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The Trump-Nixon comparison


After reading this Frank Rich piece, it occurred to me that Trump’s presidency has produced no semantic equivalent to Watergate: the sprawling scandal that eventually ended Richard Nixon’s presidency.  That’s because Trump’s presidency — after just 19 months! — has devolved into nothing but wall to wall scandals, any one of which would have been considered, for any previous president including Nixon, to be existential threats to his presidency.  (Note how when Trump makes public statements that make him sound exactly like an off-brand John Gotti, who himself was an off-brand Carlo Gambino, it’s barely even a news story now.  Proving Nixon’s basic criminality required litigating the right of Congress to get the White House tapes all the way to the SCOTUS. Now you just need a Twitter feed.).

Rich makes the useful point that Nixon retained most of his support among Republicans until the very end:

As a counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the 1974 impeachment inquiry pointed out in a Times op-ed piece ten days ago, Nixon’s defenders routinely dismissed Watergate investigations as a political “witch hunt” intended to reverse the Democrats’ 1972 electoral defeat. As late as the end of July 1974 — less than two weeks before Nixon’s August 9 helicopter departure from the White House lawn — most Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted against all articles of impeachment. Many Republicans on the committee continued to support him even after the August 5 release of the “smoking gun” tape revealing that Nixon had ordered a cover up of the Watergate crimes.

But he then starts indulging in some dodgy, wishful math. If the Democrats win the House in November, Rich opines, Trump will be driven from office, just like Nixon:

Those close to Trump, both in his family and in his immediate circle, will fear for their futures, both legally and financially. The GOP and the Trump Organization alike will be on the ropes, and in full panic. This is evident from the wrongdoing already apparent — indeed, already the subject of indictments and guilty pleas. Yet to be factored in, of course, are the unknown findings of the Robert Mueller investigation, which could include not only treasonous conspiracies with the Russians to steal an election but additional crimes that beggar the imagination.

If there is a shocking upset GOP victory in November, then all bets are off: America is in worse trouble than we already think and possibly in an existential fight for survival.

But the more plausible scenario is that Trump, even if he has to be pushed kicking-and-screaming by Ivanka and the possible jailbirds Donald Jr. and Jared, gets out of Dodge. As with Nixon, his administration is most likely not to end with impeachment but with a self-pitying and self-justifying resignation in which Trump lashes out against both Republicans and Democrats, declares another ersatz “win,” and flees.

This doesn’t make any sense.  Nixon resigned because:

(1) Democrats had a big advantage in the Senate, 56-42, with a couple of independents who would vote with them filling out the scoreboard; and

(2) There were actually quite a few GOP senators who weren’t willing to back Nixon after the tapes got released.

After all, you need 67 senators to convict.  Even with their big edge, Democrats couldn’t have driven Nixon out without significant cooperation from Republicans.

Now let’s look at the present situation.  On the most optimistic possible assumptions, a blue wave in November would still leave 48 GOP senators in place (This is assuming Democrats win all seven senate races that are currently polling as close. The odds of this happening are less than 100-1).

To remove Trump from office via impeachment and conviction, that would mean that 15 of 48 GOP senators would need to vote to convict.  The chances of that are zero. They will remain zero if Robert Mueller issues a report demonstrating by geometric logic and Platonic reasoning that Donald Trump has been on Vladimir Putin’s personal payroll for 30 years.

We’re not in 1974 any more.

All of which leads to the question of whether it makes sense for Democrats, assuming they win the House in November (if they don’t then as Rich says, goodbye America), to pursue impeachment hearings anyway, as opposed to merely holding 24/7 investigations into Trump’s endless corruption, which of course they should absolutely do.  But that’s a subject for another post.


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