a Google Critic.” So, in his article about the extent of corruption in our political system, Mr. Schmitt represents an organization that itself has been corrupted by its donors. But, to get to Mr. Schmitt’s argument - our system IS fundamentally corrupt. The corruption is the product of the intentional design of our system which was seeded with flaws. Those flaws, such as our government’s vast conflicting system of built-in checks and balances, make it vulnerable to exploitation, and continued and expanded exploitation eventually becomes corruption. Trump’s corruption is less “exceptional” than expected. It is the logical conclusion of corrupt forces long at play in our system
Ray Zielinski (Champaign, IL)
"...the idea that he actually set out to reform politics but, like naïve reformers before him, was dragged down into the fetid tide pool himself." Anyone writing from such a perspective was either born yesterday or not paying attention. Trump's naked criminal behavior was on display for decades. I can understand how voters could be fooled but made anyone covering politics think it would change if he were elected?!
Ed Watters (San Francisco)
Pelosi’s “resistance” never materialized, yet we’re supposed to swallow the hype that she’s a savvy operator.
Kim (San Jose)
@Ed Watters Pelosi has been a part of the institution for years and learned how to play in the sandbox successfully. She is a very bright and capable person; however, our system as it exists today, has opened the doors to corruption on both sides. It is the system (ripe for corruption) in which both Democrats and Republicans have accepted and done nothing to change. Unless the old guard can change how they ALL do business, then it is time to start anew; young fresh minds who have a different vision for American Democracy is what I welcome.
Ed Watters (San Francisco)
@Kim It sounded like your defending Pelosi? Are you unaware of how much wealth she has amassed via IPO corruption?
Tom Q (Minneapolis, MN)
There is an easy answer to the question posed in the headline. Corruption is only a crime when committed by Democrats. When Republicans perform identically, the ensuing investigation is labelled a witch hunt coupled with calls to "move on."
Barking Doggerel (America)
When considering the growing evidence of Trump's corrupt business practices, including the shady financing from Deutsche Bank, the closing of his "charity," the multiple bankruptcies, and unpaid bills, it seems that Trump cleaned up his act to serve as president. To a man who spent his racist, deviant life in a festering swamp, Washington's political environment is nearly pristine.
Carol (Key West, Fla)
The reality is that the game has already been bought. The American Oligarchs already control the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Corruption is so perverse that no longer see it, the executive branch which is trump is the epidemy of corruption and no one cares. Certainly, the legislature ignores all instances of corruption, their only job is to keep money flowing into their hands and maintain power. Finally, the Judiciary has been filled with sycophants that understand their roles in this new America. Unfortunately, their roles have nothing to do with justice only maintaining power for the oligarchs.
jfdenver (Denver)
@Carol This is a very cynical view. There are plenty of elected officials who do not take corporate PAC money, and who focus on smaller donors. Trump's corruption and misuse of the public trough is unparalleled. Maybe the end result will be stiffer laws on hiring members of your family, even for unpaid positions--most states and federal agencies already have this rule--and also laws requiring a president to disclose his or her tax returns, to put all their holdings in a blind trust, etc.
Ray Zielinski (Champaign, IL)
@jfdenver Unless and until things change at the ballot box, the is the reality of American politics. And if you really want cynicism, gerrymandering and voter suppression have made change through elections even more challenging.
Truth would help - not "trump truth" or propaganda or spin - but in today's America, if there is no profit in truth, why tell it? (Kudos to the NYT, WaPo and a few others who are trying hard to do so anyway.) The latest affront, a major deepening of the swamp, is the forthcoming assault on the press by the right-wing Media Matters, who in the guise of muckraking will be digging up dirt, real, imagined or exaggerated, against reporters and commentators with whom they disagree. "The swamp" is now so polluted that they may well get away with this egregious offense against the First Amendment and honest reporting unless something remarkable happens, like Democrats bringing a proverbial fusillade of cannon fire to this gunfight instead of showing up with a penknife. If it was even possible, more than democracy is at stake here: truth, civility and trust are all standing shakily at a precipice. We let them fall over at our nation's and the world's peril.
Alan J. Shaw (Bayside, NY)
Trump's "Drain the swamp" had nothing to to do with eliminating corruption but was just a watchword for dismantling the administrative state by undermining federal agencies like the EPA, the Departments of Agriculture, Housing, Health, Energy, Education and Labor, reducing the staff of the Department of State, questioning the independence of the Federal Reserve and making the head of the Justice Department his personal attorney. The list goes on.
Mo (MO)
@Alan J. Shaw Exactly, and that's what his financial backers, and Republican voters, understood from the beginning.
Kim (San Jose)
@Mo You are giving his base to much credit. His rich Republican voters understood this but his based understood nothing of the sort. All his base understood in 2016 is that he wanted to build a wall to keep the "others" out!
Charlesbalpha (Atlanta)
Two problems unmentioned here. One: enforcement. Trump's behavior violates the emoluments clause of the Constitution, but there is no way to punish him. Even if he was impeached for it, the Republicans in the Senate wouldn't convict him. By contrast, I read in a history book that the first Ming emperor in China made a decree that any official caught taking a bribe should be publicly executed. Second problem: evasive euphemisms. Much corruption involves BRIBERY. It's a word that we rarely hear in the news today, even though it happens all the time..
Rheumy Plaice (Arizona)
Public financing of elections with a complete ban on other sources of funding would be very helpful. Elimination of ostensibly "independent" and "non-cooperating" PACs would be another step forward. Finally, restrict campaigning to a period of just a few months, or even weeks, to cut the cost of campaigns. Irrespective of the corruption issue, it would save legislators constantly having to beg for and accumulate funds, leaving them more time to learn and think about legislation.
Kathryn (Omaha)
@Rheumy Plaice Yes. Imagine legislators actually doing the work of legislating and governance! Imagine corrupted legislators who achieve or hold office sustained by bribes and lobby funds being voted out or never achieving elected office. The liar-in-chief uses this current feedback-loop structure to full advantage. This is another way he misuses Other People's Money, a tactic he has applied to his businesses for decades. A clear diagram that delivers this message of corruption is critical to the next election season.This message has to reach the voters with clarity. A napkin sketch competition would be one approach.....
avrds (montana)
I disagree with your basic premise. Yes, Trump and those like him have the power to impose corruption system wide. And it can have a horrific effect on the country and, in Trump's case, the environment, workers lives, basic civil and human rights, and American institutions to name but a few. But just because an individual politician is only corrupt in his/her individual way, does not make the activity less corrupt, or suggest that an otherwise good person just got caught up in a bad system. Each of those politicians still has the power to support (or not) all that systemic corruption allegedly on our behalf. My guess is Trump's corruption started out small, too.
Bill (Madison, Ct)
@avrds NO, his was big from the beginning. His dad was corrupt and brought him right into the business.
