Political History

Why America Shuns Hereditary Rule

The Economist: “Defenders of nepotism—for they do exist—argue that close relatives are able to offer presidents more candid advice than any outsider. They note that by some counts 16 presidential children have worked in the White House, variously as private secretaries (a tradition begun by the 6th president, John Quincy Adams, himself a president’s son), as unpaid gatekeepers (cf, Anna Roosevelt, daughter of Franklin), or as formal advisers (Dwight Eisenhower’s son John served as a national security aide). But such a defense of nepotism breaks down when America has a bad president.”

“When ordinary aides find themselves in that unhappy situation, a sense of duty to their country, to their office or to the rule of law may prompt them to question furtive actions and poor decisions, or to resign. Other aides may be more strongly moved by self-interest, and a desire to keep their good name from being soiled by an unfit boss. But when a child wields power at the pleasure of a parent, fidelity to country or to the law must vie with deeper, more visceral loyalties. That tug of loyalties is more painful still when a parent is like Mr Trump, a clannish, vengeful man who, by his own son’s account, would send him to school with the growled warning: ‘Don’t trust anyone.’ As for trying to preserve a free-standing good name, that is tricky if you are called Donald Trump junior.”

The Most Competitive States for Senate Elections

Smart Politics examined all U.S. Senate elections since 1990 and found that North Carolina leads the nation with its 10 contests decided by an average victory margin of 6.1 points.

“The Tar Heel State has consistently produced competitive races going back several decades, with 14 of its last 15 U.S. Senate elections decided by single-digits since 1978.”

“Only six other states have averaged victory margins in the single digits since 1990: Colorado (8.5 points), Pennsylvania (8.9), Missouri (9.1), Nevada (9.5), New Jersey (9.6), and Minnesota (9.9). Five of these states host senate races in 2018 with three expected to be particularly hard fought (Missouri, Nevada, and Pennsylvania).”

Nixon’s Downfall Didn’t Seem Inevitable Either

Frank Rich: “For all the months of sensational revelations and criminal indictments (including of his campaign manager and former attorney general, John Mitchell), a Harris poll found that only 22 percent thought Nixon should leave office. Gallup put the president’s approval rating in the upper 30s, roughly where our current president stands now — lousy, but not apocalyptic. There had yet to be an impeachment resolution filed in Congress by even Nixon’s most partisan adversaries.”

“He had defied his political obituaries before, staging comebacks after a slush-fund scandal nearly cost him his vice-presidential perch on the GOP ticket in 1952 and again after his 1962 defeat in the California governor’s race prompted the angry ‘last press conference’ at which he vowed that ‘you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.’ Might Tricky Dick pull off another Houdini? He was capable of it, and, as it happened, it would take another full year of bombshells and firestorms after the televised Senate hearings before a clear majority of Americans (57 percent) finally told pollsters they wanted the president to go home. Only then did he oblige them, in August 1974.”

It Took a Long time to Get Rid of Nixon

Jonathan Rauch: “Nixon’s second-term approval started strong, in the high sixties, but plummeted as Watergate revelations emerged. By the time the Senate Watergate hearings began, in May of 1973, his ratings were under 50 percent. By the time of the Saturday Night Massacre, in October of 1973, his approval was mired in the mid-twenties, never to recover.”

“Still, Nixon held onto office for more than 17 months after his ratings sank below 50 percent, and for more than nine months after they sank into the twenties. Being loathed by the American public, and being widely and correctly perceived to be a criminal, did not do him in for a long time.”

“The reason was that the critical variable was not overall approval but Republican approval. Removal either by impeachment or under the 25th Amendment, the two mechanisms available, requires a 67-vote Senate supermajority (unless a president is too incapacitated to serve). As a result, even though Democrats controlled Congress in 1974, Nixon could not be removed without Republican legislators’ support.”

Memo Shows Nixon White House Plotted Violence

“Watergate prosecutors had evidence that operatives for then-President Richard Nixon planned an assault on anti-war demonstrators in 1972, including potentially physically attacking Vietnam whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg,” according to a never-before-published memo obtained by NBC News.

