Tag Archives: Richard Nixon

Yes, presidents can be investigated and indicted

Having offered admittedly muted praise for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, I now want to challenge an assertion he has made about whether presidents can be indicted.

He has changed his mind on that one. Kavanaugh once worked for Kenneth Starr while Starr was investigating President Clinton, who eventually got impeached for lying to a grand jury and for — that’s right — obstruction of justice.

Kavanaugh was up to his armpits in assisting the counsel’s task of finding criminality in a president’s behavior.

Then he switched gears. Kavanaugh has since written that presidents have too much to do, too much on their plate to be distracted by potentially criminal investigations. Let me think. Is he providing cover for, oh, the guy who nominated him to the Supreme Court?

Here’s my point.

Of course presidents can be investigated. They aren’t above the law. They must be held to the same standard as their constituents, which is the entire country.

President Clinton was able to perform his presidential duties while he was under investigation and, indeed, while he was being impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate.

The same is true for President Nixon, who was under investigation for myriad offenses relating to Watergate. The House Judiciary Committee passed articles of impeachment and then the president resigned. Was he able to do his job while all of this was occurring? Of course he was!

My strong hunch is that the Senate Judiciary Committee that will consider Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination will ask him directly and pointedly about what he thought while working for Kenneth Starr and what he thinks these days now that Donald Trump wants him to serve on the highest court in the land.

I hope someone on the panel asks him: What made you change your mind, Judge?

Longing for a return of bipartisan ceremony

I cannot remember the last time I saw a president posing for pictures with politicians of both major political parties.

You remember those days, right? President Lyndon Johnson signed landmark civil rights legislation into law, and handed pens out to Republicans and Democrats gathered around him.

President Richard Nixon did the same thing with, say, creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Same with President Ronald Reagan as he signed significant tax legislation.

President Bill Clinton worked hand in glove with Republican congressional leaders to balance the federal budget and both sides sought to take credit for that noble achievement. Fine. Let ’em!

I remember the time not long after 9/11 when GOP President George W. Bush embraced Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle on the floor of the House after delivering a speech that called the nation to arms after the terror attacks.

These days, presidents are photographed only with pols of their own parties. President Barack Obama would be photographed at bill signings only with Democrats. The current president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, meets almost exclusively with Republicans and wouldn’t be caught dead sharing space with Democrats.

Legislating is a team sport. Teamwork often requires pols of both parties to work together.

We see so little of it these days, and indeed over the course of at least two presidential administrations. Republicans and Democrats have declared the other guys to be the enemy. They aren’t just mere opponents.

It’s a toxic time in Washington, D.C. It is threatening to poison the system for far longer than can possibly benefit the cause of good government.

To think that Trump disparages this man

I am going to post one more item about Sen. John McCain and his frigid relationship with the man who happens to be president of the United States.

Then I’ll move on. Maybe

Take a gander at the man on crutches and in the Navy whites. He is John McCain. The picture was snapped in 1973. He is shaking hands with President Nixon, who welcomed home many of the men captured by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

McCain spent more than five years in captivity. He endured torture, solitary confinement. He was injured when he bailed out of his jet fighter in 1967, but his broken bones never were treated properly by his captors.

This is the man Donald Trump said was a hero “only because he was captured.”

And while John McCain was enduring the wrath of our nation’s enemy, Donald Trump was at home obtaining a series of medical deferments that kept him out of the Vietnam War. Something about “bone spurs,” isn’t that right?

For the president of the United States to denigrate and disparage John McCain in the manner that he is done is the height — or is it the depth? — of miserable narcissism.

POTUS is a disgrace.

Happy Watergate Day, everyone

June 17, 1972 has gone down as the day when a presidency started to unravel, except that virtually no one on that very day predicted it would happen.

It started out as a “third-rate burglary.” Some men got caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate office and hotel complex in Washington, D.C.

They rifled through some files. They left. A security guard discovered the break-in and reported it to the cops.

The rest, as they say, is history.

A couple of reporters for the Washington Post — Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — covered the event as a police beat story. Then a few tips began trickling in. The reporters then began to piece together some hints that the story was a lot bigger than a run-of-the-mill “cop shop” tale.

It turned out to be the biggest political story of the past century. President Nixon sought to cover it up. He told federal authorities to shut down the investigation. Thus, the cover-up swallowed this event whole. Revelations about the cover-up prompted the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to approve articles of impeachment; a select Senate committee had hearings as well.

It ended with the president’s resignation.

The scandal also produced a suffix that results in adding the word “gate” to every controversy — large and small — that bubbles up in the halls of power. To me, as I’ve noted before, “Watergate” stands alone. The current president recently used the term “Spygate” to describe the alleged espionage of his campaign by the FBI in 2016. Fiddlesticks! There was no spying on the Donald Trump campaign. There damn sure was no “Spygate” occurrence.

Watergate also signaled the rise of gumshoe journalism. Bernstein and Woodward would be honored by their peers for the work they did to expose the enormous level of corruption they discovered. They helped energize a crop of journalism students and young reporters who sought to serve their own communities.

