As we get closer and closer to November’s election, a ghost of presidential past is beginning to haunt the political discourse. Barack Obama is back. Beginning last month on Twitter, he started attacking president Trump directly. Now audio of a phone conversation has been “leaked” in which Obama has more to say about what he views as Trump’s failures. In the remarks, one thing stood out: his remarkable take on the exoneration of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
Here’s what the 44th president had to say on the matter:
The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn, and the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.
Let’s focus in on this idea that nobody has ever gotten off scot-free after being charged with perjury. The year was 1999, “Armageddon” was the highest grossing film in America, the New York Yankees were World Series champions, and President William Jefferson Clinton was impeached for committing — wait for it — perjury.
Let’s back up for second because, in fact, Flynn was never actually accused of perjury. He was not under oath when he was questioned by the FBI and, according to the Justice Department, told no material lies. Clinton, on the other hand, blatantly lied under oath to a grand jury about the exact allegation of sexual misconduct he was facing.
Not only did Clinton face no criminal charges for his blatant act of perjury, he wasn’t even convicted by the Senate. One might even say he “got off scot-free.” Of course, it’s fairly unlikely that Obama actually forgot that Clinton lied under oath; rather he is applying the requisite double standard for actions committed by Republicans and Democrats.
We are all familiar with this by now. If a claim of sexual assault is made against Brett Kavanaugh, he is unfit for the Supreme Court. If a claim of sexual assault is made against Joe Biden, then #BelieveBiden. Likewise, Clinton didn’t really commit perjury, he just told a little white lie about a consensual sex act with an intern, but Flynn should be rotting in jail.
Barack Obama is making it crystal clear that he does not intend to abide by the tradition of former presidents staying above the political fray. That’s fine, but let’s hope the next time he decides to pontificate, he does so in a way that is accurate and that makes the slightest bit of sense.