Kim (San Jose)
@avrds Trump's corruption started out small many years ago--prior to being elected President, which was evident to anyone who paid attention. As president, his corruption has always been and will continue to be a stain on this country.
Jeff Koopersmith (New York City)
Marc Schmitt waited too long to form his fine anti-swamp efforts. Yet, Schmitt left out the most scurrilous examples that involve foreign bank accounts, large foreign-funded corporate PACS that launder foreign currency in large amounts as for simple "business purposes" Worse are the right and left-wing financial activists who simply dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into paper bags or locked briefcases which are hurried over to local dishonest foreign ban branches with numbered accounts only to be laundered back where needed but rarely, if ever into an elected or appointed official's traceable accounts. The trade-offs are fabulous, then aimed at "regulations" which can be changed almost at the drop of a hat. I spent more than four decades in government economy- most of it in Washington federal channels. The swamp - as some call it - was born long before there was the USA. in the 17th Century It grew up, not down and still does today. Any reader can check the FBI web site and search for government-related indictments that attest to town, city, regional, and state government swampletes which what operators think is near abandon. operate almost without fear. Thus the swamps at each level feed on each other through FastLane routes that are akin to and aided by the Internet worldwide. Most people have noticed elected and appointed officials living or retiring with load of cash stuffed in walk-in "freezers" called banks. Take a gander; you'll be shocked.
Ken Winkes (Conway, WA)
Corruption is indeed the bane of government, but the distinction Mr. Schmitt's piece makes between the pitfalls that await decent people attempting to do right in a difficult system and the outright, even arrogant corruption of our current president and his cronies doesn't quite cover the territory. In the sense of the mutual back-scratching, the quid pro quo's that lubricate virutally all social and business commerce, corruption permeates society at large. Maybe it always has. What has changed is that as over time as we have reduced virtually all transactions to dollar values, we have simultaneously separated all the dealings we have with one another from what we used to believe was their moral content. Questions of what we were up to was right or wrong, fair or unfair, evend nice or nasty are not just irrelevant, but frowned upon as childish or naive. It's hard to pinpoint where we went wrong, but some of the cause must be laid at the feet of the SCOTUS. Its decisions about campaign finance, "Citizens United" most prominent among them, which wedded money to speech and the decisions that narrowed the defintion of quid pro quo corruption to the point where successful prosecution of what used to be a crime is nearly impossible. Or maybe those decsions aren't causes so much as simple acknowlegement by Federalist Society lawyers trained in the way the American business model works that government should indeed be run like a business because..... .....now it is.
tbs (detroit)
One man stands in the way, and that man is Mitch McConnell. His motivation? Perhaps the 2.5 million dollars his super PAC received from a pro-Russian Oligarch sheds some light on the subject?
Marlene (Canada)
When Trump goes on int'l tv and claims his aides scoured the country for an appropriate venue for the G7 meeting and decides the only one that suits happens to be his own resort, which needs funding, isn't that corrupt?
Katalina (Austin, TX)
This article on corruption during the corrupt administration of one of the most corrupt presidents in modern history is a lesson in frustration. From the Citizens United ruling to the Gilded Age members who have so much money the flow resembles the ice melt in the Artic, we are simply drowning in moola that is easily diverted to those candidates who will follow the will of their patrons. Lobbyists parade their skills with aplomb as they are now simply part of the wallpaper. Reformers have a tough fight ahead to change or modify the rules of the game as they now stand.
Daniel S-R (Moraga, CA)
Take your point further: Trump defenders say that their man's fight with the swamp (or "establishment") means that your second form of corruption (or what they call "independence") is almost required in order to combat your first form. Listening to them, you'd think that unfathomable corruption, loyalty to hostile foreign powers, and mental instability is probably necessary simply to challenge the status quo. As though America never produced any chief executives that were skeptical of BOTH major parties and were also usually honest, competent, and patriotic. Heck, I can think of two who were in the movie "Predator."
Willy (MA)
Personally I believe that the amount of money that people in office are paid each and every year as they climb up to the top of politics is a corruption in and of itself. This goes for BOTH political parties. The amount of money that is funneled into politics is disgusting. It will remain disgusting until such a time when the politics of cash will become unpopular or better yet unlikely. If and when that happens we will have a government that will be run by people in their jobs not people doing a job. Can government become something that people can do without getting paid off or paid for by billions of dollars? I wonder if it is possible. Can a democracy or a republic, either one should represent the same thing, ever truly exist? ....government of and by the people... It is a nice thought.... but it is not the oligarchy that we currently have.
Charlesbalpha (Atlanta)
@Willy Actually, people in office consider themselves grossly underpaid because they compare their income to that of the CEOs who make millions of dollars doing nothing useful. Of course they don't compare their income to that of normal Americans who work hard at minimum-wage jobs.
StanC (Texas)
A somewhat remarkable byproduct of this discussion is that nearly everyone seemingly has concluded that Trump is corrupt, however the notion of corruption is viewed.
Jane (Sierra foothills)
@StanC Proving, thankfully, that there is indeed such a thing as truth and that 1+1 still equals 2.
StanC (Texas)
@Jane In what part of the foothills are you, Jane? I've spent quite a lot of time there.
Dana Broach (Norman, OK)
"Drain the swamp" here in Trumplahoma meant firing Washington-based bureaucrats, reducing the size and footprint of the federal government, all the while keeping the goodies flowing (especially Medicare and Social Security). It meant putting "business executives" (aka, lobbyists) in charge of regulatory agencies to run government "like a business" and lift the jackboot of regulation from the neck of (here, the oil, gas & refining) industry.
Panthiest (U.S.)
"Search for the phrase “Donald Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’ but” and you’ll find dozens of mainstream articles that take seriously the idea that he actually set out to reform politics but, like naïve reformers before him, was dragged down into the fetid tide pool himself." Trump has run his businesses as corrupt enterprises through lies and bankruptcies. There is NO way he was a "naive reformer dragged down into the fetid tide pool." The sooner he's out of office, the sooner we can get our democracy back on track. At least I hope so.
annpatricia23 (Rockland)
It is with such relief to watch and hear the new legislators (read The Squad among others) bring our new Reality to the Congress. And such relief that someone with the integrity of Bernie Sanders and Elisabeth Warren and Beto O'Rourke are speaking truths on the campaigb trail. It's not only money, it's the unremitting hypocrisy that has been the norm. Wait til the voters get to the voting booths!
