As the phony, scandal-ridden administration of Donald Trump continues to unravel, historians and political pundits find more and more parallels between the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and previous national disgrace Richard Nixon.
Trump’s lies-driven presidency is disintegrating in front of a nation that wishes the national nightmare in Washington ends without further damage.
Michael Gerson of The Washington Post calls it “fractured politics.” It is much more that. America itself is broken and we have a shortage of the honorable men and women who arose in the early 1970s to bring down Nixon and his cabal.
The Trump era offers many such examples of life imitating melodrama. Recently, the New York Times reported that this past spring President Trump pressured then-White House counsel Donald McGahn to push the Justice Department to start a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton and James B. Comey. (McGahn, to his credit, warned that such an action could lead to impeachment.) Other reports indicate that Trump repeatedly asked Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Matthew G. Whitaker, who was then chief of staff to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, how the Justice Department was progressing in its investigation of Clinton.
The examples pile up. Remember that Trump — knowing that his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had lied to the FBI — allegedly asked the then-director of the FBI, Comey, not to prosecute Flynn and to say publicly that Trump himself wasn’t under investigation. When Comey resisted, Trump fired him. Then the president asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, then the director of the National Security Agency, to publicly affirm that there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. (They, to their credit, did not comply.)
All this is Nixonian by any measure. Both Trump and Nixon share the same ideology of power — a belief that, because their enemies are ruthless, they must be more ruthless still. Both men share an obsession with hidden enemies that actually produces more hidden enemies. And both men share a view of the executive branch involving the total subservience of every public official who reports to the president.
Historian Mark Updegrove, in an interview with Hill.TV, says comparing Trump to Nixon is not fair to Nixon.
“Nixon is a complicated character,” suggests Updegrove, CEO of the LBJ Foundation in Austin, Texas. “But you have to remember Nixon was incredibly experienced before he came into office.”
He knew the way the government worked and he had an incredible intellectual curiosity. Nixon was a congressman, he was a senator, he was vice president for Eisenhower for eight years, he was the Republican nominee in 1960, failed, then lost to John F. Kennedy before becoming president himself in 1968.
Undegrove argues that Nixon’s record of public service — even a record that is questionable — puts even the only president to resign in pubic disgrace above the pitiful actions of a double-talking real estate shyster and former “reality show” host.
Trump’s incompetence, lack of knowledge and brazen dishonesty, painfully illustrates what happens when a con man gets elected to the highest office in our land by a minority of voters.
Those who have watched, assisted and covered presidents in this nation says Trump is melting down at an increasingly and shameful display of mental madness.
Let’s hope it escalates and continues without destroying our way of life.
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