Jack Ohman

Trump at the ‘-gate’? This administration is so bad, describing it requires a new language

Donald Trump is forcing us to rethink the metaphors of scandal. He’s showing us the “-gate” in Watergate. For example, Trump’s Mar-a-Lagogate can be compared to President Bill Clinton’s 1993 Travelgate.
Donald Trump is forcing us to rethink the metaphors of scandal. He’s showing us the “-gate” in Watergate. For example, Trump’s Mar-a-Lagogate can be compared to President Bill Clinton’s 1993 Travelgate. The Associated Press

Children of the Watergate Era long ago got used to political scandals being called “-gate.”

Let’s review, shall we?

1. Koreagate (1976, influence peddling in D.C., see also PaulManafortgate).

2. Billygate (1979, President Carter’s stupid brother’s influence peddling, see also NicoleKushnerMeyerEB5visagate).

3. Irangate (1987, President Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal, see also MichaelFlynngate).

4. Travelgate (1993, President Clinton’s White House travel office, see also Mar-a-Lagogate).

5. Monicagate (1998-infinity, Clinton sex scandal, see also AccessHollywoodTapegate).

6. Troopergate (Not the Clinton 1999 one, but the 2006 one when Gov. Sarah Palin fired of the head of Alaska’s Public Safety Commission for not firing her trooper brother-in-law, see also FiringBharraYatesComeygate).

7. Bridgegate (2013, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s peeps shut down access to the George Washington Bridge, see also ChristieStillAdvisesTrumpgate).

8. Deflategate (2015, Tom Brady’s football inflation scandal, see also Trump’sActualGolfScoregate).

There are so many others. I have long viewed the overuse of “-gate” as being “Suffixgate.” I keep waiting for Bill Gates to do something wrong so there can be a “Gatesgate.” But he seems to be innocent of all crimes except his felonious hairstyle.

Now that we are in the middle of a constitutional crisis or just another day in Trumplandia, Watergate comparisons to the firing of FBI Director James Comey gush forth like, um, water through a gate.

Nothing has approached the “-gate” suffix as a replacement, although a colleague has been lobbying heavily for a new suffix.

After all, how many gates can we walk through before it loses all meaning? That’s why My Colleague has suggested “-ghazi.” As in Benghazi.

Said Amusing Colleague referred to UC President Janet Napolitano as having been “Benghazied” by the California Legislature. Napolitanogate is a bit long, so I am totally open to Napolitanoghazi.

The trouble with Suffixgateghazi is that it’s straining a historical event to the maximum tensile point. No one goes around saying “-dome” anymore, in recognition of the Teapot Dome Scandal of the Harding administration. It has been lost to history, which is unfortunate because it was an excellent scandal with California connections.

And the Grant administration had the massive Credit-Mobilier Scandal, which shattered the careers of Gilded Age politicos. Frankly, I’d love to revive both: Suffixgateghazidomemobilier.

Ever since the Saturday Night Massacre, any presidential firing can be called a “massacre.” Throw in the more commonly used “affair” description of most European scandals (Google XYZ Affair or Profumo Affair), and you’d have more suffix fun.

In the words of two great scandalous presidents, it would be wrong, that’s for sure, and very, very sad!

Yes, Suffixgateghazidomemobiliermassacreaffair has spread like a cancer on the heart of all Watergate-parallel metaphors. But we do need to ask what this president knew and when he knew it.

I suspect that the current scandal could get so bad that we’ll be forced to leave all suffixes behind and switch to prefixes. “Trump-” would refer to individuals whose skins are ultra thin, are bumbling and in over their heads and yet are supremely self-assured and are in the pockets of foreign leaders.

I only hope it is a rare syndrome and that our nation can recover before Trump- spreads. And we can happily return to the simpler day when we only had to worry about third-rate break-ins and cover-ups and follow the money.

Jack Ohman: 916-321-1911, @JACKOHMAN

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