Lincoln had to oversee a civil war. Multiple presidents were assassinated. Politicians are often imprisoned around the world.
Poor Donald Trump. In the wake of reportedly blurting out highly classified intelligence to Russia and allegedly pressuring former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn before firing Comey, the president told Coast Guard graduates in a speech on Wednesday that “no politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.”
Besides the absurdity of bemoaning criticism after possibly compromising an ally’s sources and intel and potentially facing allegations of obstruction of justice, there’s another problem with Trump’s latest line: It’s not remotely accurate.
Politicians have been treated very badly and unfairly all throughout US and world history. Some politicians have even been killed for their views or actions, or solely because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sex.
Here are just a few examples, which are by no means comprehensive:
- In the US, Presidents Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy were assassinated. There were also assassination attempts on many other politicians, including President Ronald Reagan.
- Lincoln also had to oversee a civil war.
- President Barack Obama faced conspiracy theories for years, including from Trump, that suggested he was not born in the US when he, in fact, was.
- President Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate scandal. While there’s no doubt that he should have resigned, surely having to resign because of scandals is worse than hearing mean words on television due to your scandals.
- In South Africa, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and tortured for decades due to his opposition to apartheid.
- In Venezuela, Leopoldo López, one of the key leaders in the opposition to the current regime of Nicolás Maduro, is currently being held as a political prisoner.
- In North Korea, the regime of Kim Jong Un keeps multiple labor camps that house political prisoners. A United Nations report called the camps a human rights abuse “without any parallel in the contemporary world.”
- In Russia, China, Cuba, and other authoritarian regimes, there are many other political prisoners. Sometimes politicians aren’t even locked up in authoritarian regimes; they’re simply killed.
This list doesn’t even get into the many other horrors of the world, from slavery to the Holocaust, that afflicted some politicians among the broader populations that were all terrorized as well, often for no reason other than their race, ethnicity, religion, or sex.
You get the point. Trump may feel like he’s treated unfairly by the media and public, but his treatment is benign compared with what other politicians have faced throughout world history.