Socrates (Downtown Verona. NJ)
We should remember who built the current corrupt campaign system. It was decades of mostly right-wing 'think-tank' corruption mills that supported the unrestricted use of millionaire money to fuel politics. It was decades of right-wing opposition to campaign finance disclosure and sunlight. It was the right-wing dream of making money equal to 'speech' and making average voters silent. These Supreme Court cases helped flush America down a 0.1% campaign finance toilet. McCutcheon v. FEC. Citizens United v. FEC Buckley v. Valeo https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2014/04/03/a-history-of-campaign-finance-reform-from-george-washington-to-shaun-mccutcheon/ It will takes decades to undo the damage on the Supreme Court, but the only way to start is by supporting progressive candidates who want to cure American political cancer. The Republican Party is pure 0.1% corruption; Trump is their perfect corrupt leader. Vote for political reform in 2020. It doesn't have to be this way.
joe Hall (estes park, co)
Our country has been a victim of a hostile takeover from our corrupt American hating big business and the Dems may be making a lot of noise but I still see nothing being done and no plans for the future other than to pander.
nzierler (New Hartford NY)
It's gone unchecked because of one reason: The Republican controlled Senate. Trump would be out on his ear had the Senate been composed of 67 Democrats. He should have been impeached by now but Pelosi fears that his exoneration by the Senate would embolden him to once again declare his innocence of collusion and obstruction and excoriate Democrats for going on a "witch hunt."
betty durso (philly area)
"All the little corruptions" brought us the out-of-control fossil fuel industry relentlessly pumping out poison. "All the little corruptions" brought us too-big-to-fail banks and greedy hedge funds making the momentous decisions we should be making for ourselves. And "all the little corruptions" (oligarch money) have landed us today with Trump and McConnell holding back anything we try to do to bring our country up to the standards of the other developed countries. All the little corruptions mount up.
grace thorsen (syosset, ny)
Why has Trump's corruption gone unchecked - lets have the courage to ask Nancy Pelosi.. It will be her signature act in her career - refusal to prosecute a corrupt President. As well as her dismissal of climate change.
Jack Connolly (Shamokin, PA)
Trump gets away with corruption because his voters DON'T CARE that he's corrupt. In fact, they LIKE it, because: 1) it "triggers the libs," 2) they admire someone ripping off the U.S. government (even though Trump is stealing the money THEY paid in taxes), and 3) they think that somehow they will profit from Trump's flouting of the law--at the expense of the aforementioned "libs." Years ago, in my region of Pennsylvania, we had an astonishingly corrupt Congressman named Dan Flood. He was indicted for corruption and censured for bribery, leading to his resignation from Congress in 1980, but he was still beloved by the people of Luzerne County. He used his position with the House Appropriations Committee to send millions of dollars in federal disaster aid to Luzerne County in the wake of the Hurricane Agnes flood in 1972. He twisted President Nixon's arm to have northeastern Pennsylvania declared a federal disaster area, and to have FEMA and the Army Corp of Engineers on-site even before the flood waters had receded. To this day, residents of Luzerne County remember Congressman Flood by saying, "He may have been a scoundrel, but he was OUR scoundrel!" That's why corruption exists. As long as you bring home the pork (in whatever form that pork may be), your constituents will let you get away with ANYTHING.
scoff (USA)
@Jack Connolly " As long as you bring home the pork (in whatever form that pork may be), your constituents will let you get away with ANYTHING." Which shows the corruption isn't just at the top levels of business and government. It extends down into the depths of the populace where it does even more damage. The old saw, "a fish rots from the head down" applies here. The head is rotted through and now corruption threatens the entire body. Until voters reject the "anything goes as long as I get what I want" attitude, it will only get worse. We can either survive as a nation by recognizing our government was designed to serve ALL OF US (and not just the .1%) or we can continue down this disastrous path and watch helplessly as it continues to decay.
Chris (Minneapolis)
The best case scenario I can think of is for the G7 to simply decline trumps invite to his golf course. As a group. All of them. It makes perfect sense and could even be made to appear to not be personal. Why would these countries want to look as though they are just as corrupt as trump?
Deb (Blue Ridge Mtns.)
Why has trump's corruption gone unchecked? Mitch McConnell and the entire GOP.
Dr. Ricardo Garres Valdez (Austin, Texas)
Alexis de Tocqueville (De la Démocratie en Amérique) Would be surprised of the America today: they do not correspond to what he wrote in 1835. If Tocqueville could come to America, he probably would writ "How America became a corrupted plutocracy."
AJ (Midwest)
It has gone unchecked because the Republican Party doesn’t object to it. End of story.
Concerned for the Future (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Makes one realize how fragile our government actually is. Using Trump, a criminal himself, to further your ideological views and corrupt dealings, is just the tip of the iceberg. We now realize there are no checks and balances. There is no one to make a corrupt person as Trump stop. There is no responsibility nor punishment. Scary times, we are no better than a corrupt 3rd world country.
NLG (Michigan)
I need an answer to just one question. If you voted for Mr. Trump ---Why? I guess it is more than one question. What did you expect him to do? Did you vote party line or actually think he would do something for the country? Did you consider his history?
Charlesbalpha (Atlanta)
@NLG Lots of people voted for Trump because they hoped he would appoint judges who would let the public vote on abortion law. Which he has. Hopefully, they will feel no reason to vote for him a second time.
Kathy Marshack (Portland OR)
The device of appealing to the dark side of humanity is used by narcissists, whether it is for financial, sexual, or political gain. They just want power and more power, and especially love power to make others unhappy, even terrified. Two narcissists worked together to cause me such harm that they were successful in alienating my children from me. Josephine Townsend, former VANCOUVER WA City Prosecutor, and my ex husband worked together to create this tragic outcome because Townsend wanted to be elected a Superior Court Judge. Creating a human system devoid of corruption is impossible as long as narcissists and psychopaths exist. Trump is classic in this sense. All it takes is a presidential tweet and heads roll.
Ray Zielinski (Champaign, IL)
This is an excellent article and I would suggest that readers follow up by reading Paul Krugman's latest op-ed, "The Great Tax Break Heist". In a way, they are variations on the same theme and illustrate how broken our political system is.
whipsnade (campbell, ca)
Consider: 1. Term limits for all elected and appointed officials including supreme court justices. 2. Elect the president by simple popular vote. 3. Restore the function of the president to its original intention, i.e.: to preside over the legislative branch rather than direct or over-ride it.
Dan (Sterling Hts. Michigan)
As I have always said, “We have the best government money can buy.” Instead of “Show me the money,” it needs to be “Eliminate the money,” We need to absolutely overturn Citizen United for a start. Then as it’s been proposed put a limit on what a candidate can use to campaign with. Bring back the support staff in Congress to help dissect issues as it was said in this article, to eliminate lobbyists making the laws.
