It’s impossible to not look at history as the Trump Administration seems to be crumbling under the weight of scandal after scandal. The ties to Russia appear to be growing and becoming more irrefutable. The President and his aids are certainly acting much like people in the Nixon White House leading up to the resignation. The Comey firing is akin to Nixon’s Saturday night massacre. It certainly looks like an attempt to cover it up us underway, and the idea of White House tapes of conversations have been thrown around. But there are differences between the Nixon and Trump Administrations, and that’s what I hope to analyze here.
The list of Trump scandals is growing on a near daily basis, and I won’t try to cover them all here. So far, along with the Russia connections, he’s had appointees (including family members) who have lied on disclosure forms, people failing to register as foreign agents, family members essentially selling Green Cards to wealthy foreigners, and just today, after signing a $110B arms sale to Saudi Arabi, the Saudi’s contributed $100M to Ivanka Trump’s charity. I could go on, but that’s not the point here.
If we go back to the Nixon Administration, it should be noted that Nixon, through it all, maintained a level of respect for the institution and its traditions. Nixon acted, at least on the surface, Nixon was able to act with a Presidential air. Agree or disagree with his policies and politics, but he at least had policy ideas, and was informed and knowledgeable. He was the consummate statesman and player of statecraft. You can’t deny the historical significance of his visit to China.
Clinton, the other President who faced impeachment and removal, did much the same. He honored the privileges and traditions of the office. He was known for his intelligence and command of the policies. A voracious reader, he was often called a policy wonk. Like Nixon, Clinton came to White House with long experience in government and politics, and I was never embarrassed that he was our President.
Both of these men had their failings. I don’t make excuses for them, but their failings never bordered on creating a war, global conflagration, nor turning our government over to a sworn foreign enemy. I fear those possibilities daily under the Trump Administration. Both of their crimes were crimes of passion or politics, and not crimes of greed and malice towards others. Besides Watergate and Lewinsky affair, both comported themselves appropriately for the office.
Trump, however, has shown a complete disregard for any of the promises he made on the campaign trail…none of them have been honored. He’s shown himself to be boorish and incompetent as the majority of Americans expected him to be. His scandals revolve around acts that might be considered treason and are certainly self-enriching. He’s had turned the White House into a banana republic of palace guards (private security agents he wanted to keep), and family appointments. He’s shown himself to be totally uninterested in the day-to-day requirements of the office he holds, and has shown utter disrespect for traditions and honor of the office.
Trump has shown himself to be intellectually lazy in a job that requires intelligence and rigorous study of the issues. He’s claimed he graduated from business school with honors, but like most of his statements about his own greatness, that turns out to be false. I suspect he’s surrounded himself with family members to try to prevent the rest of the world from finding how ill-informed and unprepared he is.
Even before his election, it was clear he was morally challenged and unethical in his business dealings. This has continued as he and his family members take advantage of his position. He’s awarded unqualified benefactors and sycophants high office. He has called out, for his own gain, the worst of America, and given voice to the white supremacist movement, who feel more empowered than they have since the 1950s.
In an article by Robert Reich, A Roadmap to the End of Trump’s Presidency, on MSN.com, Reich lays the situation like this:
It’s worth recalling that the illegality underlying Nixon’s impeachment was a burglary at the Watergate complex, while the illegality underlying Clinton’s was lying to a grand jury about sex with an intern in the White House. Trump’s obstruction is potentially far more serious. It involves an investigation into whether Trump or his aides colluded with Russia in rigging a presidential election — which would be the most direct assault on American democracy in history.
Now, with the appointment of a special investigator, I think we’ve moved a step closer to an inevitable outcome. Even on the local cable news channel the other day, they reported on the number of members of Congress who’d started talking about impeachment, and now have a running scorecard/tally of how many have broached the subject. It’s hard to imagine Trump making it to the end of even this first term. I’m not sure we’d fare better under a Pence Administration, but he at least some government experience and doesn’t seem a complete idiot.
I had a brief exchange on Facebook with a friend who took the position that it might be better for Trump to stay in office, at least through the mid-terms, when we might flip one house of Congress. While I understand the sentiment, and do completely disagree, I believe the behavior and language of this Administration needs to be put down in the shortest possible time. I believe we have to give his Alt-Right rhetoric and the actions of his followers no quarter, and need to show them this is not who America is striving to be, that this is not the greater America. We cannot allow this to become normalized.