Tag Archives: Richard Nixon

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.

Actually, POTUS can ‘obstruct justice’

I am not qualified to argue points of law with a lawyer, but I’ll take a brief moment to challenge a political point that Donald J. Trump’s lawyer has asserted about the president of the United States.

John Dowd says that the president “cannot obstruct justice” because “he is the chief law enforcement officer under (the Constitution’s Article II) and has every right to express his view of any case.”

I beg to differ. Dowd is old enough to remember Watergate and the trouble that President Nixon got into when he sought to obstruct justice in that investigation.

Obstruction at issue

Indeed, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s articles of impeachment against the president included an accusation of “obstruction of justice.” Nixon was toast at that point.

He chose to resign the presidency rather than face certain impeachment in the House and virtually certain conviction in a Senate trial.

So, can Donald Trump “obstruct justice” if the special counsel determines he did so by firing FBI director James Comey over that “Russia thing”?

I believe he can.

Arpaio pardon no ‘profile in courage’

Donald John Trump Sr.’s pardon of former “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio is likely to haunt the president well beyond the foreseeable future.

Trump this week pardoned the bad-ass former Maricopa County (Ariz.) sheriff who had been convicted of contempt of court; Arpaio refused to obey a federal court order to cease rounding up people he suspected of being illegal immigrants.

Arpaio disobeyed a lawful federal order, from a duly sworn federal judge. For that, the president pardoned him. His pardon speaks to Trump’s penchant for appealing to the nation’s divisiveness.

I doubt seriously that this president is going to be honored — ever! — for this callous decision.

With that … I want to look back briefly at another presidential pardon that at the time drew enormous political push back. In the four-plus decades since, though, it has been seen as a courageous act by a president seeking to bind the wounds of a nation.

President Richard Nixon resigned his office on Aug. 9, 1974. His successor, Gerald Ford, took the oath and declared that “our long national nightmare is over.”

President Ford wasn’t quite right. A month later, the new president issued the pardon that most assuredly cost him election as president in 1976.

Many years passed and President Ford’s stature grew slowly over time. Americans who were critical of the decision to pardon President Nixon began to think differently about it. I was among those who went through a change of heart.

In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Library did something quite extraordinary. It gave President Ford its annual Profile in Courage Award, honoring the president for the courage he showed in issuing the pardon, knowing the consequences it would have, but looking out only for the national good.

As the New York Times reported at the time: “Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts told the audience at the John F. Kennedy Library: ‘I was one of those who spoke out against his action then. But time has a way of clarifying past events, and now we see that President Ford was right. His courage and dedication to our country made it possible for us to begin the process of healing and put the tragedy of Watergate behind us.”’

And this, also from the Times: “Mr. Ford said: ‘President Kennedy understood that courage is not something to be gauged in a poll or located in a focus group. No adviser can spin it. No historian can backdate it. For, in the age-old contest between popularity and principle, only those willing to lose for their convictions are deserving of posterity’s approval.”’

Time has allowed us to re-examine why President Ford acted as he did. Time also might provide us the same opportunity to take a fresh look at what Donald Trump has just done.

Then again, I doubt it. Seriously.

Primary challenge awaits POTUS?

A version of the term “primary” has become a verb, in addition to it being an adjective and a noun.

Its verb form is used in a political contest, as in so-and-so is going to get “primaried.” Donald J. Trump, for the purposes of this blog post, is the “so-and-so” under discussion for a moment or two.

The president of the United States has managed to p** off damn near the entire Republican Party establishment with his hideous behavior and his tirade of insults against leading GOP politicians, namely those on Capitol Hill.

It’s tough, naturally, to predict any outcome as it regards this individual. He wasn’t even supposed to get elected in 2016 after a string of ghastly comments, campaign deeds and his generally acceptance ignorance of anything having to do with the federal government.

But … there he is. Sitting in the Oval Office and making an utter ass of himself, not to mention disgracing the presidency.

If this clown faces a primary challenge in 2019 and 2020 — presuming he’s still in office — how does that bode for his re-election? Recent political history doesn’t look kindly on these things.

* In 1968, U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy challenged President Lyndon Johnson in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. LBJ won, but Clean Gene got a substantial vote. Then U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy entered the primary race — and LBJ bowed out. The party’s eventual nominee, Hubert Humphrey, lost the presidency to Richard Nixon later that year.

* Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan decided to run against President Gerald Ford for the GOP nomination in 1976. Ford was running for election after taking over from President Nixon in 1974. Reagan didn’t think Ford was conservative enough. The men fought for the nomination until the convention. Ford was nominated, but then lost to Jimmy Carter.

* President Carter got a challenge of his own in 1980 from U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who thought Carter wasn’t liberal enough. Carter fought back that challenge, but then got trampled by Reagan in that year’s general election.

What lies ahead for the current president?