Janyce C. Katz (Columbus, Ohio)
What if the first person would have voted as that person did whether or not the donor came in and pitched a vote in the same direction. Suddenly, it is the appearance of a quid pro quo even if that didn't exist. It looks like corruption per se, but really isn't because this was how the individual would have voted. In the other instance, the hotel owner politician knows who stays in his/her facility and presents them with votes without them coming and directly lobbying him/her. This looks less serious as there is no clear quid pro quo. Because our elections require vast amount of resources and finances per candidate, middle class individuals who need to hold a job to feed themselves and their families are virtually eliminated unless they receive a large stream of funds from somewhere or someone. On the other hand, someone who could allegedly self finance could set up or have set up C4s or other means of watering money through the system so that individual has to use less of his/her own money to run for office. This is a major problem with our current election system. Citizens United, the SCOTUS decision, just compounded an already existing problem and made it even worse. However, while some folks, me included, have signed petitions for an amendment to prevent this corporate "speech" as set forth in Citizens United, the chances of that going anywhere in 2019 are slim to non. So, too, are ideas about totally governmental funded no other resources in the pot campaigns.
eddie (nyc)
To believe that someday there will be less corruption in government is, to me, a very naive idea. It is so ubiquitous in all levels of government that it's hard to imagine a government without it, one that really takes the welfare of its constituents as its number one priority, over the benefit of lobbyists. True that trump is an example of corruption above all others; he is the lowest of the low. But until we have a government that works for the people and by the people without all this money involved, we can just forget it.
OneView (Boston)
Our understanding of corruption is, in itself corrupt. To decide that a Congress-person should not take campaign contributions that might, in fact, yield access to that Congress-person is not corruption per se. The corruption would be if the Congress-person then voted deliberately and explicitly against the public interest. That is rarely so easily demonstrated. In the end, the people vote, not money. So if "the people" are so "up in arms" about corruption, why don't they vote their representatives out of office? The fact is that people like their own "corruption" when their representative brings home a bridge or a federal office. And that is the nature of how our government works. Those who have lived in places where the payment of money to a government official (privately, not fees) to have a document stamped, to gain access to public benefits to which they are entitled, to have justice in a court of law understand what REAL corruption is. Americans are so coddled and selfish they can't actually understand that they are the source of the corruption that is Congress and Trump because "I deserve the corruption I get".
Gp Capt Mandrake (Philadelphia)
The corruption described in the first of Mr Schmitt's scenarios is really just an operating feature of our present system of governance. The greed and avarice of the second scenario are merely its logical extension. The combination is not new; something similar occurred during the Gillded Age and then later in the run-up to the Great Recession. In both cases, Americans clamored for something to be done and progressive legislation was enacted to help rectify the situation. What's different now is that many American believe, or more correctly, have been induced to believe, that "progressive" is a dirty word and controls needed to prevent plutocratic governance represent unacceptable freedom-sopping governmental intrusion. Recent decisions by the SCOTUS have succeeded in both normalizing and institutionalizing this. The pendulum may well swing back toward representative democracy at some point, but as indicated by the large numbers of Americans who enthusiastically support Mr Trump's "draining" of the swamp, that point won't be reached anytime soon.
Shenonymous (15063)
@Gp Capt Mandrake It depends entirely on how well Democrats intelligently and forcefully make the truth known!!!
Gp Capt Mandrake (Philadelphia)
@Shenonymous Sorry, but I disagree. Americans have been induced to believe that truth is relative and not absolute. President Trump regularly makes statements that are demonstrably untrue. Yet millions believe in their veracity, in spite of overwhelming evidence indicating and even conclusively proving otherwise. On other occasions where the truth is glaring apparent, the untruth is simply re-categorized as spin or hyperbole and not a falsehood at all. To paraphrase Agent Mulder, "the truth is already out there." It's simply not possible to "intelligently and forcefully make the truth known" when so many believe the concept is relative.
Javaforce (California)
It’s bizarre how Trump carries on yet Moscow Mitch and the Republicans in Congress will not budge. Trump is making Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, portrayed by Marlon Brando Apocalypse Now look like a well balanced individual.
David Henry (Concord)
@Javaforce How is it "bizarre" when the GOP hasn't changed since 1981. It has always remained in lockstep with any GOP president.
Lisa (NYC)
We have a president who is ordering people to illegally do what he can't legally through legislation. He's above the law now, without a doubt. I don't see how that's not the actions of a dictator.
Shenonymous (15063)
@Lisa Or is not impeached for his determined and steadfast corruption!!!!!
D.S. (New York City)
They were never talking about corruption or entrenched politicians. They were talking about career civil servants who they saw as standing in the way of real corruption. Trumps voters only chose to hear as entrenched DEMOCRATIC politicians.
Michael (California)
@D.S. Agreed. A very wealthy friend who doesn’t just tolerate Trump, but supports him, trots out Milton Friedman lines about liberty and the “wisdom of free markets” when I challenge anti-EPA oil industry appointees to the EPA. He smugly believes that they are going to clean up the “deep state” swamp.
Charlesbalpha (Atlanta)
@D.S. When Trumpists whine about the "swamp" and the "Deep state", they are talking about normal modern government. It's a complicated business and requires complicated procedures. Their ideal is the "strong man" who gives orders and gets obeyed, and never mind the collateral damage..
D.S. (New York City)
@Charlesbalpha It’s really about pragmatic “technocrats” vs visceral “conservatism “. Intellectual conservatives want to claim Edmund Burke , but they really descend from Calhoun and Wallace.
Wondering Woman (KC, MO)
We need better media coverage. Everything is chasing after the 10 second sound bite and forget the rest of the story. It's not "news" they give us but "human interest" stories. They spend too much time reporting tweets (which only increases the number of them) and not enough on what's really going on.
DG (Idaho)
@Wondering Woman Then the owners of the media need to be forced to sell they are billionaire oligarchs who have no interest in truth. Their god is money.
Bongo (NY Metro)
Term limits would help reduce corruption, simply because prolonged exposure to the “swamp” is clearly corrupting. Presumably, corrupt schemes require some “tribal knowledge” to succeed. Term limits would truncate this process.
April (SA, TX)
@Bongo Not necessarily. One of the needs the author identifies is people with long-term knowledge and expertise. Newbie politicians will be more susceptible to the "expertise" of lobbyists.
Shenonymous (15063)
@April They will have to become more knowledgeable before getting elected!!!
Max4 (Philadelphia)
A big part of this is how the power of the position of Presidency has expanded over the past 8-9 decades, which has essentially put the President above the Law. The origins of this expansions is the fact that the US has been in a state of almost continuous crisis since the Great Depression, with the exception of a few years during the Clinton presidency. Our founding fathers would be horrified to see Presidency has become an Imperial position that they tried so hard to avoid.
Wentworth Roger (Canada)
If US citizens want to get rig of money in politics they will have to engage into a huge protest to have the government ban corporate donations. Most of EU, Canada, Australia etc, all have a cap of less than 2,000$ per citizen (some have even lower cap) and most do not accept corporate money at all. The Charbonneau Commission in Quebec in 2016 has demonstrated that engineering and construction companies were reimbursing the donation to their employees, which is against the law, their boards dismantled and administrators fired. They also paid millions in penalties and in some cases were obliged to sell their entire operations. Some went belly up through bankruptcy (not being entitled to restructure under Chapter 11). For all of them they are not entitled to bid on any level of governmental contracts for the next 10 years. If you wait for the governments to act, it will not change.
