With every day that goes by, the comparisons between the current Trump-Russia scandal engulfing the Trump White House and the Watergate scandal of Richard Nixon become easier and more natural. I’ve done a couple of previous diaries on the Daily Kos myself on that subject. But there’s one I haven’t seen gone into yet, and to my mind it is the most important one.
Most comparison stories tend to key on the obvious, the most frequent one being the cover up. By now we have all heard “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up” so often that we can all recite it in our sleep. Others key on the apparent and deep corruption present in both organizations. And some have indulged in psychological comparisons between the two men themselves.
But to my mind, the most important omparison, not only for historical purposes, but for the current and future health of our nation is this. A sense of unbridled power, and arrogance. Both men, at least in their own minds crowned themselves as all powerful, modern day reincarnations of Caligula. Both men completely misunderstood the principles of Executive Privilege. In regards to his attempts to cover his communications from the Special Prosecutor during Watergate, Nixon penned;
Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the manner in which the President personally exercises his assigned executive powers is not subject to questioning by another branch of Government.
There isn’t enough space on this site to repeat every Trump utterance on his imperial privileges as ruler of the known universe, but how about just a couple? “The President cannot have a conflict of interest. I could run my businesses while being President, and that would be fine, because the President can’t have a conflict of interest.” Or how about defending his unconstitutional, vindictive Muslim ban by arguing through his Justice Department in court documents that the President alone was the ultimate arbiter of what was constitutional in the best interests of the country, in other words, him.
But what is really important is not what the two men said, but what Nixond actually did, and what Trump is trying to do now. Nixon tried to use FBI agents to spy on reporters, editors, and other enemies of the administration. He even went so far as to try to have the CIA warn the FBI off of the then blossoming Watergate investigation by telling them that they were messing around in a matter of national security. Trump has threatened to use his Justice Department to abrogate first amendment rights for reporters and publications that displease him. He arrogantly tried to coerce FBI Director James Comey into dropping the linchpin investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. He is currently attempting to get congressional committees to investigate the Special Counsel looking into the Trump-Russia investigation, Robert Mueller. And now Trump has gone so far as to publicly call for his Justice Department to investigate, prosecute, and even summarily jail percieved opponents James Comey, Hillary Clinton, and Clinton former aide Huma Abedin.
While this is the greatest and most dangerous similarity between the two men, it is also the greatest divergence of the circumstances. During WEatergate, there were Republicans in Congress who were willing to speak truth to power, and to rein in Nixon’s more obnoxious overreaches. In the current climate, heading into the upcoming GOP debacle of 2018, there are no Republicans willing to do what is right for the country at the possible expense of their own careers. I think the operative phrase is “craven cowardice.”
All things in their time. At some point, which I believe will be sooner than later, His Lowness will pass from the scene, and good riddance to the little blighter. But the damage that he has already done, and probably will continue to do to our most fundamental and critical institutions, such as the FBI, the Justice Department, the federal judiciary, and a robust and free press, will take years, if not decades to repair. And that’s if we manage to come out of the other end of this nightmare with our national ass intact. As Rachel Maddow likes to say, “Don’t pay attention to what they say, pay attention to what they do.” Wise words, and well to heed them.
A note from the author: If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy my e-book, President Evil: A common man looks at Trump and the 2016 GOP primaries.