Thinking about scandal in our government and a president held guilty of civil contempt, you can get depressed. By the sixth year of the Reagan administration, 110 senior officials stood accused of illegal or unethical behavior. Four of them, starting with Oliver North, for their involvement in the Iran-contra affair. Dozens of them, like Michael Deaver, for prohibited lobbying and selling favors. I remember when independent counsel Whitney North Seymour stood on the courthouse steps and said there was so much corruption that all a prosecutor could do was "put a finger in the dike."
Fast forward to the Clinton administration. He and five of his Cabinet members have been the subjects of independent counsel investigations, and other senior officials have been investigated by the Justice Department.
So, not wanting to believe corruption is as American as apple pie, I've recently taken to looking for scandals abroad and finding some. Not just in the third world, with its dictators and warlords, but in the part of the world we call civilized.
In Sweden, Finance Minister Eric Alsbrink got into trouble when he got himself moved up on the 10-year waiting list for a new apartment. Don't laugh. The Swedes take that very seriously.
In Israel, Aryeh Deri, a Moroccan-born rabbi who heads the Shas party in parliament, was convicted of accepting $155,000 in bribes in return for funneling public money to a yeshiva.
In France, the head of the constitutional court, Roland Dumas, has taken a leave of absence to answer an allegation that, as foreign minister 10 years ago, he took $10 million in bribes from a state-owned oil company.
All 20 members of the European Commission, the executive arm of the Common Market, resigned after disclosure of cronyism. One example: A dentist friend of one commissioner was named scientific adviser to the European Community, a position for which he was totally unqualified.
The International Olympic Committee I assume you know all about. But in Poland, Andzej Anusz, a member of parliament and secretary of Solidarity's caucus, faces trial, accused of publishing a plagiarized book while a student. His defense: He had an agreement with another student that they could plagiarize each other. Reciprocal plagiarism - a new twist.
But, you'll say, they may have scandals in that part of the world, but not our kind of sex scandals. Russian President Boris Yeltsin faces possible impeachment by the Duma, but for official and political acts. But consider the case of chief prosecutor Yuri Skuratov. He refused to resign after Moscow television played videotape of him naked in bed with two naked women. Instead, charging a conspiracy against him, he opened an investigation of corruption in Mr. Yeltsin's inner circle and sent investigators to seize documents in the Kremlin. Yeltsin shot back, suspending Skuratov, charging him with abuse of power, and having his office sealed and his Kremlin phone line cut. Skuratov wrote Yeltsin that, office or no office, his investigation goes on.
Does all this make you feel better about scandal in our government?
*Daniel Schorr is senior news analyst for National Public Radio.