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Nixon and Trump, Then and Now
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For two years, this writer has been consumed by two subjects.

First, the presidency of Richard Nixon, in whose White House I served from its first day to its last, covered in my new book, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”

The second has been the astonishing campaign of Donald Trump and his first 100-plus days as president.

In many ways, the two men could not have been more different.

Trump is a showman, a performer, a real estate deal-maker, born to wealth, who revels in the material blessings his success has brought. Nixon, born to poverty, was studious, reserved, steeped in history, consumed with politics and policy, and among the most prepared men ever to assume the presidency.

Yet the “mess” Trump inherited bears striking similarities to Nixon’s world in 1969.

Both took office in a nation deeply divided.

Nixon was elected in a year marked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, race riots in 100 cities, and street battles between cops and radicals at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

By the fall of 1969, Nixon had buses surrounding his White House and U.S. Airborne troops in the basement of his Executive Office Building.

Trump’s campaign and presidency have also been marked by huge and hostile demonstrations.

Both men had their elections challenged by the toxic charge that they colluded with foreign powers to influence the outcome.

Nixon’s aides were accused of conspiring with Saigon to torpedo Lyndon Johnson’s Paris peace talks. Trump aides were charged with collusion with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to disseminate stolen emails of the Democratic National Committee. The U.S. establishment, no stranger to the big lie, could not and cannot accept that the nation preferred these outsiders.

Nixon took office with 525,000 troops tied down in Vietnam. Trump inherited Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history, and wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Nixon pledged to end the Vietnam War with honor and begin an era of negotiations — and did. Trump promised to keep us out of new Mideast wars and to reach an accommodation with Russia.

Nixon and Trump both committed to remake the Supreme Court. Having pledged to select a Southerner, Nixon saw two of them, Judges Clement Haynsworth and Harrold Carswell, savaged by the Senate.

While Nixon was the first president since Zachary Taylor to take office without his party’s having won either house of Congress, Trump took office with his party in control of both. Thus, Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, made it.

Probably no two presidents have ever faced such hostility and hatred from the media. After his 1969 “Silent Majority” speech on Vietnam was trashed, Nixon declared war, authorizing an attack on the three networks by Vice President Spiro Agnew.

Trump has not stopped bashing the media since he came down the escalator at Trump Tower to declare his candidacy.

In Trump’s first major victory on Capitol Hill, the House voted narrowly to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. Only with a tiebreaking vote by Agnew in August 1969 did Nixon win his first big victory — Senate approval of a strategic missile defense.

Though Nixon had backed every civil rights law of the 1950s and ’60s, he was charged with pursuing a racist “Southern strategy” to capture the South from Dixiecrats, whose ilk had ruled it for a century.

Trump was also slandered for running a “racist” campaign.

ORDER IT NOW

Trump and Nixon were supported by the same loyalists — “forgotten Americans,” “Middle Americans,” “blue-collar Democrats” — and opposed and detested by the same enemy, a political-media-intellectual-cultural establishment. And this establishment is as determined to break and bring down Trump as it was to break and bring down Nixon.

Yet though Trump and Nixon ran up similar Electoral College victories, Nixon at the end of 1969 was at 68 percent approval and only 19 percent disapproval. Trump, a third of the way through his first year, is underwater in Gallup.

Nixon’s achievements in his first term were extraordinary.

He went to Beijing and opened up Mao Zedong’s China to the world, negotiated with Moscow the greatest arms limitation agreement since the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, and withdrew all U.S. forces from South Vietnam.

He desegregated the South, ended the draft, gave the vote to all 18-year-olds, indexed Social Security against inflation, created the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, named four justices to the Supreme Court, presided over six moon landings, declared a “war on cancer,” proposed a guaranteed annual income, created revenue sharing with the states, took America off the gold standard, and let the dollar float.

He then won a 49-state landslide in 1972, creating a “New Majority,” and setting the stage for Republican control of the presidency for 16 of the next 20 years.

But in June 1972, a bungled bugging at the DNC, which Nixon briefly sought to contain and then discussed as the White House tapes were rolling, gave his enemies the sword they needed to run him through.

The same deep state enemies await a similar opening to do to Trump what they did to Nixon. Rely upon it.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump, Richard Nixon 
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  1. Parsifal says:

    Another article dealing with Trum-Nixon parallels:

    http://theweek.com/articles/695392/gop-isnt-party-reagan-party-nixon

    Read More
    • Replies: @Johnny G.
    I don't think Trump's best comparison is any American politician: it is Silvio Berlusconi. In terms of everything from personality to political appeal to policies in power, there's really no more apt comparison out there. That being said, if we really must go for American comparisons, a cross between Wallace and Perot on the campaigning trail, a cross between Nelson Rockefeller and Gordon Gekko in power. And of course, PT Barnum, with a splish-splash of "Andrew Jackson wannabe".

