From its start, "Scandal" has had a strange and strained set of ethics -- its characters talk of being "gladiators in suits" and wearing the "white hat," but from a larger perspective, the series' take on doing the right thing is considerably muddier. Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is a lawyer who doesn't practice law -- she's a crisis management consultant who with her team smoothes over high-profile problems, like a war veteran who's accused of murdering his fiancée or a dictator whose family has gone missing and appear to have been kidnapped. These clients aren't always in the right, are in fact as often as not repellent, but the show has managed in its seven episodes to twist every case into one in which a sort of justice is done and Olivia Pope and Associates serendipitously don't end up helping a rapist go free, as was the potential case in "Hell Hath No Fury," the third episode.
Olivia is a crusader, striding through the halls of power determined to do right (she's often shown wearing white to hammer in her avenging angel qualities), but "Scandal" is a show that believes that she shouldn't be hampered by the regulations regular people have to follow. "You can't be a regular person," the chief of staff (and Olivia's former mentor) Cyrus (Jeff Perry) spits when Tony Goldwyn's President Fitzgerald Grant suggests he'll resign and go on to lead a normal life, presumably with Olivia. And in "Scandal," there's an obvious strata between those regular people and the things they have to answer to, and those in power.
"Scandal" is juicy, over-the-top fun (it's a show in which the protagonist's secret ex-boyfriend is the leader of the free world!), but it leaves a bitter aftertaste with its belief in how many moral compromises you have to make to work in politics -- and not in the practical terms of lobbyists, campaign finance and partisanship. Every good candidate in its world is there only thanks to the people around who were willing to get their hands dirty on his or her (often unknowing) behalf.
"Veep" is a show powered by territoriality and self-interest, but "Scandal" is actually fueled by a terrible idealism in which good things (like the DREAM Act Grant is so determined to pass) can only be accomplished in conjunction with iffy or downright awful actions. It's a series in which its heroine Olivia's grand ultimate act is to let go of the dream of being with the man with whom she's in love in order to allow him to be the president she thinks he can become, by lying to the public on multiple counts. It's fortunate and frightening that the characters in the show are so sure in their conviction that they're acting for the greater good, because there doesn't seem to be a lot keeping them in check.