Don’t Know Much About History

She must be channeling that old Sam Cooke song Wonderful World which begins with this first line:

“Don’t know much about history”

This seems to be a recurring theme for Ms. Rachel Maddow.

Here she is with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell saying that the saga of General Michael Flynn’s brief tour as President Trump’s national security adviser and his various alleged dealings with Turkey
“would be bigger than almost any other presidential scandal in history on its own terms if this story bears out.”

Say what?

Say what you will about the misadventures of General Flynn. But to suggest they “would be bigger than almost any other presidential scandal in history” says one seriously glaring problem with Maddow. namely and obviously: This is someone who is clueless about American history.

Bad enough that she seems to put the General’s dealings into the category of some sort of major scandal. Worse that she seems unfamiliar with the major scandals that have rocked Washington since the country’s politics got going in earnest after 1789. Here’s a brief list:

  • In 1802, one James Callender, angry at being refused a postmaster’s job in the Jefferson administration took to print to reveal that President Thomas Jefferson had several children by a slave named Sally. That would be Sally Hemmings, of course. This jewel of presidential scandal still rockets around the historical universe well into the late 20th century. And it didn’t hold a candle to his own vice president – Aaron Burr – shooting former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton to death in a duel before being arrested for trying to create a new country from land obtained from Spain and in the Louisiana Purchase. The latter known as treason.
  • The “corrupt bargain” scandal that resulted from the 1824 election of John Quincy Adams. Adams – like future presidents with names like Hayes, Bush and Trump – lost the popular vote to Andrew Jackson, the latter failing top win the electoral vote. The election went in to the US House – and in a so-called “corrupt bargain” Henry Clay, another losing candidate who was also Speaker of the House – threw his votes to Adams and in return became Secretary of State.
  • From 1829 through 1831 President Andrew Jackson’s White House (Jackson defeated Adams in 1828) was rocked by the “Eaton Affair” which revolved around the severe disapproval of the wives of his Cabinet members over the marriage of Secretary of War John Eaton to one Peggy O’Neill Timberlake. The latter scandalized proper Washington society by being, in the words of one historian, she speaking her mind and not knowing her “place” amongst her social betters. All of Jackson’s Cabinet save one departed – a seriously disruptive scandal that would be unimaginable in today’s Washington.

These were merely running starts in Washington scandal and the nation had barely gotten off the ground. From there presidential scandals went on to include Lincoln’s problems with wife Mary padding White House expenses with government funds buying her – among other things – a $2,000 dress, furs, some three hundred (!) pairs of kid gloves a silver plate and, of course, a “ghost” personal servant who, in the way of ghosts, didn’t exist but gave the First Lady a chance to keep the $100 salary from government bucks. Ulysses S, Grant, the hero of the Civil War, got tangled in the Whiskey Ring Scandal, with his GOP officials skimming money from a federal whiskey tax.

Suffice to say by the time the nation got to the Harding Administration and its Teapot Dome scandal (administration officials taking bribes for the lease of oil reserves in Tea Pot Dome, Wyoming not to mention Nixon’s Watergate to Reagan’s Iran-Contra to Clinton’s Sexgate troubles the nation was almost inured to one presidential scandal after another.

Now comes allegations against General Michael Flynn – who was in and out of the Trump administration in the blink of an eye after being dismissed for not telling the truth to Vice President Pence about contacts with Russian officials between the time Trump was elected and sworn in.

But Rachel? With two centuries of serious scandal involving one president after another all of a sudden she is out there proclaiming Flynn’s problems “bigger than almost any other presidential scandal in history.”

One doesn’t know whether to laugh at such nonsense – or cry at the historical ignorance.