Presidential Disaster Typically Courted In Times Of High Confidence

Former FBI Director James Comey leaves a closed session with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Source: Drew Angerer

Ordinary people often get into legal trouble in response to desperate circumstances. Politicians, however, seem to make the worst trouble for themselves when they are riding high and carrying all before them.

Thus the most famous political scandals of U.S. history have happened not when presidents or members of Congress had their backs to the wall but when their sails were filled with a favorable wind.

In earlier generations we have seen presidents from Warren Harding in the 1920s to Richard Nixon in the 1970s, Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and Bill Clinton in the 1990s beset by scandal, all at the apex of their political clout and acclaim.

What these cases have in common is the sense that these presidents (and the people around them) perceived in their success a special dispensation. They regarded themselves as above it all, exempt from the rules

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