Political History

Just Like Nixon’s Last Days

Former Nixon speechwriter David Gergen told CNN that President Trump’s erratic tweeting “reminds me very much of the last days of President Nixon when he became deeply, deeply insecure, lashed out in all sorts of ways and didn’t remain focused on the job at hand. But this, I’m afraid, has been President Trump’s pattern for some time.”

He added: “I don’t know why he is so insecure. It certainly suggests that as Mueller closes in more, that there is he very much does not want us to know, and he is very afraid that Mueller is going to get there.”

Quote of the Day

“All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.”

— Former FBI Director James Comey, on Twitter.

How This Is Different Than Watergate

Greg Sargent points out “an important way that the current moment is different from Watergate — a difference that may point to the possibility of a more alarming endgame. The Nunes memo shows there is a massive propaganda apparatus out there — one that reaches deep into right wing media and into the Congress that has been pushing the alt-narrative and would back up Trump if he does take drastic steps — that didn’t really exist in Nixon’s time.”

He quotes journalist Tim Weiner: “You certainly had very influential columnists who were diehard Nixon men. But you did not have a Devin Nunes. You did not have a Sean Hannity. And you did not have an alternate universe of conspiracy theories, in which the FBI was painted as the equivalent of the Weather Underground.”

Gender Gap on Trump Approval Bigger Than Predecessors’

Gallup: “The gender gap in Donald Trump’s 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton was the largest in election polling history, with significantly more men than women supporting Trump. This sizable gender difference has carried over to his job approval rating throughout the first year of his presidency. The average difference in Trump’s approval rating between men and women was 12 percentage points in 2017, roughly double the differences for the three presidents who served immediately before him.”

“Trump’s annual average approval rating for his first year in office was 45% among men and 33% among women. These sub-50% ratings for a president’s first year in office are unprecedented, as is the 12-point gender difference.”

Flashback Quote of the Day

“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.”

— Martin Luther King, in his 1963 letter from a Birmingham jail, defending acts of civil disobedience.

Trump Shatters Decades-Old Nuclear Taboo

Politico: “President Ronald Reagan was warming up for a national radio address on Aug. 11, 1984, when an open microphone caught him joking about nuclear war. ‘My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever,’ Reagan quipped. ‘We begin bombing in five minutes.’ The international outcry that followed — newspapers condemned Reagan, and some Soviet forces were reportedly placed on alert — underscored one of the first rules of the American presidency: Don’t speak lightly about nuclear war.”

“To President Donald Trump’s critics, that is one of many norms he has recklessly shattered, most recently with a tweet on Monday in which Trump declared that his ‘nuclear button’ was ‘much bigger and more powerful’ than the one North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, claimed in a recent speech to have on his desk. Democrats and foreign policy experts fiercely denounced Trump’s rhetoric as alarming and dangerous.”

HuffPost: Can anyone prevent Trump from issuing a nuclear strike? Not really.

Lessons From the Saturday Night Massacre

Walter Shapiro reminds us that President Nixon held on to power for nine months after he fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was investigating the Watergate break in.

“The actual history of the 1973 Saturday Night Massacre and the weeks that followed serves as a reminder of the many twists in the road to Nixon’s political demise. While the rule of law ultimately prevailed, it was a closer call than many now remember.”

“The larger historical lessons begin with a stark warning to Trump not to interfere with a Justice Department investigation. But they also include the self-defeating naiveté of liberals who believe that Trump is fast on the way to impeachment and conviction.”

Will Nixon’s Defense Work for Trump?

Julian Zelizer: “With Nixon, the three-pronged strategy did not work. In the end, the revelations became so damning that the court of public opinion turned against him and Congress prepared to move forward with impeachment. President Trump might actually be able to pull off what Nixon failed to accomplish. He has a number of advantages that Nixon lacked—from a Congress controlled by fiercely partisan Republicans whose political calculations have led them to stand by their president regardless of almost anything that he does, to a conservative media that perpetually broadcasts his points of view.”

“Those who believe that a damaging investigation will inevitably produce negative political results for President Trump should not be deluded. The questions on the table will be: What can Robert Mueller and his team do to counteract Trump’s counteroffensive? Can they withstand the kind of attacks that they will continue to face, which will only become worse as the president becomes more frightened, and will the final report that his team produces be so damaging that it has the capacity to break through the partisan firewall that has insulated this president? Will the Republican Congress ever take a more proactive stance, or might there be a Democratic Congress after 2018 to pick up the slack? Can Mueller carve a legal path, accepted by the courts, that opens the president to criminal prosecution?”