Donald Trump’s failing grade on ethics

Posted at 5:31 PM, Sep 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-19 21:10:02-04

President Donald Trump loves to tout the fact that there has never been another president like him. When it comes to his ratings on ethics, he’s right.

Gallup recently asked people to rate the ethical standards of Trump as compared to the seven men who held the office prior to him — so, all the way back to Richard Nixon. The results were stark: Trump was rated as less ethical than each of his predecessors, often by overwhelming amounts.

Of the seven, Trump was judged by more than 50% of respondents to have lower ethical standards than six. The one outlier was, of course, Nixon, who was chased from office after the Watergate scandal was revealed. In spite of that, 43% said that Nixon had higher ethical standards than Trump, while 37% said Trump’s ethics were higher than Tricky Dick’s. So the current President is seen by the public as less ethical than the guy who resigned the presidency just ahead of a near-certain impeachment.

Here’s the full chart, via Gallup.

And ethical standards don’t appear to be a purely partisan judgment. Nearly seven in 10 people said Ronald Reagan had higher ethical standards than Trump while almost six in 10 said the same of Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter.

The question — and this is always the question with Trump — is whether any of this means anything. While there’s no “ethics” question on the 2016 exit poll, there is one on whether a candidate is honest and trustworthy. Just one in three voters said Trump was. And yet, he is President.

Ethics and trustworthiness are not the exact same thing. And what people said when they voted for candidate Trump versus how they feel about President Trump may well be two very different things.

The Point: Under the traditional rules of politics, a president who is regarded as unethical (particularly one who made a campaign promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption) would pay a price for it. Or is this yet another example of how political gravity impacts — or doesn’t impact — Trump?