Jack van Dijk (Cary, NC)
@Wentworth Roger Good idea. Governments in the EU (the original 12) display considerable less corruption than America. Not being born here, but living here a long time, I thing the trouble is with the Americans themselves. They think that everything is for sale.
Charlesbalpha (Atlanta)
@Wentworth Roger It won't happen, because the wise guys on the Supreme Court have decided that corporations are people and money is speech, so that blocking corporate bribery is a violation of the First Amendment. And we can't do anything about it because the first Chief Justice, Marshall, decreed that the Court's decisions trump democratically enacted laws.
William Burgess Leavenworth (Searsmont, Maine)
@Wentworth Roger Our government is like a pack of satyrs in a brothel. Why should it make laws that force it to change?
Stephen (NYC)
As Trump and his enablers walk all over the Constitution, they don't realize they're creating a Hong Kong like response at some point in time. We'll end up with martial law, which would delight Trump as his ultimate goal. We may be witnessing the fall of America, right before our eyes.
Joanna Stelling (New Jersey)
@Stephen Or we may be witnessing the creation of two Americas - Blue America and Red America. We essentially are two countries now. Why not make it official? I, for one, am tired of states like Alaska, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana being the biggest recipients of government money, and then screaming about other people receiving handouts. I'm tired of states like Texas, and its sociopathic obsession with guns and the "freedom" of the second amendment, while never giving a thought to the freedom of their victims. We could move forward without these states. And I think everyone would be happier.
Shenonymous (15063)
@Stephen Of course they realize what they are creating!!!! To not believe that is extraordinarily naive!
Stephen (NYC)
@Joanna . As extreme as secession seems, it's a better answer than fascism.Time to talk up the word "Secsession!". Perhaps this will scare at least a few of the republican traitors.
Den (Palm Beach)
If you want to reduce corruption- a number of things have to be done. First, limit the total terms a public official can serve. Maybe 16 years for Senators and House-extend members of the House from 2 years to 4. Shorten the time when you can start running for office-like 6 months before- election day. Public financing of elections only. Strict rules when you can lobby after leaving public office- at least 10 years. Also, reduce the term a President can serve -1 period of 6 years. All public officials need to reveal their tax returns. I am sure there are more restrictions we can put in place-but this is a good start.
Wondering Woman (KC, MO)
@Den Nix on the 6 year term. We can't survive that much tRump. At least after suffering through 4 we can dump the guy.
@Den, thank you for your wisdom. We could start with your tax return proposal immediately.
starizhot (ft. atkinson)
@Den you can add bringing back the fairness doctrine to that list. the squawk radio people get paid big bucks to push agendas because it works.
bl (rochester)
First ingredient needed to check/reduce corruption in political life, not just trump's, is popular outrage that is not overwhelmed and neutralized by cynicism, which then justifies indifference, of which there is far too much in the society. The second ingredient is a coherent, widely acceptable, and practical alternative to present to voters, via a well thought out campaign, as a reasonable way out of the swamps we all wade in at present. My suspicion is that too many people are so cynical that they are unwilling to make a radical change in campaign financing practices so that there was an explicit "public option", subsidized by voters (aka taxpayers). And if cynicism wasn't the obstacle, then partisanship could easily be the next reason for objecting. Who wants to help opponents in a campaign? It's exactly this type of individual attitude, multiplied by plenty that creates resistance to experimentation at the state or local level that we can't extricate ourselves from, and which is making constructive change all but impossible. As a result, few (if any?) states are helping serve as useful laboratories so that different ways such plans could be realized at a state level are not being tried out. Corruption in politics is very old in the country's history. It is the source of much humor (think Preston Sturges) as well as hand wringing. So, it's largely tolerated. Trump's unending saga of ugly swamp behavior is not seen as qualitatively so different.
Amanda Jones (Chicago)
Look at any failing nation and nationwide corruption is the source of that failure. Forget about the moral and ethical issues, from a business standpoint, you can't do business efficiently or effectively in a system designed around a labyrinth of payoffs. The foundation of well run economy is trust and certainty, both of which, in this country, with Trump, are being slowly eroded.
Calleendeoliveira (FL)
@Amanda Jones, I understand Amanda, but what about us that go and do our jobs and are in integrity with most that we do. Why do we get left behind.
Wondering Woman (KC, MO)
@Amanda Jones Not so slowly.
nora m (New England)
Bernie Sanders found the cure for influence: don't take money from corporations or extremely wealthy individuals. Warren followed his lead. Neither of them are corrupted by campaign financing. Warren is too close to the Democratic Party old guard. By wanting to reassure them that she is one of them, she becomes one of them - unintentional, to be sure, but corrupting all the same. They spend their days dialing for dollars and their nights noshing on black truffles and caviar at the billionaires banquet. Tell me that doesn't influence you.
Rita (California)
@nora m Wonderfully idealistic. Now put Sen. Sanders up against the Billionaire Boys Club and Televangelist favorite Trump, augmented by Fox and Friends and Rush braying 24/7 about socialism.
Jonathan (Boston)
So right about Elizabeth Warren, a dangerous double-speak expert and transparent liar. Since we are on the topic of how creative politicians are in dealing with corrupt money, why does Mr. Schmitt not peddle his theory to include the allegations against Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Omar? Oh, right, it's the NYT and Schmitt's pedigree (and bias) has been nurtured via positions with The American Prospect, Utne Reader, New Republic, The Soros Open Society Institute - and that it just the top layer of his mysterious resume. Just another partisan hit piece.
steve (houston)
Bravo Mr. Schmidt. So much work to do, and to think we have to do it through a fog of confusion and the vagaries of human behavior. Through my lifetime we have not had such an unethical man leading our country. I am still hopeful though, since people have had to struggle through trying times before. Perhaps the best element we have to work with is - we have a clear target of the corruption we want to remove - don trump.
JD (Bellingham)
@steve I wonder if we may have had an unethical president in the past but they were just not blatant nor uncaring in the grandiose manner of the clown in chief we currently have
William Burgess Leavenworth (Searsmont, Maine)
@steve Having Trump in the presidency is analogous to having John Wilkes Booth in the presidency instead of Lincoln. Would Lincoln have shot J.W. Booth? I think not. The decent folks are generally too decent to take out the trash using Shakespearian means.
Josh Shafran (Boulder)
Let's cut to the chase through the cogent analysis you reflect upon. Private interest versus public good is the key distinction at the basis of the new guided age of corruption and personal profit we are living through. Until politicians see themselves all as Public Servants serving as Representatives of We The People this level of corruption will continue. Elected to serve as our public servants to provide for the protection and promotion of the pursuit of happiness as our Constitution states is the key. If they think of themselves differently the doom of the present will continue.