One of the men he beat on his way to the White House, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, was utterly appalled at the president’s remarks in the aftermath of Charlottesville. He sounds like someone who’s going to “primary” the president. He was asked directly the other day whether he intends to run for the GOP nomination in 2020. Kasich gave that classic non-answer: “Look, I have no plans to run … ”

“I have no plans” is code for: I am thinking reeealll hard about running. Actually, given that Gov. Kasich was my favorite Republican in the 2016 primary campaign, I hope he does take the leap one more time.

Trump’s poll numbers keep plummeting. He keeps stuffing both feet in his mouth. He continues to embarrass the nation that managed to elect him. And, oh yes, we have that Russia investigation proceeding with all deliberate speed.

Indeed, history is unkind to presidents who face challenges from within their partisan ranks. Will this president defy conventional wisdom yet again? 

GOP senators lose patience with RINO in chief

Donald John (RINO in chief) Trump’s lack of any association with the Republican political machine may be starting to take its toll on the man’s presidency.

Actual Republican senators are standing up to the man who bills himself as a member of the GOP, but who in reality is a Republican In Name Only.

GOP U.S. senators are now tweeting, writing essays and saying things out loud that suggest that the president’s “agenda,” whatever the hell it is, appears to be teetering on the brink of oblivion.

The president keeps attacking his “fellow Republicans.” He called Sen. Jeff Flake, author of a new book that tears into Trump, a “toxic” lawmaker; moreover, Trump has hailed the GOP primary challenger who has emerged to take on Flake.

The president’s attack on the Arizonan has prompted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to stand squarely behind Flake.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said publicly at a Rotary meeting in Chattanooga that he wonders if Trump is “competent” to continue as president.

Senate GOP gangs up on Trump

Then we have the usual cast of Trump critics within the GOP — Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — continuing to oppose him on policy matters as well as chastising him for his hideous conduct in the wake of the Charlottesville riot.

This is what happens when you get a president with no political history, no public service record on which to draw, no demonstrable commitment to understanding how government works.

It’s as if — as some have suggested — that we have formed a third major political party: We have Democrats, Republicans and the Trump Party, which feeds off the cult of personality developed by the “party” leader, Donald John Trump Sr.

If the president is going to insist that he’s a real, actual Republican, then I am among those who will wait with bated breath for the Goldwater Moment to arrive. As the late Sen. Barry Goldwater was able in 1974 to deliver the sobering news to President Nixon that the president had no support in the Senate and that impeachment would surely result in his removal from office, is there someone to deliver the same kind of news to the current president?

Donald Trump needs to shape up, get rid of the white supremacists/alt-right clowns remaining in his administration and start acting like the Leader of the Free World.

If he doesn’t, his presidency is going nowhere but straight into the trash heap … which wouldn’t be a bad outcome. I fear the collateral damage this RINO in chief is going to inflict along the way.

And then there’s the 25th Amendment

The United States of America functioned for nearly two centuries before it ratified a constitutional amendment dealing with presidential succession and the appointment of a vice president.

The 25th Amendment was ratified in February 1967. It came in reaction to the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. The new president, Lyndon Johnson, served the remainder of JFK’s term without a vice president. LBJ got elected in 1964 and Hubert Humphrey joined the administration as vice president. President Truman took office in April 1945 after Franklin Roosevelt died just a month into his fourth term; Truman served nearly a full term, therefore, without a vice president.

The amendment has been used exactly once. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973 and President Nixon appointed House Minority Leader Gerald Ford to become vice president. The new VP then settled into the Oval Office Big Chair when Nixon resigned in August 1974.

I mention this today because the 25th Amendment is getting some attention these days. It allows for a temporary replacement of the president if a majority of the Cabinet determines he is unable to continue doing his presidential duties.

Donald John Trump is in trouble. A special counsel is examining whether his campaign colluded with Russian hackers seeking to meddle in our 2016 election. There might be some issues relating to Trump’s myriad business holdings, too. Oh, and then the president declares that “both sides” were at fault in the Charlottesville riot, causing a serious rift between the White House and members of Congress of both political parties.

There have been some questions about the president state of mind, his ability to actually govern and, yes, his mental competence.

I’m not qualified to offer a psychological diagnosis, let alone from half a continent away. So I won’t go there.

The 25th Amendment is meant to ensure the executive branch continues to function even in these difficult times. Just how difficult will they become? I guess that depends on how the president responds to the mounting pressure.

I keep hearing about how angry he is getting. He’s been cutting people loose all over the place: national security adviser, gone; press secretary, gone; communications director, gone; chief of staff, gone; FBI director, gone; senior strategist, gone.

Trump popped off about neo-Nazis and Klansmen. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have effectively rebuked the commander in chief, although not by name. Congressional leaders are starting to weigh in. There might be some diehard Trumpkins among them, but the vast majority of public response has been highly critical.

Republican leaders are aghast. Never mind what Democrats think; it’s a given that they detest the president already.

In the meantime, the 25th Amendment looms as a serious talking point among the chattering class in Washington, D.C. Don’t for a single moment believe that the president is ignoring the chatter.