The reporters who covered the Watergate scandal did their job. They held the government accountable. They revealed the truth to a public that demanded it of the media and the government.

At many levels, the Watergate scandal illustrated a dark time in our nation’s political history. It also instigated the media shining a bright light down the halls of power.

I am proud of the role the media played in revealing the truth behind the scandal that toppled a president. Yes, it produced a “long national nightmare,” as the new president, Gerald R. Ford, told us.

We awoke from it and the nation emerged stronger as a result.

Heart and Head battle over whether RFK would have won

For 50 years my heart has been waging a battle with my head.

I have listened more intently to what my heart has said regarding a mercurial presidential campaign that came to a sudden, shocking and tragic end in June 1968.

Robert Kennedy was running for president of the United States. He campaigned for 85 days. That’s all. He entered the campaign late, energized millions of Americans yearning for peace in Vietnam and equal rights for all our citizens.

He stumbled along the way, losing the Oregon Democratic primary on May 28, 1968. Then he regained his momentum by winning the California primary the next week.

Then it ended. Sen. Kennedy died in a spasm of violence.

The question has nagged at me and many millions of others: What if he had lived? Could he have secured his party nomination and then won the election that fall?

My heart tells me “yes.” It was entirely possible. My head keeps trying to persuade my heart to stop beating so hard. Bobby Kennedy was going to battle Eugene McCarthy head to head in those primaries, my head keeps reminding me, while Vice President Hubert Humphrey was collecting more delegates in places where RFK and Clean Gene weren’t looking.

My heart, though, keeps reminding my head that Kennedy was an extraordinary politician. He was magical. Someone once wrote of Bobby that when he walked into a room, he was the only one in vivid color; the rest of the room turned to black-and-white.

Sen. Kennedy had plenty of experience managing presidential campaigns. He was the mastermind behind his brother’s victory in 1960. Could he have called the shots that produced a similar outcome for himself in 1968? Sure he could.

Of course, awaiting a Bobby Kennedy nomination would be Richard Nixon, the Republicans’ candidate for president. My heart tells me, too, that the Democratic nomination would be the more difficult of the challenges awaiting an RFK campaign had it been allowed to proceed.

Well, the shooter in that Los Angeles hotel broke my heart. It has mended enough, though, to win the argument it has been having with my head over the past 50 years.

The author Mark Kurlansky writes in the Los Angeles Times: Today we ask the question: What if Robert Kennedy hadn’t been shot? Would Bobby, could Bobby have put an end to our worst instincts? With his rare combination of establishment credentials and anti-establishment thinking, he might have accomplished a lot. But on that June night in 1968, I came to understand that in this country where anyone could be shot dead at any moment, our demons were deep within us. There would be no magical leaders to save us from ourselves.

Damn!

Yes, POTUS can ‘obstruct justice’

I am not a lawyer, but you know that already.

However, I know enough about history to understand this basic truth: Presidents of the United States can “obstruct justice.” Indeed, two of them — Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon — were accused of obstructing justice. One of them got impeached partly on that accusation; the other came within a whisker of being impeached before he resigned the presidency.

Thus, I am baffled in the extreme by lawyers serving the current president who says he cannot obstruct justice because, well, he’s the president. They are saying in effect that Donald J. Trump is above the law.

I beg to differ. I offer a strenuous objection to the notion that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, cannot determine that Trump obstructed justice in the hunt for the truth behind “the Russia thing.”

I don’t quite understand the logic being offered by Trump’s legal team that suggests Mueller cannot accuse the president of obstructing justice. Trump himself has acknowledged on network television that he fired FBI Director James Comey because of “the Russia thing”; then he told Russian visitors to the Oval Office that his dismissal of Comey had relieved him of pressure from the Russia probe and whether the Russian government meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

To my way of thinking, that constitutes at the very least circumstantial evidence of obstruction, but I know that Mueller’s team doesn’t operate on circumstance; it needs hard evidence. Whether it comes up with anything actionable remains to be seen.

As the nation watches this investigation lurch toward some conclusion, many of us are conflicted about the argument being offered that the president can do anything he wants — because he is the president.

Richard Nixon famously told David Frost that very thing, that the president cannot break the law simply by virtue of his office. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee eventually saw it quite differently when it approved articles of impeachment against the president.

I am pretty sure the law hasn’t changed since the 1970s. The current president took the same oath to follow the law that all of his predecessors took. The law in my view allows for presidents to be accused of obstructing justice.

Spygate? Clever, Mr. POTUS

Good grief, Mr. President.

You now have done what every cheap-seat pundit does when a controversy begins to rise to the level of a serious constitutional crisis, one that actually happened and toppled a sitting president of the United States.

You’ve attached the “gate” suffix to something that has yet to be determined to have any legs at all.

“Spygate” might go nowhere, Mr. President. In fact, it looks to me as though you have concocted something out of nothing.

