Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, described the rough transcript of President Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine, in which Trump mentioned how much aid the United States hoped to give Ukraine and also how much he wished Ukraine would look into Joe Biden, as a “nothing (non-quid-pro-quo) burger.” For those who lack his immediate understanding of what is and what is not quid pro quo, here is a handy guide.
What is quid pro quo?
Quid pro quo is a term that comes from the Latin and means “thing for WHAT??” It is when someone asks someone else to do something for something in a bad way. Quid pro quo is bad, if it happens, but as you will see from the following examples, it rarely does.
Here are some examples that are commonly mistaken for quid pro quo.
1. Person A to Person B
A: That is a nice baby you have there.
A: Look at my beautiful new chainsaw!
A: Please give me $20.
Is this quid pro quo?
No. In this example, Person A is trying to engage Person B by making a series of friendly statements. In the first statement, A compliments B’s baby, a friendly, neighborly thing to do. In the second, A shows off A’s new lawn-care purchase. A takes pride in his lawn. In the third statement, A makes an unrelated request. There is no quid pro quo here.
2. Lord A to Lord B
A: Wow, what a lovely castle!
A: Look at my new catapult!
A: I hope you will apologize for your remarks about my mother.
A: It would be a shame if anything happened to your castle.
In this situation, Lord A immediately demonstrates he is a good friend. A wants B to know that A admires B’s new castle. A also has purchased a catapult, which is the sort of life milestone that anyone would naturally want to share with a neighbor immediately. Also, it seems B maybe owes A an apology! There is never a perfect time to raise such a delicate matter, but this is as good a time as any, although it briefly distracts from the unrelated castle discussion. Finally, A returns to the original subject of B’s nice castle, reinforcing his original compliment with a wish that the castle will continue to be lovely for a long time. No threat, no quid pro quo!
3. Neighbor B to Neighbor A
B: You need to tell me where Jeffrey is.
B: I have a poisonous gas.
B: I would hate for you to have to deal with the aftereffects of having inhaled a poisonous gas.
Once again, two neighbors are having a normal conversation without threats or quids or even a hint of quos. It looks as though Neighbor A ought to provide Neighbor B some information about Jeffrey’s whereabouts. Neighbor B also has an important safety disclosure to make about a poisonous gas he has recently acquired. Although it is difficult to segue to this disclosure, B does the best he can. You can tell that B is a good neighbor because he would hate for A to have to deal with the effects of having inhaled a poisonous gas, the opposite of what a bad neighbor or enemy would wish. Finally, B expresses a wish for Neighbor A’s continued well-being, which is all we can hope for from our neighbors. This is a normal conversation.
4. Neighbor D to Neighbor E
D: I would like to offer you some quid.
D: Please do quo for me.
This sounds a lot like quid pro quo — it has the words in it and everything! — but these actually are just two unrelated statements. Aren’t you glad you have this guide? It could be pretty tricky otherwise!
5. Individual 1 to the president of Ukraine
1: We have done a lot of nice things for you in the past.
1: We hope to do a lot of nice things for you in the future.
1: Please be sure to look into Joe Biden.
Individual 1, once again, is not engaging in even a hint of quid pro quo! He is expressing two positive wishes for his friend’s well-being, past and future, and then making an unrelated request.
Glad we were able to clear this up!
Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter @petridishes.