Pearls & Vodka

“It’s handled”…from Olivia Pope to Paul Manafort…

It’s handled.

From the first time we heard Olivia Pope speak her infamous two words, we knew that there would be much more where that came from.

The American political thriller starring Kerry Washington, created by Shonda Rhimes has been on the air for six seasons already, and just began their 7th and final season. Washington’s character Olivia Pope is loosely based on former George H.W. Bush administration press aide Judy Smith, who also serves as the show’s co-executive producer. Olivia Pope’s crisis management firm, Olivia Pope & Associates, plays the central role in the television show. With viewership in the 12 million + range, it’s obvious that the storylines resonate enough to captivate a large following.

The plots have largely focused around Olivia Pope’s extramarital affair with President Fitzgerald Grant. There are assassination attempts; murders staged as suicides, ultimatums, leaks, family issues, smear campaigns, arrests, loss, election fraud and so much more. Sound familiar? It’s almost eerie sometimes.

Olivia Pope was known in the first few seasons for wearing her iconic white hat. There was a lot of symbolism in that hat. By definition, white hat means someone who is admirable and honorable; a mark or symbol of goodness. [1] An interesting twist to the term white hat is that it also means a computer hacker. While those are typically frowned upon, the white hats referencing computer hackers means those who are testing computer systems for possible vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed. [1] While their methods are not ethical, hacking, their missions are admirable with “fixing things.”

The same can be said for Olivia Pope and her “gladiators.” Their methodologies are not always ethical, but their end goal is to “fix things.” The problems arise when you examine who they are fixing things for and why.

One might wonder if Scandal is ending simply because of Shondaland’s issues with ABC and making her jump to Netflix, or if the theatre has become too much like real life and not just an exaggeration of current events.

Yesterday morning, Special Counsel Robert Mueller unsealed indictments against Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, his associate Rick Gates and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

I don’t believe anyone following the news was too surprised that Manafort was indicted, his home was raided by the FBI months ago. If there was one bit of alarming news in the announcement yesterday, it was that Papadopoulos had already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about attempts to broker meetings between Russian officials and the campaign. It appears he is cooperating with investigators, which if you have watched Scandal long enough, you know that means he has some sort of plea deal in the works. Yesterday’s unsealing was a major step forward in an investigation that has been going on since May. And the signs are ominously glaring now for others who may be in Mueller’s sights.

How far with this scandal stretch? Who all will go down? What does this all mean?

These questions are swirling far beyond the beltway of Washington D.C.

I won’t begin to speculate here what all will come of this investigation. There’s just really no telling. I do, wholeheartedly, feel like this investigation is paramount to our democracy. I think there is fault and guilt on both sides of the Presidential ticket from 2016, unfortunately.

I will say, however, Americans will be served well to remember that the charges levied yesterday against Manafort and Gates do not directly relate to the Trump campaign, although the connotations are there, all the facts have not been revealed. And while democracy is a pillar of our country, so is due process. Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. That applies to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, both.

Americans are not big on reading all the details of a news story, and we sure don’t look at the fine print very often. But it’s a valuable nugget of information to highlight that the word “Trump” never appears in the indictments unsealed yesterday. That’s not to say that future paperwork won’t mention him. But let’s just level-set the facts at this point.

Legal-wonks will quickly tell you that the indictments yesterday reek of “bigger fish to fry” mentalities. It’s common practice in major cases to “put the squeeze” on the little guy with the big knowledge to get what they are really after. Papadopoulos is clearly earning more lenient judgment with whatever he is coughing up to investigators. Maybe it’s what brought down Manafort. Maybe it’s broader stretching than that, only time will tell.

Paul Manafort is not behind the first political scandal in the history of this great country.

As long as this nation has existed, political scandals have existed.

In 1797, Senator William Blount was expelled from the Senate for trying to aid the British in a takeover of West Florida. General James Wilkinson, then Governor of the upper Louisiana Purchase conspired with Spain to get Kentucky to secede from the Union in order to allow shipping on the Mississippi to reach New Orleans from 1787-1811. Aaron Burr was arrested for treason in 1807, after dueling with Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Bill Clinton was not the first elected official to deal with a sexual scandal while in office. Congressman Robert Potter resigned from Congress in 1831 after castrating two men he believed were having an affair with his wife. You think Congress gets rowdy today? In 1856, US Representative Preston Brooks beat Senator Charles Sumner, leaving him bleeding and unconscious on the floor of the House of Representatives. President Andrew Johnson was impeached for violating the Tenure of Office Act but was acquitted by one vote in 1868. Briberies, embezzlement, falsifying testimonies…these things go back centuries and are not limited to one party, or the other. [2]

The longevity of political scandals does not excuse away their wrongness or excuse our disdain for their actions. It’s just a good practice to know your history. It’s good to be reminded of past mistakes, as to not recreate them.

Illegal email servers, conspiring with foreign officials, none of that is right, or acceptable.

So how did we get here? And how do we “right our ship” as a country?

There’s probably a million reasons to list that led us down this path. The perversion of power has been a longstanding issue in our nation, and abroad.