Mr. President, you accuse the FBI of planting a “spy” in your 2016 presidential campaign. You imply that the FBI acted on the direction of someone within the Barack Obama administration. You offer the usual “I hope it’s not the case,” but then you say that if it’s true, we have the biggest scandal in this country since Watergate.

Holy crap, Mr. President! Why don’t you leave the “gate” reference out of it? Watergate stands on its own as the worst of the worst scandals. You might not recall these events, sir, but President Nixon’s coverup of the original crime — a so-called “third rate burglary” — was what did him in. I’ll accept that you weren’t all that interested in politics and public policy at that time; you were just coming out of college and preparing to parlay your father’s stake into a billion-dollar enterprise.

Do I need to remind you, Mr. President, that you haven’t yet produced a shred of evidence that someone “spied” on your campaign for “political purposes.”

And for crying out loud, if you’re so damn concerned about the integrity of the 2016 presidential election, why don’t you give at least a nod to the nation’s network of actual spies and intelligence experts that the Russians attacked our electoral process?

Now you’re calling it “spygate.” Give me a break.

Is this the language of a head of state?

First things first … I will stipulate that I am not a language prude. I have been heard peppering my speech with pithy epithets. Curse words don’t offend me.

However, I do expect more from the president of the United States than what we hear from the current occupant of that exalted public office.

The other day he referred to Chuck Todd, moderator of “Meet the Press,” as a sleeping “son of a bitch.” It wasn’t so much that he cursed; my outrage occurs because he did so while speaking to a campaign rally, in public, into a microphone.

Do you remember his rhetorical riff about the pro football players who knelt in protest during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” how he said team owners should fire those “sons of bitches”?

During the campaign Trump was heard dropping f-bombs in public, the term used to describe fecal matter, along with the SOB adjective.

I get that he’s not the only high-profile politician to use salty language in public. Vice President Biden was caught whispering to President Obama after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act that it was a “big f***ing deal.” Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush once referred to a New York Times reporter as a “major league a**hole.”

Presidents Nixon and Johnson were legendary in their spewing of potty-mouth verbiage.

Prior presidents all had to face their share of critics when they would let these words fly. Trump? His base — which includes the evangelical Christian community — is silent! Weird, yes? Yeah! It is!

I continue to shake my head in utter amazement that the president of the United States, our head of state and government, continues to speak about other human beings in the manner that he does.

I expect much better of the individual who purports to speak for my country. What’s more, I am trying to figure out how I am going to explain to my granddaughter how the president gets away with using that kind of language in public.

She will hear it and, given the fine-tuned curiosity she already is exhibiting, I will need to prepare my explanation.

Wish me luck.

‘I am not a racist’ Oh, really?

Donald J. Trump says it clearly and with seeming conviction.

“I am not a racist. I am the least racist person you’ve ever interviewed,” said the president of the United States.

OK, then. That settles it, right? Trump isn’t a racist. He didn’t actually question Barack Obama’s place of birth and his legitimacy as president; he didn’t actually call those countries in Africa, as well as Haiti and El Salvador “sh**holes”; he didn’t actually say an Indiana-born federal judge couldn’t decide a case involving Trump University because “he’s a Mexican.”

Well, I believe the president’s denial of racist leanings reminds many of us the time President Nixon told us “I am not a crook.” We know how that turned out in the 1970s, yes?

Trump has taken a tremendous amount of criticism for his sh**hole comment, which he reportedly made during a White House meeting on immigration.

This blog has used the “racist” term, too, to describe the president’s leanings. Indeed, the record that includes a large body of demonstrable evidence of racial bias can be used as a counterweight to the president’s assertion that he doesn’t harbor bias against people who don’t look like him.

The sh**hole comment about nations that produce immigrants to the United States — coupled with an assertion that the United States needs to encourage more immigration from “countries like Norway” — only fuels the fire that’s burning close the White House.

Donald Trump can tell us all he wants that he is not a racist. The lengthy record of previous pronouncements, though, tells us something quite different.

Is this a nation of laws … or what?

If I understand Donald John Trump’s lawyer’s rationale correctly about whether the president can “obstruct justice,” I believe I have heard him suggest something quite dangerous and insidious.

John Dowd says the president’s role as chief of the executive branch of the federal government means he “cannot obstruct justice.” The president enjoys protection in Article II of the U.S. Constitution that others don’t get, according to Dowd.

He came to Trump’s defense after the guilty plea came from former national security adviser Michael Flynn over whether Flynn lied to the FBI about meetings with Russian operatives.

What I believe Dowd has said is that Donald Trump, as president, is above the law. He can do or say whatever the hell he wants without facing any criminal penalty, according to Dowd.

Let’s review quickly: President Nixon faced obstruction charges in 1974 when the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against; President Clinton was impeached in 1998 on a number of allegations, including obstruction of justice.

I believe Trump’s lawyer is, um, wrong!

I also believe John Dowd might be talking himself into some serious trouble, right along with his highly visible legal client.