    As for the party, if the GOP leaned more toward Nixon than Reagan, it would be a lot more statist and populist on economics than it is now, and probably wouldn't be pissing away its massive luck. Whatever else you can say about Nixon, he was a really, really bright dude, and he would be smart enough to know that raw economic populism combined with anti-political correctness/cultural Left sentiment (and foreign policy realism) is a much smarter electoral path than listening to GOP Establishment dogma for the America of 2017.

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  2. KenH says:

    Trump promised to keep us out of new Mideast wars and to reach an accommodation with Russia.

    Pat should have added “and hasn’t”. Trump seems to letting let the Pentagon run wild in the Middle East and has antagonized Russia since assuming office. President Trump’s actions bear little resemblance to the humble foreign policy rhetoric espoused by candidate Trump.

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  3. “Nixon pledged to end the Vietnam War with honor…and did.”

    Spoken like a true Nixon fanboy.

    If betraying the Thieu/Ky regime in Saigon and squandering the lives of so many military and civilians is “honor”, then your statement is plausible. If I recall correctly, the Vietnam War didn’t finally end until the last, desperate Vietnamese civilians grabbed onto the skids of the Huey helicopters lifting off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon – during the presidency of Gerald R. Ford.

    In “Operation Linebacker II”, conducted from 18 to 29 December 1972, the North received the “honorable” gift of 20,237 tons of bombs (Wikipedia: “Operation Linebacker II”) from the United States of America. 15 B-52′s were shot down; 33 US Air Force crew were killed in action or missing; 33 were taken as prisoners of war. The Prime Minister of Sweden, Olaf Palme, compared the bombings to Guernica, Oradour-sur-Glane, Babi Yar, Katyn, Lidice and Treblinka, causing the US to withdraw its ambassador from Sweden and telling Sweden not to send a new ambassador to Washington. “…while the bombing did severe infrastructure damage in Northern Vietnam, it did not break the stalemate in the South, nor did it halt the flow of supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail…In Paris, the North Vietnamese refused to change the terms of the agreement from October 1972.”(Wikipedia, ibid.).

    Cheer on, Fanboy.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Johnny G.
    "If betraying the Thieu/Ky regime in Saigon and squandering the lives of so many military and civilians is “honor”, then your statement is plausible. If I recall correctly, the Vietnam War didn’t finally end until the last, desperate Vietnamese civilians grabbed onto the skids of the Huey helicopters lifting off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon – during the presidency of Gerald R. Ford."

    Ditto. Dick and Henry openly mention on the tapes that Saigon was to fall sometime before the decade was out, at best. They knew Congress would never allow a Linebacker III, and that the Saigon regime was incapable of fixing its systematic issues without a South Korea-esque status: and even perhaps with it. The fact that Nixon was transparently promising something that he couldn't deliver was *exactly* why Thieu refused to sign the Paris Accords in October in the first place. And if the North Vietnamese noticed in November that Nixon's landslide didn't extend to Congress, it was Nixon's own fault for completely blowing off his own party in exchange for his own ego and desire to make the grand new 3rd Party.

    There was absolutely nothing "honorable" in that war, from start to finish. Only us meddling in a region we knew nothing about... much like one sees today.


    That said...

    "The Prime Minister of Sweden, Olaf Palme, compared the bombings to Guernica, Oradour-sur-Glane, Babi Yar, Katyn, Lidice and Treblinka, causing the US to withdraw its ambassador from Sweden and telling Sweden not to send a new ambassador to Washington."

    Not a Nixon apologist, but these comparisons are absolute nonsense and speak to just how much Palme and his ilk were North Vietnam fanboys, on the other hand, by that point. Pretty much every precaution was taken during Linebacker II to minimize civilian causalities, to the point where the USAF couldn't hit missile factories in proximity to Hanoi's residential neighborhoods. The overall civilian deaths caused by Linebacker II, by the admission of the North Vietnamese government, was maybe around 1,000 people-it certainly doesn't rank up there with terror bombing as known in the 20th Century. If Hanoi actually got the Meetinghouse treatment, considering what Indochinese cities were like in the 1970s, there would have been no Hanoi afterwards.

    (And if anything, the Hue Massacre was far more akin to a Katyn or Babi Yar than My Lai, both in terms of civilian deaths and the government-ordered nature of the killings. One of the reasons there was such an exodus to Saigon in the final days was memory of that-often missed is that massacre took place on a Buddhist holiday, which highly offended and shocked many previously apolitical, traditionalist Vietnamese in the South-which was reinforced constantly by Thieu's propaganda in the years afterward.)

