Nixon and Watergate

Seeking a parallel with the current administration, I read "Smoking Gun," essays and editorials from The Nation. The book includes four essays from the 1950s and 1960s and 12 essays and editorials post-resignation. The remainder, grouped under “The Break-In,” “The Cover-Up,” and “The Showdown,” took me through the Watergate saga as it was happening. The real-time view, with all the suspense of “what will happen next?” made me participate in history, not read it.

In “Nixon: A Type to Remember,” writer Mark Harris, who covered Richard Nixon’s 1962 campaign for governor of California, wrote, “The next Richard Nixon may go all the way, which this one was flukily prevented from doing.” He then went on to list some characteristics:

He asserts that poor people are dishonest.
He favors legislation assisting the rich.
He is always discussing himself.
He suddenly reverses himself.
He presents himself as a “manly” man.
He condemns the media when they displease him.
He speaks often of bargaining from strength (or of being a deal maker).
He thinks that ancient relationships among nations, involving deep traditions of language and custom, can be suddenly reformed by visits of heads of state.

Add to this list the paranoia of both men and leaks from frustrated government officials.

Is Donald Trump the next Richard Nixon, and will he go all the way?

A key player in the Watergate saga was Judge John Sirica, who recognized that the five men caught in Democratic National Committee headquarters were not just “third-rate burglars” but, with their $6,000 in cash, “bugs,” Minox spy camera and other equipment for copying documents, were committing political espionage. He therefore gave them maximum sentences in the hope of flushing out their handlers. It worked. At their sentencing on March 23, 1973, Judge Sirica read a letter from burglar James McCord saying the White House had orchestrated the break-in and was conducting a massive cover-up.

Drawing a parallel to the current administration, Michael Flynn is a stand-in for the burglars. He, too, was thrown under the bus in hopes of mitigating the damage. James Comey is a stand-in for Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who subpoenaed tapes recorded in the Oval Office and was subsequently fired by acting Attorney General Robert Bork on Nixon’s orders.

In terms of the current investigation, that is where we stand now.

There are differences between the two men, too. Nixon was a career politician; Trump is a career businessman with no political experience prior to his assumption of the presidency. Nixon was competent. What did him in was his dishonesty and greed. Trump is incompetent. What will do him in, if anything, will be himself.

Addie Greene