Markus Hinterleitner and Fritz Sager began a conversation around political maneuvering that occurs before a scandal breaks in 2016. They pointed out that political scandals usually proceed in three stages: 1) The discovery of a contentious issue is followed by a heated debate about reasons and responsibilities, 2) A culprit is found and (sometimes) punished 3) Public attention quickly moves on to the next attention-grabbing issue. [3]

The general public is usually left wondering why politicians stumble over irrelevant issues and on the flipside, how they get away with considerable wrongdoings.

Hinterleitner and Sager focus on the “blame game” in political scandals. With Papadopoulos potentially wearing a wire and working with investigators to bring down other players in the recent 2016 scandal, the blame game will be increasingly present, yet again, in our media. This conceptualizing of the blame game shows well what we will likely see play out in the days to come.

The reality for Believers is that where sin abounds, a scandal will exist. The same is true for non-believers, humans are flawed. Whether you believe those flaws are sin-based, as I do as a Christian, or if you believe those flaws are just an innate part of our design; they still exist. Political scandals have been woven into the tapestry of history for centuries. The Robin Hood figures in politics like John Edwards seem to continual buckle under the power they are given.

When a large portion of voters say they placed their vote for President of the United States of America based on the ideology of “the lesser of two evils” what more do you expect from the highest office in the land, but scandals?

Perhaps that’s a little of how we got here; it’s likely not even the tip of the iceberg.

But where do we go from here?

It’s hard to believe in politicians when it’s so ingrained in our minds that they are all up to no good, somehow, somewhere.

Molly Osberg wrote an article in 2014 and said, “Voters, it seems, are willing to forgive-over and over again-dishonest yet beloved politicians, if they think the job is still getting done.” [4] And that’s the crux of the matter. Men like Bill Clinton will go down as one of the greatest Presidents in modern US history because he led the longest economic expansion in American history, more than 22 million new jobs were created in less than eight years, homeownership was higher that it had ever been, lowest unemployment rate in 30 years and the lowest crime rate in 26 years. [5] Yet the name Monica Lewinsky will always be a part of our history now thanks to him as well.

And we do forgive and forget continually. If we benefit from the politics of an official, we sweep their transgressions under the carpet. We say he didn’t lie; he just chose his words carefully. And the list goes on and on.

The truth is that we live in a society where integrity and government, rarely coexist. It’s like we live in this paradoxical world where though our corruptions are more widespread, our awareness (thanks to social media and 24/7 news channels) is higher than ever but our lack of incentive to punish is stronger than our knowledge.

So maybe that’s how we start to right our ship. Maybe we reinstitute consequences no matter what level is at fault. Maybe we stop excusing the wrongdoings of our leaders because we reap the benefits of their actual work. We hold our children to high standards of doing well in school, excelling at their extra curriculars, obeying the laws, having good manners, doing the chores we lay out for them, not having an attitude with us…the list goes on and on. But yet we do not hold those in our own political parties to any set of standards because we have been eaten alive by a “must win” “must control” culture.

The truth is we don’t view “famous” people, whether political or not, with rose-tinted glasses, we’ve just simply grown to expect them to do terrible stuff. We have bread a culture of hypocrisy and then want to throw the book at those we don’t agree with. Kobe Bryant is a household name, a future NBA hall of famer. Also arrested for rape, though exonerated, his defense was that “other women he’d slept with could testify about his rough sexual style.” You buy your sons Laker’s jerseys every Christmas with Kobe’s name and number on the back, but yet you fill your Twitter up with tweets against Trump for his p****-grabbing comments. It just seems a little hypocritical, and maybe changing that narrative and holding a hard line against something (no matter the culprit) could right this ship. Harvey Weinstein’s empire is going down in flames, rightfully so, but what about Woody Allen? He did molest his adopted daughter, lest you forget Hollywood.

If Trump had servers in a bathroom in Colorado, I assure you the liberal media and 99% of Twitter would be calling for his impeachment over it. And if Hillary Clinton had talked about d***-grabbing, Conservatives would all be in an uproar.

The feminist brigade of Hollywood marches to the beat of their own drum; preaching empowering women, stonewalling men who belittle or demean them, and bashing Trump because of his track record with locker room talk…but it’s ok for them to go on Twitter and call females in the Trump administration names and degrade them because of their looks.

This is how we got here. And this is where we can start to fix it.

We must have clear lines of right and wrong. Black is black; white is white. And no that is not a racial statement for all you PC police on the internet. There can be no gray if we want to eradicate hypocrisy.

We teach our kids that right is right, and it’s always right. We teach them what is wrong and that no matter who they are with, or where they are, some things are always just plain wrong. We teach our kids bullying is wrong, God-forbid they read some of our social media accounts because we are becoming a nation of cyber bullies before our children’s eyes.

Why don’t we live that way as adults? Why don’t we hold ALL adults to that same standard?

It needs to get a little uncomfortable in our country where we introduce accountability back into our society. Then maybe we won’t just have to “live with the fact” that all politicians are crooked. We don’t raise our children to be crooked, let’s stop promoting and electing those who are.

[ 1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/white%20hat

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_federal_political_scandals_in_the_United_States

[3] http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/how-politicians-try-to-escape-blame-under-the-eye-of-the-public-and-behind-closed-doors/

[4] https://psmag.com/news/why-do-we-elect-corrupt-politicians-voting-midterms-politics-election-buddy-cianci-94973

[5] https://clintonwhitehouse5.archives.gov/WH/Accomplishments/eightyears-01.html

Photo Credit: Scandal Official Facebook Page