  4. Mr. Buchanan may have “served from the first day to the last” in Nixon’s White House but was in no role of any importance to the point that he would be a unique authority on the subject. That he lasted so long is ample testimony to that.

    I will give him that Nixon was at least Presidential. Ford put his foot squarely into his pumpkin head with his Poland quips during the Carter debates. That was when I first noticed people grumbling about how smart are these guys really, past the veneer of the office. Carter started ruining the reverential aspect of that image with his “call me Jimmy” persona as well as his publicized hemorrhoidal episodes.

    Of course eventually Cigar Bill utterly destroyed and then urinated upon any remaining veneration that the office held. He then wrote (sic) a book that according to his publicists outsold the Bible.

    From then on clearly the turds floated staright to the top of the bowl. And as per Mencken’s quote the country finally got it’s ‘Cesare Carnival’.

    For those interested in a surprisingly good and reasonably contemporary account of Nixon, I recommend : Nixonland, The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein.

    I had read many Nixon books but this one indeed impressed me. I suspect that it would be an antidote for Buchanan’s book but I shall never know because I don’t enjoy reading sclerotic accounts on any subject.

    Cheers-

    Read More
  5. Johnny G. says:
    @Eustace Tilley (not)
    "Nixon pledged to end the Vietnam War with honor...and did."

    Spoken like a true Nixon fanboy.

    If betraying the Thieu/Ky regime in Saigon and squandering the lives of so many military and civilians is "honor", then your statement is plausible. If I recall correctly, the Vietnam War didn't finally end until the last, desperate Vietnamese civilians grabbed onto the skids of the Huey helicopters lifting off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon - during the presidency of Gerald R. Ford.

    In "Operation Linebacker II", conducted from 18 to 29 December 1972, the North received the "honorable" gift of 20,237 tons of bombs (Wikipedia: "Operation Linebacker II") from the United States of America. 15 B-52's were shot down; 33 US Air Force crew were killed in action or missing; 33 were taken as prisoners of war. The Prime Minister of Sweden, Olaf Palme, compared the bombings to Guernica, Oradour-sur-Glane, Babi Yar, Katyn, Lidice and Treblinka, causing the US to withdraw its ambassador from Sweden and telling Sweden not to send a new ambassador to Washington. "...while the bombing did severe infrastructure damage in Northern Vietnam, it did not break the stalemate in the South, nor did it halt the flow of supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail...In Paris, the North Vietnamese refused to change the terms of the agreement from October 1972."(Wikipedia, ibid.).

    Cheer on, Fanboy.

    “If betraying the Thieu/Ky regime in Saigon and squandering the lives of so many military and civilians is “honor”, then your statement is plausible. If I recall correctly, the Vietnam War didn’t finally end until the last, desperate Vietnamese civilians grabbed onto the skids of the Huey helicopters lifting off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon – during the presidency of Gerald R. Ford.”

    Ditto. Dick and Henry openly mention on the tapes that Saigon was to fall sometime before the decade was out, at best. They knew Congress would never allow a Linebacker III, and that the Saigon regime was incapable of fixing its systematic issues without a South Korea-esque status: and even perhaps with it. The fact that Nixon was transparently promising something that he couldn’t deliver was *exactly* why Thieu refused to sign the Paris Accords in October in the first place. And if the North Vietnamese noticed in November that Nixon’s landslide didn’t extend to Congress, it was Nixon’s own fault for completely blowing off his own party in exchange for his own ego and desire to make the grand new 3rd Party.

    There was absolutely nothing “honorable” in that war, from start to finish. Only us meddling in a region we knew nothing about… much like one sees today.

    That said…

    “The Prime Minister of Sweden, Olaf Palme, compared the bombings to Guernica, Oradour-sur-Glane, Babi Yar, Katyn, Lidice and Treblinka, causing the US to withdraw its ambassador from Sweden and telling Sweden not to send a new ambassador to Washington.”

    Not a Nixon apologist, but these comparisons are absolute nonsense and speak to just how much Palme and his ilk were North Vietnam fanboys, on the other hand, by that point. Pretty much every precaution was taken during Linebacker II to minimize civilian causalities, to the point where the USAF couldn’t hit missile factories in proximity to Hanoi’s residential neighborhoods. The overall civilian deaths caused by Linebacker II, by the admission of the North Vietnamese government, was maybe around 1,000 people-it certainly doesn’t rank up there with terror bombing as known in the 20th Century. If Hanoi actually got the Meetinghouse treatment, considering what Indochinese cities were like in the 1970s, there would have been no Hanoi afterwards.