‘The Constitution works’

The hour is late, but I cannot let this day pass without commenting briefly on a monumental event in our nation’s political history.

This single-sentence document is President Nixon’s resignation letter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. As someone noted on social media, it could fit into tweet.

The Watergate scandal came to a conclusion with this note. The president said goodbye to the White House staff, shook hands with the new president, Gerald Ford, then boarded Marine One with his wife, Pat, and flew off into political oblivion.

It’s worth mentioning yet again, I suppose, because of the current president’s troubles. There’s been no shortage of comparison to what doomed the 37th president’s tenure to what we’re witnessing today in real time.

I am not going to predict a similar end to Donald Trump’s tenure.

I merely want to recall what President Ford said shortly after taking the oath of office 43 years ago today.

“The Constitution works,” the president reminded us.

Yes, that governing document gives me great comfort as we watch the current drama play out … no matter how it all ends.

Trump channeling Nixon?

The Washington media chatterers keep making comparisons between Donald John Trump and Richard Milhous Nixon.

They note certain symmetry between the two presidents of the United States. President Nixon became involved in covering up the Watergate break-in just days after it occurred. How do we know that? It was all tape-recorded. Trump, meanwhile, is now being accused of covering up his own involvement with Russians who reportedly meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

The difference between the men’s conduct, though, is stark in one important aspect. Nixon got into trouble near the end of his first term; he would be re-elected in a landslide in 1972, and then the crap really hit the fan. Trump has been president only for a few months; he still has years to go before the end of his current term — and the crap is beginning to hit the fan already.

I am not going to predict that Trump’s presidency will end the way Nixon’s did. The lies, dissembling, the switching of stories, the dramatic and drastic personnel changes at the highest levels of executive governance all are beginning to alarm many of us.

John Kelly stepped with both feet into this maelstrom when he became the new White House chief of staff this week. He scored a big victory in his first hours on the job by getting communications director Anthony “Mooch” Scaramucci booted out of the White House. Whether that initial move portends better days, weeks and months ahead at the White House remains a gaping, open question.

The Nixon comparisons only are going to mount with every revelation that is revealed. As Ruth Marcus notes in her Washington Post column, the White House is imploding.

It’s almost impossible for me to grasp the notion that all of this is happening at the very beginning of Donald Trump’s term as president. What in the world lies ahead?

Watergate: Dumbest scandal in U.S. history

Many of us are going to mark the 45th anniversary of the start of the Watergate scandal in varying ways.

Those of us of a certain age might take time to reflect on what I consider to be the most stupid, unnecessary and ridiculous political scandal of the 20th century.

On June 17, 1972, five idiots broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.; they rifled through some cabinets, pilfered some papers and then left.

Then came the cover-up. President Nixon sought to call off the investigation being done by the FBI. It all led to the president’s pending impeachment and then his resignation from office.

Why so stupid? So pointless? So needless?

Because the president was en route to a smashing re-election victory later that year. On Nov. 7, 1972, Nixon was re-elected with a 49-state landslide over Sen. George McGovern. He won more than 60 percent of the popular vote: 47 million votes to 29 million votes. That’s an 18-million vote margin!

Every political expert in America knew Nixon would win. They knew he’d win big. Sen. McGovern didn’t have a prayer. I received my political baptism that year working for McGovern in my home state of Oregon, helping register first-time voters among college students in Multnomah County. I, too, was a college student. I also had separated from the Army in August 1970 and had served for a time in Vietnam. I wanted the war to end and I supported McGovern’s candidacy.

But McGovern’s candidacy was doomed. Nixon’s team knew it. So did McGovern’s team.

I am left to wonder 45 years after that ridiculous break-in: What in the hell did the Committee to Re-Elect the President hope to gain from such a stupid stunt?

CREEP blew it, causing their guy — the president — to try to cover it up and it all cost him his job as leader of the free world. And for what purpose?

If they ever create a college curriculum to study “Stupid Political Scandals,” Watergate must serve as the all-time benchmark for stupidity.

Yes, Newt … the president can ‘obstruct justice’

I am beginning to think Newt Gingrich no longer should be taken seriously.

He’s the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; at one time he was second in line to be president, right behind the vice president.

Gingrich once voted to impeach President Bill Clinton for, among other things, obstruction of justice. So what does this clown say now? The president cannot commit such a crime because — are you ready? — he’s the president!

The current president, of course, is Donald J. Trump.

Gingrich is an ally of Trump. He has spoken favorably of the president. I get that. However, his remarks to the National Press Club make no sense. He didn’t cite a federal statute that prohibits a criminal indictment against the president. He said that the office protects its occupant from an obstruction of justice charge.

But … didn’t it protect President Clinton? Didn’t it do the same for President Nixon when the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him for, um, obstruction of justice?

Newt needs a reminder of history. Indeed, he was part of an event that involved a president who he once accused of obstructing justice. If he continues to ignore history and spout the nonsense he keeps spouting about Donald Trump, then he is talking himself out of any relevance to the current political discourse.