Political History

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?”

Today’s GOP Is Like the Democratic Party of the 1850s

Huffington Post: “The Democratic Party of James Buchanan, from 1855-1860, appeared ― on the surface ― to be ascendant in the American politics of the day. They controlled the presidency, majorities in the Congress and the majority of state legislatures and governorships. Their great rival party, the Whigs, had collapsed into internal factions after their 1856 electoral loss and the new Republican Party was nascent. They were so powerful that they controlled both the entire south and significant parts of the North ― and there was, of course, no ‘west coast blue wall’ in the 1850s.”

“Nonetheless, the supposed dominance of the Democratic Party in the late 1850s papered over and masked critical internal divisions that would destroy the party in 1860 and leave it nearly irrelevant at the presidential level for almost 70 years.”

“Basically, those critical internal divisions were between the Southern Democrats, who were unified behind slavery and ‘southern values’ and the Northern Democrats, who were much warier of slavery and were much more unified around economic concerns. Their uneasy alliance collapsed entirely in 1860, when the party actually split on the ballot between the Northern and Southern Democrats, handing Lincoln the election. The south seceded, Lincoln won the Civil War and the party didn’t recover until FDR. Indeed, the collapse of the party was so catastrophic that the only times the Democrats won the presidential election between 1856 and 1932 were typo non-contiguous terms for the idiosyncratic Grover Cleveland, and when Teddy Roosevelt split the Republican vote off Taft in 1912 and threw the election to Woodrow Wilson.”

“History repeats itself in inexact cycles, and the Republican Party of today bears remarkable similarities to the Democratic Party of the 1850s.”

The Most Corrupt Administration In History?

Newsweek: “According to the presidential historian Robert Dallek, no American leader has acted with more unadulterated self-interest as Trump. Dallek says that in terms of outright corruption, Trump is worse than both Ulysses S. Grant and Warren G. Harding, presidents who oversaw the most flagrant instances of graft in American political history.”

Said Dallek: “What makes this different is that the president can’t seem to speak the truth about a host of things.”

Trump isn’t just allowing corruption, in Dallek’s view, but encouraging it: “The fish rots from the head.”

How to Be Less Stupid About the Civil War

Ta-Nehisi Coates: “On Monday, the retired four-star general and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly asserted that ‘the lack of an ability to compromise lead to the Civil War.’ This was an incredibly stupid thing to say. Worse, it built on a long tradition of endorsing stupidity in hopes of making Americans stupid about their own history. Stupid enjoys an unfortunate place in the highest ranks of American government these days. And while one cannot immediately affect this fact, one can choose to not hear stupid things and quietly nod along.”

“For the past 50 years, some of this country’s most celebrated historians have taken up the task of making Americans less stupid about the Civil War. These historians have been more effective than generally realized. It’s worth remembering that General Kelly’s remarks, which were greeted with mass howls of protests, reflected the way much of this country’s stupid-ass intellectual class once understood the Civil War. I do not contend that this improved history has solved everything. But it is a ray of light cutting through the gloom of stupid. You should run to that light. Embrace it. Bathe in it. Become it.”

Kelly Praises Robert E. Lee

White House chief of staff John Kelly said that the Civil War was “caused by a lack of an ability compromise” and that Confederate general Robert E. Lee was “an honorable man,” Politico reports.

Said Kelly: “I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state which in 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War. And men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had to make their stand.”

Trump Will Release All JFK Files

President Trump announced via Twitter that he will be releasing all of the JFK files instead of just part of them.

After strict consultation with General Kelly, the CIA and other Agencies, I will be releasing ALL #JFKFiles other than the names and…addresses of any mentioned person who is still living. I am doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and…in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.

Bannon Hopes His ‘War on Party’ Fares Better Than FDR’s

New York Times: “By the summer of 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had had enough. His own party controlled both houses of Congress, yet the latest elements of his New Deal were stalled. Exasperated by fellow Democrats standing in the way, Roosevelt resolved to push some of them out of office.”

“Nearly 80 years later, President Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, has declared a “season of war” to push out problematic Republicans in midterm elections, just as Roosevelt tried to do to balky Democrats. But Roosevelt’s purge backfired. Not only did he fail to take out his targets, but he also emboldened them, all but dooming his domestic program for much of the rest of his presidency.”