Political History

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.”

Flashback of the Day

From the Articles of Impeachment adopted by House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974:

Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.

The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following… interfering or endeavouring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees.”

Echoes of Watergate

New York Times: “Not since Watergate has a president dismissed the person leading an investigation bearing on him, and Mr. Trump’s decision late Tuesday afternoon drew instant comparisons to the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ in October 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor looking into the so-called third-rate burglary that would eventually bring Nixon down.”

“The decision stunned members of both parties, who saw it as a brazen act sure to inflame an already politically explosive investigation.”

“Trump may have assumed that Democrats so loathed Mr. Comey because of his actions last year in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server that they would support or at least acquiesce to the dismissal. But if so, he miscalculated.”

Axios lists the people comparing Trump to Nixon.

For members: ‘Impeach the Cox Sacker’

Exchange of the Day

From an interview on Sirius XM airing later today:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. He was a swashbuckler, but when his wife died you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee.

SALENA ZITO: That’s right, you were in Tennessee.

TRUMP: And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee…

ZITO: He’s a fascinating…

TRUMP: I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

Will Trump Release the Missing JFK Files?

Politico: “The nation’s conspiracy-theorist-in-chief is facing a momentous decision. Will President Donald Trump allow the public to see a trove of thousands of long-secret government files about the event that, more than any other in modern American history, has fueled conspiracy theories – the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy?”

“The answer must come within months. And, according to a new timeline offered by the National Archives, it could come within weeks.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“You had someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

— White House press secretary Sean Spicer, quoted by ABC News, on Syria.

Spicer later tried to clarify the comment saying Hitler was “not using the gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing… He brought them into Holocaust centers.”