Ms. Pea (Seattle)
It's unlikely that we could institute rules to ban or decrease lobbying, but what could happen is a rule in Congress that if a donation or other gift is accepted from an industry lobby, the member must recuse him/herself from any votes that affect that lobby. Lobbyists can still meet with members and educate them about bills, and they could try to convince them to support bills favorable to their clients, but if a donation is included, no vote will be allowed. This could encourage members to gather more information from both sides and make a decision uninfluenced by money or gifts.
carlchristian (somerville, ma)
@Ms. Pea Fine idea in theory but unfortunately there are way too many cynically clever people always ready to game the system. Rather than devote public monies to more watchdogs we would far better to simply devote those monies to financing political campaigns in the manner suggested. Limiting contribution amounts and then matching small donor donations would be a far better use of tax dollars in the fight against corruption than creating yet more bureaucracy ripe for creative compromise. Also reviving Congressional research insitutions (e.g., OTA) could ensure that elected politicians have access to information from both sides of an issue. Many government-sponsored research institutions have had long and mostly laudable track records when it comes to providing the public trust with careful and critically engaged studies/reports on all kinds of issues. In post-Reagan America, we seem to have forgotten just how positive a force for 'Good' a government by, for, and of the people can be.
Wentworth Roger (Canada)
@Ms. Pea If someone has already a corrupted mind, he will not change as he becomes a government official. He will find a way to get lobbyist's ideas to the floor. You need to have the government stop accepting any kind of donation to any government official or party. This is the only solution.
Lloyd MacMillan (Temiscaming, Quebec)
@Ms. Pea I read a few years back that there were 44,000 registered lobbyists in the D.C. area, influencing 535 congress people.
Annie Gramson Hill (Mount Kisco, NY)
Mr. Schmitt is certainly correct that some acts of corruption are more egregious than others. But it sounds like he is suggesting that the American public should grow up and accept minor acts of corruption, because good people are caught in a bad system. That’s an attitude that’ll eventually deliver us right into the next dark age, and that’s what candidates like Warren and Sanders are trying to prevent. Mr. Schmitt, who worked for a politician, is in a position to know lots of people who gained power as political staffers or through government bureaucracies. These people, often lawyers, put in their time and now they want to be employed in highly compensated positions by the very firms they either regulated, or in some way assisted in their role as a political staffer. It’s the American way that lobbyists should write the laws that regulate the industry they represent, because we Americans know that the fox is in the best position to protect the hen house, since our politicians tell us so. It has always been self-evident that this revolving door policy was a catastrophe in the making, but thousands and thousands of highly paid attorneys have dedicated their professional lives to position themselves to feed at this trough, and protecting this vile trough is what really matters. The American sheep are just supposed to stand by chirping, “Thank you for your service!” We will continue along our trajectory of disintegration until we have publicly financed elections.
semari (New York City)
It is possible that human psychology can partially explain both the impact of the President's radical corruption, as described in this article, and the public's (and the Legislature's) unwillingness to respond to it appropriately, or at least in a way imaginary scenarios would suggest (e.g., "What if Obama, or some other Democratic President had behaved this way?"). The answer lies in the shock of the extremism of the President's unprecedented behavior, on the one hand, which so defies expectations and norms previously held by the public, and the concomitant extremism that might characterize any appropriate response of the polity that would be called for, from quasi-violent protest, to sanction, to impeachment. In both cases, the public and the Congress are paralyzed by a natural unwillingness to match the level of outrageousness of the President's with a downright conviction and commitment to a solution of historic proportions as radical any of the obvious remedies that would be called for. In this, the public and the Congress continue to behave utterly unreasonably in the face of the unreasonable - waiting perhaps for the straw that breaks the camel's back, but not understanding that accommodation to each new Presidential outrage raises the bar for what might finally prompt us all to be willing to act in proportion to the President's crimes.
Wentworth Roger (Canada)
@semari USA had lived on everybody else' back for more than two centuries, like France and Britain have done before them. They have now to pay the price for what they have done and it is far from being at the end of the road because world competition for resources is at it's full strength though illegal markets for resources still exist but at a way lower degree than it was 10, 20 years ago. Bringing jobs back to USA is a hoke because the goods produced in USA are not affordable.
William Burgess Leavenworth (Searsmont, Maine)
@semari Yup. The American people are too institutionally inert to act, even when they see overt corruption spreading like smallpox.
Thomas Ronzetti (Miami, Florida)
While it’s helpful to consider the ideal - reducing or even eliminating the influence of lobbyists and wealth in democratic politics - with the rise of Donald Trump, let’s start by targeting the open and obvious corruption of using political power for direct personal gain. Trump uses his office to deliver government funds, U.S. and foreign, to his businesses, to market his businesses, and to promote his family members. Considering our government accepts such open corruption, we have little hope to reduce more subtle forms.
@Thomas Ronzetti, Al Capone was brought down on tax fraud. Trump could be brought down, and his reign of terror ended, by the emoluments clause. But responsible people must make that happen. So far...nothing.
Andy (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Why not put limits on campaign expenditures? There's no point in raising what you can't spend. While we're at it, we should cap the start of campaign related activities too. See Canada for an example. 36 to 50 days. That's it. How long has the Democratic primary been going on now? And that's just the primary. Short elections are cheaper. Cheap elections reduce the influence of money in politics.
Tokyo Tea (NH, USA)
@Andy Limits on expenditures, fine. But not on time, unfortunately: Americans seem too slow in their perceptions of who candidates are. Remember that at one time Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain were frontrunners. It takes a bit of time for such people to make enough fools of themselves in public that even Republicans lose interest.
Wentworth Roger (Canada)
@Andy Not having money into politics is to put a cap on donations from citizens, such as 2,000$ in some provinces and 1,000$ in others. No donation is accepted from corporations. It is the very same in most of EU and Australia among others.
George S (New York, NY)
@Tokyo Tea You raise a good point, though I tend to agree with the concept of having more limited periods for electioneering. The problem of our current system is that what people base their like/dislike of candidates is often based on the most superficial criteria, well demonstrated in the recent DNC debates. Rather than "winning" on actual policy principles or their experience, the horse race mentality, aided and abetted by the media (both news and social) is predicated on a school year level of who had the "best" zinger, one-liner, or come back, i.e, something for a brief soundbite or cute internet meme the next day. It's from that that many voters base their decisions, and that's sad.
Stephen (NYC)
Trump is doing it right out in the open like ignoring the emoluments clause. I suppose he thinks it takes the sting out of things by not being hidden.
plainleaf (baltimore)
@Stephen there is no clear law defining emoluments
B. Rothman (NYC)
@plainleaf. The law is clear. The definition of “Emoluments” has yet to be made because until Trump no President had the chutzpah to make money from his position as President through his ownership of hotels.