“The document, an 18-page 1973 investigative memorandum from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, sheds new light on how prosecutors were investigating attempts at domestic political violence by Nixon aides, an extremely serious charge… A plot to physically attack Ellsberg is notable because the former Pentagon official has long alleged that Nixon operatives did more than steal his medical files, the most well-known effort to discredit him.”

Written Out of History

Just published: Written Out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

“In the thick of the debates over the Constitution, some founders warned about the dangers of giving too much power to the central government. Though they did not win every battle, these anti-Federalists and their allies managed to insert a system of checks and balances to protect the people from an intrusive federal government. Other forgotten figures were not politicians themselves, but by their thoughts and actions influenced America’s story. Yet successive generations have forgotten their message, leading to the creation of a vast federal bureaucracy that our founders would not recognize and did not want.”

Waiting for Volume Five

As we patiently wait for the last installment of The Years of Lyndon Johnson — the greatest political biography ever written, in my view — the Paris Review runs a great interview with author Robert Caro.

I can’t start writing a book until I’ve thought it through and can see it whole in my mind. So before I start writing, I boil the book down to three paragraphs, or two or one—that’s when it comes into view. That process might take weeks. And then I turn those paragraphs into an outline of the whole book. That’s what you see up here on my wall now—twenty-seven typewritten pages. That’s the fifth volume. Then, with the whole book in mind, I go chapter by chapter. I sit down at the typewriter and type an outline of that chapter, let’s say if it’s a long chapter, seven pages—it’s really the chapter in brief, without any of the supporting evidence. Then, each chapter gets a notebook, which I fill with all the materials I want to use—quotations and facts pulled from all of the research I’ve done.

Trump Angled for Soviet Posting In the 1980s

“Donald Trump, in the mid-1980s, aggressively pursued an official government post to the USSR, according to a Nobel Peace Prize winner with whom Trump interacted at the time,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Said Bernard Lown: “He already had Russia mania in 1986, 31 years ago. He said to me, ‘I hear you met with Gorbachev, and you had a long interview with him, and you’re a doctor, so you have a good assessment of who he is.’ So I asked, ‘Why would you want to know?’ And he responded, ‘I intend to call my good friend Ronnie,’ meaning Reagan, ‘to make me a plenipotentiary ambassador for the United States with Gorbachev.'”

He added: “Those are the words he used. And he said he would go to Moscow and he’d sit down with Gorbachev, and then he took his thumb and he hit the desk and he said, ‘And within one hour the Cold War would be over!’ I sat there dumbfounded. ‘Who is this self-inflated individual? Is he sane or what?'”

McCain Walks Back Watergate Comparison

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) walked back earlier comments that the controversy surrounding investigations into potential collusion between associates of President Trump and the Russian government had reached “Watergate size and scale,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Said McCain: “Now the question is, how is it handled? Is it handled the way Watergate was where it’s drip, drip, drip, every day more, or do we handle it like the—like Ronald Reagan handled Iran Contra? It was a scandal. He fired people. He went on national television and said, we made mistakes, we did wrong and we’re not going to do it again and the American people let him move forward.”

Not Really Like Nixon

Rick Pearlstein, author of Nixonland, talks to David Remnick:

I actually think the comparisons at this point obscure more than they reveal. Nixon was just so shrewd, so strategic: it’s simply inconceivable he would get caught with his pants down implicating himself on the record, like Trump now does almost daily.

My favorite Nixon maxim was “Never get mad unless it’s on purpose.” But the words “on purpose” and “Donald Trump” now feel like matter and anti-matter; with him, it’s all impulse. Nixon was so obsessed with preparation he used to memorize answers to likely press conference questions, questions he’d delegate to staffers like Pat Buchanan to dream up. Can you imagine!?

Trump Embraces Nixon Comparison

Financial Times: “While other U.S. leaders have shied away from Nixon parallels given the politician’s fateful end, Mr Trump appears to have embraced the comparison, in some ways taking up Nixon’s mantle, the Nixon scholar Douglas Brinkley said.”

“Mr Trump met Nixon in 1989 when the two men attended a gala together in Houston and the New York real estate scion gave the former president a ride back on his plane to New York. The current and former president share a fondness for folksy, salty language — with similarly negative views of the Washington elite and media.”

Said Brinkley: “He’s long been Nixon inspired. During his seminal years, Nixon was a powerful man.”