Many years ago, circa the 1980s, I worked for a man by the name of Edward Kwas. He was, at that time, the Regional Commissioner of the New York Region for the United States Customs Service. I found him to be a rather interesting individual. Others may have described him differently, but I’ll stick with interesting.
Back in those days, I was not overly political. If you are a regular reader of my column, you may find that surprising.
It is true, however. I was aware of the political discourse in the country at that time but was not overly active in politics. Maybe, unlike Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, I took the restrictions of the Hatch Act as a dedicated federal employee quite seriously.
So did Kwas, but he still had his political opinions and one opinion he offered me was that he was convinced that “if Richard Nixon were to run for president today, he would win.”
Mind you this is in the 1980s, well after Watergate, but in historical terms, not all that long after.
I heard what he said but never gave it much thought.
I followed the Watergate hearings some decades earlier and, although I was not overly political at the time, I knew enough to come to the realization that, aside from the fact that Nixon had already been elected twice and needed to be pardoned, the electorate, even if given a chance to re-elect him, was not likely to do so.
I was wrong. Dead wrong. That is exactly what occurred in 2016. The voters of this nation, via the Electoral College, were given a chance to vote for Richard Nixon in the form of one Donald J. Trump, and that is precisely what they did.
The similarities between Nixon and Trump are quite evident and overwhelming. Both attack and never back down and never quit no matter the reality or how detrimental the results; the backlash against Trump’s racist tweets have not resulted in tempering his racist rhetoric. Both flout the rules; Trump’s violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which precludes his benefiting financially from the office of the president, continues daily.
Both blame others and never themselves; the list is endless: Democrats, the news media, former President Barack Obama in the case of Trump, university professors, anyone with half a brain which is a half more than, at least, Trump has, and so on. Both were determined never to give in and win at all costs. Both were highly insecure. Both were racists. Both played on the resentments of the white working class as a means to divide the country. Both relentlessly attacked the press in an attempt to control it, and both got elected and could easily get elected again.
Granted, Nixon did a much better job of concealing his flaws from the public, and much of his antisemitism and racism did not become blatantly exposed until the release of his White House tapes during the Watergate hearings.
However, as Former Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice Robert Mueller states quite explicitly in his Special Counsel Report on Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election concerning obstruction of justice, “No principle of law excludes public acts from the reach of the obstruction laws.” The fact that Nixon’s flaws were captured on tape and Trump’s flaws are revealed quite often in plain sight does not make them any less egregious.
American historian Allan Lichtman states quite clearly in his book “The Case for Impeachment” just how similar Trump and Nixon are.
Of all the similarities, maybe one of the more alarming comparisons concerns how both Nixon and Trump attempted to secretly influence foreign policy in violation of the somewhat obscure 1799 Logan Act which forbids unauthorized citizens from contacting “any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government.” An ancient law, but a very relevant and timely law nevertheless.
The Special Counsel Report was quite definitive in its findings regarding former United States National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his role in having Russia not retaliate against the sanctions imposed by Obama in response to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The report is clear that Flynn’s discussion with the Russian ambassador regarding the likelihood that those sanctions would be lifted or lessened with the election of Trump was a major reason why President of Russia Vladimir Putin did not take retaliatory action.
Similarly, Nixon interfered with the Vietnam War peace process while running for president in 1968. Fearful that ending the war during the Lyndon Johnson presidency would likely serve to benefit the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey, members of Nixon’s campaign contacted the leadership of South Vietnam to “stall the peace process and await a better deal under the Nixon presidency.” Sound familiar?
The one significant difference between Nixon and Trump is that Nixon did step down when it was clear that the “jig was up.” No way would Trump ever leave peacefully no matter how much unrest and long-term damage holding on would cause the nation he claims to love so much. It took a very long time for anyone to make Richard Nixon look good; maybe that will be Donald Trump’s legacy as president.