Quilly Gal (Sector Three)
Because a candidate is not lobbied by both sides of any issue does not mean that the candidate should not research each side her/hiself. That is the problem with our elected officials. There are not two sides to anything anymore. It's one way or the highway.
amalendu chatterjee (north carolina)
Mr. Schmitt, I agree with your analysis. yes, it had been going on since the democracy started but mostly in secrecy. Democracy (of people, by people and for people) has taken a nose dive since the corporation became a human being (supreme court decision on United Citizen) and President Trump's open norm to advise his supporters and officials to break law because he has the pardon power - unprecedent. what is the remedy ? change both laws. Difficulties are corporations have too much money and president has too much power. both evolved over the years. one will need a real slow revolution - that is what warren, sanders and aoc are trying to do. Their ideas though sound social reform but may be defined as modern democracy when swamp is much prevalent in all areas.
bonku (Madison)
What is known as blatant corruption in most other civilized democracies is called lobbying in America . It's all legal since America became a free country in late 1780s. It's more like constitutionally approved slavery, till civil rights movement and despite of winning civil war of 1960s and passing of three (13/14/15) amendments. It’s not at all possible to know what founding fathers actually wanted or intended. We also need to remember that all such fathers were rich landholding white people many of whom had big businesses to protect/promote. There was no “founding mothers” or representation of racial minorities, which itself is a good indication. Many (probably most) of the founding fathers themselves had slaves & promoted slavery in both their own daily lives and in the constitution. That's the spirit that we need to understand this lobbying culture that gave rise to "crony capitalism" and Trump is the best example of it- full of corruption &, possibly, crime gone totally undetected/unchecked till he became the President and became a political target. Trump aspired the position only to fulfill his interests where politics perfectly mix with big money, along with exploitation of religion, race, and utter ignorance of huge number of American voters due to deliberate & systematic weakening of our public education system (by infusing religion & political allegiance.)
1815cairn (boston)
@bonku Adams was not rich or big land owner. False history or no knowledge of history is also huge problem.
bonku (Madison)
Correction: .. We also need to remember that all such fathers were rich landholding white MEN, many of whom had big businesses/plantation to protect/promote. ... .... despite of winning civil war of 1860s and passing of three (13, 14, 15) amendments...
PA Voter (Chester County,PA)
@bonku - Thanks for the self-correction. Some leaders (i.e. Trump) are incapable of this sorely-needed ability.
RichQuips (Staten Island)
A good start on the corrupting power of the donations and lobbying is to put more stringent restrictions & control over the lobbyists - eliminating them is hardly feasible - and more control or even eliminate the PACS and their money & influence. Interesting to see in the DEM camp that Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren (some others ?) have declined PAC money and relying on individuals - and in the "10" in the upcoming 9/12 Debate - while Joe Biden and others gladly receive PAC money. "Follow the money".
plainleaf (baltimore)
@RichQuips those suggestions would violate first amendment
Meredith (New York)
@RichQuips....There are many articles about Joe Biden and his big donors. From Salon: Joe Biden ‘assured rich donors at a ritzy fundraiser that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he is elected. “….that he would not “demonize” the rich and promised that “no one’s standard of living will change…” Biden wants to attack our poverty rates, but “his plan would not involve big tax hikes on the rich." “I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money,” he said. “The truth of the matter is, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change.” Biden said that "the rich should not be blamed for income inequality, pleading to the donors, “I need you very badly.” Biden feels perfectly comfortable with this. It's an American norm. Only now are some rebelling from the system. But many candidates and office holders say they can't do "unilateral disarmament" by refusing big money, as they compete for office. What we have is a big money arms race, spiraling upward as our standards fo down. Trump is a symptom of this political infection.
Paul Lief (Stratford, CT)
It goes unchecked because the goal of packing the Federal and Supreme Courts with lifetime appointments of conservative judges is a critical issue that will affect the swamp long after all these folks are out of office. The fact is we Dems would put up with "a trump" if we could pack the Courts with moderate and liberal judges…
William Burgess Leavenworth (Searsmont, Maine)
@Paul Lief My roots in this country go back into the early 1600s, and neither I nor my Republican ancestors would ever have tolerated packing the Supreme Court to suit the interests of a minority.
Joanna Stelling (New Jersey)
Wonderful article. But to peel Trump's particular corruption, away from the rest of the article - we in the New York metropolitan area have been wondering for decades why Donald Trump has never been indicted. If there are people out there who think that he actually tried to drain the swamp, but got caught up in the entrenched corruption of the political status quo, think again. Just look at his history and that argument falls apart. Wealth buys protection, fame buys protection. The legal system in New York state never did anything to stop this man from plundering and destroying everything he touched. And don't get me started on his children.
Annie Gramson Hill (Mount Kisco, NY)
@Joanna Stelling, The dirty little secret about Trump is that in the corrupt cesspool that is the New York metropolitan region, Mr. Trump did not distinguish himself from his colleagues, other than his cynically calculated vulgarity and coarseness, designed to make him look like an Everyman. Mr. Trump’s corruption is standard operating procedure. And the NYT coverage of Mr. Trump dating back to the 80’s and 90’s is so sycophantic and obsequious that it’s really painfully embarrassing. But the 80’s and 90’s were when all the fraud between Fred Trump’s empire and his kids, including Donald, should have been brought to light. Unfortunately, the NYT is part of the very establishment that they’re supposed to report on. This is why we got coverage breathlessly informing us that Mr. Trump was actually very much like Robert Redford! Too bad Mr. Redford never threatened to sue, maybe some reporter could have taken another look at Mr. Trump’s similarity to Mr. Redford, and we could have avoided electing the Swamp King to drain the swamp. But alas, when the Establishment is so incestuous, we inevitably descend into an insane clown show.
@Joanna Stelling Yes, trump has been one of the most corrupt and vile people in NYC for decades. He's known as a sexual predator and philanderer -- he even admitted this on the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. He's known as a "loser businessman" -- i.e. a businessman who will lose your money (and then take tax write-offs for himself) He's the corrupt mob don, donnie, with ties to unscrupulous characters in the construction world. This explains why he is so single-minded on "building the wall" -- to give lucrative contracts to corrupt construction companies (owned by his "friends" - not that he has any). He's a bankrupt moocher -- a person who's always claimed he's a billionaire. Yet everyday we see he tries to convince officials to pay/stay at his properties. The truth is, his properties are always losing money. A true billionaire would not do or need that. If he were a true billionaire, the interest alone from his assets would keep him solvent. Last week he wanted our Federal gov't to host the 2020 G7 at HIS Miami Doral property -- earning him tens of millions in fees. Then this week he suggested Mike Pence stay at his Ireland golf-course -- stupidly flying Air Force 2 (VP's plane) back-and-forth ACROSS IRELAND. His golf course/resort will earn hundreds of thousands in fees (from 80-200 rooms, food, laundry, phone calls, etc., for: Secret Service security detail, staffers, flight crew, journalists, etc. who must travel with Pence). He's unstable chaos!
Ann (Boston)
@Joanna Stelling Why DID the NY legal system do nothing?
