As readers know, Ronald Reagan is such a, uh, touchstone that his influence persists even in our contemporaneous scandals. What most dispirited me about Iran-Contra was the determination of the Tower Commission not to even whisper “impeachment,” despite abundant evidence from newly hired chief of staff Howard Baker and the remains of outgoing chief of staff Don Regan’s henchmen that Reagan was such a basket case that he wasn’t even reading memoranda.
Well, Scott Lemieux worries about the parallels between Iran-Contra and the Mueller investigation:
The discovery that officials within the administration had facilitated the sale of arms to Iran partly in order to illegally fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua and partly to secure the freedom of some hostages was a substantial embarrassment, and lower-level officials were implicated in illegal activity. But it was never proven that Reagan himself was involved, and he was never seriously threatened with impeachment. With partisan polarization having intensified, this is probably the more likely scenario even if Trump’s actions turn out to be more like Nixon’s than Reagan’s.
Iran-Contra didn’t lead to Reagan’s removal, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t matter. Reagan’s approval rating dropped by roughly 20 points after the illegal arms deal was revealed. This caused the Reagan administration to pivot in a more moderate direction. Most notably, the collapse of Reagan’s popularity helped contribute to the defeat of Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, which in turn almost certainly saved Roe v. Wade from being overruled.
Let me point out that these events occurred in the seventh year of Reagan’s presidency; we haven’t even gotten to six months into Trump’s. Of course the GOP may rally; it has a talent for rallying while Dems struggle to coalesce behind a theoretical liberal base. But with the likes of Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp reluctant to confirm former senator Droopy Dawg as a potential FBI chief even putative Dems have reached a point at which challenges at home have turned against the president. Let’s see.