What Nixon could teach Trump

A Trump appointee has been assigned to make lists of U.S employees at the State Department, the United Nations and international agencies to determine whether they are loyal to President Donald Trump and his political agenda, Foreign Policy reports. It adds that this McCarthy/Nixon tactic has triggered an exodus of top career staffers and others may follow.

Mari Stull, a former lobbyist and wine blogger, has been culling social media postings of staffers to determine ideological loyalty, FP said.

This comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to rebuild morale in the department and stanch the loss of senior officials and experienced diplomats spurred by his predecessor, Rex Tillerson.

Stull’s assignment reminded me of Richard Nixon’s order to White House aide Fredric Malik to compile a list of all Jews working at the Bureau of Labor Statistics because the president was convinced there was a “Jewish cabal” cooking the figures to make him look bad. Many of those on Malek’s list were subsequently demoted to different jobs.

On a visit to the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, last month I was struck that Trump could benefit from a long, reflective walk through the corridor that traces the events beginning with the June 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers, the dirty tricks, creation of the secret White House “Plumbers,” the Watergate break-in and the extensive cover-up that culminated in Nixon’s resignation.

It might help him save his presidency. To learn how paranoia, hate, revenge, lies, political espionage, deceit, abuse of power and narcissism brought down one president and threaten another.

The two presidents share an obsession with plugging leaks and creating bulging enemies lists.

Something else they share besides deeply flawed character and lack of ethics is a need to surround themselves with similarly challenged individuals and plain old sycophants. It took longer to expose Nixon’s criminals; several of Trump’s have already been indicted, entered guilty pleas, are cooperating with investigators or serving jail time.

In Nixon’s time as today, Congressional Republican leadership avoided directly criticizing the president for fear of incurring his wrath and that of his hardcore followers. The only two Jewish Republicans in the 115th Congress, Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee, are staunch Trump defenders.

Trump, like Nixon, is an equal-opportunity bigot, virtually no group has escaped his virulent racism. He has a history of discrimination going back to his real estate days; he embraces the worst — Nazis, KKK, White Supremacists, Judge Roy Moore, Sheriff Joe Arpaio — and condones the venom spewed by his followers.

Jews have also been their targets. Both waged bitter war on the media, including many Jewish journalists.

The ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt says Trump has “emboldened and given encouragement to the worst anti-Semites and bigots.”

It matters little how many times he declares, “I love Israel” or points out his Jewish grandchildren. It’s not Jews but the millions of evangelicals who vote overwhelmingly Republican that he has in mind.

Once again we see a president at war with his own law enforcement agencies, meddling in criminal investigations which involve him, personally attacking investigators, lying to the media and public in order to cover up the truth. Another president who cares nothing about the enormous damage to the country and its democratic traditions; it’s all about “me.”

Trump also threatens to follow Nixon’s example and fire the prosecutors, but so far he hasn’t; maybe someone has told him how the Saturday Night Massacre turned out.

Trump may be more disastrous and thus dangerous than Nixon because he is more skillful at manipulating the media, effectively uses social networks to track and troll his enemies and spread his “alternative facts,” and he has a major news network that acts as his echo chamber.

The extent of Trump’s crimes may not be fully known until after his presidency and when the record is examined by the National Archives, if then.

As the Nixon library shows, Nixon paid for his crimes because there was still an independent judiciary and a Congress able to put rank partisanship aside long enough to meet the grave constitutional crisis he fomented.

Donald Trump is well on his way to compiling an even uglier and more dangerous record. What’s not clear is whether a Republican Congress that — so far – has been unwilling to demand even minimal accountability from this president will act with equal concern for a democracy at risk.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.
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