Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Next Nixon

Sometimes I have to remind myself that this isn't 1968--since it appears that we are electing the Next Richard Nixon.  If you think that I am talking about Hillary Clinton--you would be correct.  And if you think that I am referring to Donald Trump--you too would be correct.

For those of you who took revisionist American History, I'm going to have to provide some background.  1960 was supposed to be "Nixon's time" to ascend to the Presidency.  But he lost a close race to a younger, hipper candidate who promised his legion of young voters "hope and change".  It looked like Nixon's political career may be over.  But in 1968, it really was "Nixon's time".  However, his Presidential win was not so much about passionate support from a broad base--but rather from the complete collapse of the opposing party into chaos and division during the election process.

By all accounts, Nixon was calculating, cold, manipulative and vindictive.  When presented with information on the Watergate break-in (which he had no previous knowledge of and did not take part in any of the planning) his first instinct was not to come clean with the American public and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.  Instead, Nixon authorized a coverup--and then used the resources of the Federal Government to obstruct investigations into Watergate and to intimidate those who tried to get to the bottom of the matter.  He even obstructed Congress by refusing to turn over records and recordings.  And when the Supreme Court finally ordered him to turn over his Oval Office recordings, 18-minutes of that audio suddenly "disappeared".  (Nixon claimed his secretary "accidentally" did that while transcribing them).

Does any of that sound familiar?

What also sounds familiar is the crude, profane and offensive way that Nixon spoke on those secret tapes--which shocked Americans when they first heard them.  "No President should be so foul" they said. 

Nixon and his supporters long claimed that he was the victim of a "media conspiracy to destroy him".  He and members of his administration threatened newspapers that published information on Watergate--and reporters from "offending institutions" were frozen out of the White House loop.

And when Nixon finally resigned in 1974 and boarded Marine One to leave the White House, it appeared that he had done irreparable harm to the Republican Party.  They were now the party of corruption and anyone who had supported Nixon was "toxic by association".  An "entire generation" of voters was never going to support a Republican candidate for President ever again.  And yet, six years later Ronald Reagan won the first of his two landslide victories--and the GOP controlled the White House in 22 of the 34-years after Nixon's resignation.

While many of us may weep for the future of the country this year, we can find some solace in knowing it has been this bad before.

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