British political journalist Mehdi Hasan raised an interesting point in a recent interview with former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. In discussing Donald Trump’s second impeachment Trial, Hasan suggested that over time, the media, numb to Trump’s low standards, started grading him on a curve, and wondered if we are holding the whole Republican party to the same low standards.
Scaramucci agreed, but haven’t we all lowered our standards over time? As a baby-boomer, I’m well acquainted with being “graded on a curve.” I once received a “B-” on a Science test with 68% because more than half the class studied even less than I did.
Curve grading extends beyond impeachment trials. The late Marion Barry Jr. served three terms as Mayor of Washington D.C., entered jail on a drug charge, then won a fourth term as mayor. Virginia legislator Joseph Morrisey won his bid for re-election to the state House of Delegates in 2014 despite serving jail time for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He ran his campaign from jail. Despite the Monica Lewinsky scandal, President Bill Clinton left office with a 66% approval rating. The Trump administration begat several books on sinking standards.
Academics, ethics, sports, and interpersonal relations are all subject to curve grading. It’s easy to mock the Marion Barry’s of the world, but someone, fully aware of their indiscretions, re-elected them anyway.
Long ago, there was another standard: “Fool me once, shame on you …”
Jim Newton, Itasca