JSK (Crozet)
It is hard to avoid the point that much of the problem--and its solutions--lies with our citizens. Too many, of either party, will vote when it appears they get what they want--on judicial nominees, guns, abortions, health care. Some of these strongly held beliefs are understandable, but it makes quite a few of us function with blinders, willing to tolerate anything if we get some of those narrow things we favor (this is not to say those things are not important). One of the worst offenders now leads the senate--Mitch McConnell. He has not been the only one in our history to exhibit these traits, but he is certainly something of an iconic image of a person who will totally support party lines, no matter what the resulting chaos and damage. How many congressional Republicans, in this time, will support Trump no matter what he does, either because of a party line or fear of party excommunication if they deviate? I hope, if we can defeat Trump, the Democrats find better ways to be tolerant, to compromise, if that is even possible in our time. Will our SCOTUS find better ways to compromise on contentious social issues? Too many of our elite lawyers are funded by big money, and maybe have a vested interest in keeping us at each others throats.
George S (New York, NY)
@JSK "Will our SCOTUS find better ways to compromise on contentious social issues?" This is a big part of our problem - the SCOTUS (and lower courts as well) are NOT the place where "contentious social issues" should be decided. Their function is to rule on the law and how it meshes within the framework of the constitution. They are not there to make up for a lack of good governance, poorly written or non-existent laws, or to amend existing legislation to make it "more up to date". So both sides, not wanting to do the hard work to actually compromise and enact good legislation, cast everything as a social issue that they think only the courts of law can decide. The unelected and essentially unaccountable court, that is. The "court of public opinion" is not the same thing - and THAT'S the court that should, through elected officials, decide social issues.
Coco (Houston)
If any previous president (R or D) had committed even one of the crimes this person has been accused of mayhem would ensue. But this person has somehow made corruption normal and both the Republicans and Democrats are afraid of him, for different reasons, sure, but still rooted to the spot by fear. I'm not sure what the solution is but I believe that it will have to include finding a conscience and casting aside, at least to some extent, partisan politics.
Rich F. (Chicago)
@Coco .... Here’s what I’ll never understand. Republicans and, to some extent, Democrats are afraid of Trump. Why? If they disagree with him, he’ll call them names. Ouch. He’s not going to have them executed, so what’s the problem? They won’t get re-elected? Gosh, then they’ll just slink off and write a book, land at a think tank, go on speaking tours, or get hired by powerful friends. They’ll make way more money doing that without all the hassle of being in office. I know elected office is a powerful drug, but if you can’t stand up to a bully like Trump, there’s no hope anyway.
@Coco not true. there are big differences between the parties, and one of those is that the GOP simply does not police their own. in fact, the most significant thing trump has done, is lay bare the complete hypocrisy of the GOP and show us beyond doubt, that his way has been theirs all along. he just cast all pretense aside, and done so without fear repercussions because the GOP will not bring any to bear, period. They have instead pulled all the stops to shield trump and others in the party .
SC (Boston)
@Coco Yes he has made corruption normal. The constant corruption is way out in the open which gives people the sense that it is simply some kind of perverted game and that he is its entertainer-in-chief. Those of us who really care enough to understand the distinction Mr. Schmitt is making and understand how government is supposed to work are in the minority in this country. And before you suggest that isn't true, contemplate Donald Trump's understanding of the constitution. The fact that there are so few comments on this very important piece is evidence of how exhausting it is to be a citizen in Trump World. The only hope we have is that the electorate will be sick of the Trump show by election time and give us someone that will start the process of undoing the serious damage that Mr. Schmitt describes, whether they understand the distinction he is trying to make or not.
Areader (Huntsville)
"Why Has Trump’s Exceptional Corruption Gone Unchecked?" Very good question. I think it may be for the same reason that the Catholic Church was not held accountable for things they did and failed to do or any other large institution does that impacts the lives of so many people. It does seem that the human condition will overlook just about anything if the institution or person satisfies some desire or hope that they have. I live in Alabama were one issue voting is the norm.
@Areader In this case it's not the human condition or the Pope that is letting Trump go unchecked it's the current members of Congress both the Republicans and Democrats. The Democratic House can do something, they can start the impeachment process, but it appears that Speaker Pelosi is more concerned that anything she does in the way of impeachment may harm the Democrats chances in 2020 than enforcing the rule of law. Trump has severely damaged both parties and it's long past time that these elected officials get some courage and do the right thing. Get rid of Trump.
Pat Boice (Idaho Falls, ID)
@VMG - The House Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Gerrold Nadler, started an impeachment investigation in July. The committee is already issuing subpoenas for records. So all is not lost yet.
@Areader I don't see this as analogous to the widespread child abuse facilitated by the Catholic Church. There is an ingrained, antiquated notion that honorable Repubiclans still exist. Many still feel there are "fine people on both sides" despite there being no evidence to support that belief. What has the current regime of the Repubiclan party done for the American people?
Ken Sheppard (Richerenches, France)
According to Schmitt, Trump's not embedded in a system, while "legislators dependent on donors" are. Their behaviour isn't corrupt, it's just part of getting elected and holding office: you pay back on a campaign debt with access. Trump on the other hand is out there on his own -- indeed, paid for his primary run out of pocket -- and is therefore beholden to no one -- he's a free will corrompu -- he's worse. I dunno -- pardons -- proffered not granted -- only affect the indicted -- a deciding vote on legislation affects everybody. We don't like Trump but systemic, ingrained corruption seems worse. There's also an issue of visibility, isn't there? The high profile, non-systemic would also be easier to legislate against, non? Whether or not Trump is the new normal, the thousands of tiny corruptions on the legislative level are blanketed with normality. It's true that Trump has more scope than a Congress-member to do mischief, but at least he says he wants to drain the swamp.
Grindelwald (Boston Mass)
@Ken Sheppard, you wrote: "pardons -- proffered not granted -- only affect the indicted" I strongly disagree. Pardons, as Trump is trying to use them, put a class of people above the law. It's one of the final steps in establishing the kind of kleptocracy that Putin has brought to Russia. It's no wonder Trump admires that dictator so.
Sarah D. (Montague MA)
@Ken Sheppard Visiting dignitaries stay at Trump hotels. He wants the next G-7 to be held at one of his properties. His sons continue to run his private businesses, and I wouldn't be surprised if they're getting inside information. He wants to build more Trump properties overseas. None of this affects himself alone. It affects all of us, particularly if (small if) his policy decision making is weighted toward his personal benefit. The pardons he hands out -- and promises in advance, in order to get people who hesitate to follow an unlawful direction from him to do what he wants -- blow by the rule of law. His idea of the swamp and mine are different. He thinks that *anything* that prevents any business from doing anything it wants is a bad thing, so environmental protections go out the window. He sees no value in anything that doesn't make money for himself and his friends. To Trump, even public education is a swamp. He doesn't want to get rid of corruption -- being corrupt himself, he barely recognizes it. He wants the personal fealty due a dictator, not a president.
See also