    (And if anything, the Hue Massacre was far more akin to a Katyn or Babi Yar than My Lai, both in terms of civilian deaths and the government-ordered nature of the killings. One of the reasons there was such an exodus to Saigon in the final days was memory of that-often missed is that massacre took place on a Buddhist holiday, which highly offended and shocked many previously apolitical, traditionalist Vietnamese in the South-which was reinforced constantly by Thieu’s propaganda in the years afterward.)

    Read More
  6. Johnny G. says:
    @Parsifal
    Another article dealing with Trum-Nixon parallels:

    http://theweek.com/articles/695392/gop-isnt-party-reagan-party-nixon

    I don’t think Trump’s best comparison is any American politician: it is Silvio Berlusconi. In terms of everything from personality to political appeal to policies in power, there’s really no more apt comparison out there. That being said, if we really must go for American comparisons, a cross between Wallace and Perot on the campaigning trail, a cross between Nelson Rockefeller and Gordon Gekko in power. And of course, PT Barnum, with a splish-splash of “Andrew Jackson wannabe”.

    As for the party, if the GOP leaned more toward Nixon than Reagan, it would be a lot more statist and populist on economics than it is now, and probably wouldn’t be pissing away its massive luck. Whatever else you can say about Nixon, he was a really, really bright dude, and he would be smart enough to know that raw economic populism combined with anti-political correctness/cultural Left sentiment (and foreign policy realism) is a much smarter electoral path than listening to GOP Establishment dogma for the America of 2017.

    Read More
  7. MEexpert says:

    There is no comparison or similarity between Nixon and Trump. Compared to Trump Nixon was a gentleman. In foreign policy matters, there has not been any recent president equal to Nixon. It is sad that the media and the democrats so demonized him that all his foreign policy achievements have been either neglected or forgotten. I don’t know how he got the nick name “tricky Dick,” but if he was tricky then every politician is tricky in the same manner. An honest politician is an oxymoron. Those who are, don’t last long in politics.

    Read More
  8. Chuck says:

    “took America off the gold standard, and let the dollar float.”

    Hmmmm.

    Read More
  9. Parsifal says:

    Since last night the number of Trump – Nixon comparisons has geometrically progressed. I wonder why…LOL!

    Read More
  10. Jmack says:

    There was no ambiguity as to whether or not Nixon’s team conspired with Hanoi to delay Peace Talks that Johnson hoped would end the war before he left office. The president had the goods on taped surveillance and thought to prosecute Nixon for treason, which was a very reasonable thought. The Trump situation so far is mostly innuendo. Big enough difference, I think, to disconnect any similarities.

    Read More
    • Replies: @OutWest
    Are you saying that Hanoi interfered in an American election?
  11. OutWest says:
    @Jmack
    There was no ambiguity as to whether or not Nixon's team conspired with Hanoi to delay Peace Talks that Johnson hoped would end the war before he left office. The president had the goods on taped surveillance and thought to prosecute Nixon for treason, which was a very reasonable thought. The Trump situation so far is mostly innuendo. Big enough difference, I think, to disconnect any similarities.

    Are you saying that Hanoi interfered in an American election?

    Read More
    • Replies: @nebulafox
    It's a long, complicated story, but basically, Hanoi and Saigon both tried to manipulate US politics to their advantage in late 1968-Hanoi wanted Humphrey to win, Saigon wanted Nixon to win. Saigon's interference won out in the end.

    It was *Saigon* with whom Ms. Chennault conspired, thereby violating the Logan Act on private citizens carrying on diplomacy-but it was the South Vietnamese who had agency in that one, not the GOP, and our NSA reports at the time make clear that Thieu wasn't going to play ball with LBJ. Thieu and his buddies knew full well there was an election in the US and who they wanted to win, long before "that rather silly woman" (to quote Stephen Ambrose) landed in Saigon.

    This issue suffers from the same problem in American discourse that many Vietnam War topics do insofar as the Vietnamese themselves are ignored entirely, both by left and right wing pundits. There is no evidence whatsoever that either the DRV or RVN were seriously contemplating peace at any time during 1968. This does not excuse Nixon by any means, but peace wasn't sabotaged, mainly because a prospect for peace did not exist at the time in the first place-and because Hanoi and Saigon could think and act for themselves.

    All that was being discussed in late 1968 was a new stage in the Paris talks where Hanoi conceded that Saigon could come to the table, if the NLF could as well. Thus, the Chennault episode often reflects US-centric politics when being discussed in hindsight, as opposed to the potential of any change in the actual substantive conflict between the two warring Vietnamese states.

  12. nebulafox says:
    @OutWest
    Are you saying that Hanoi interfered in an American election?

    It’s a long, complicated story, but basically, Hanoi and Saigon both tried to manipulate US politics to their advantage in late 1968-Hanoi wanted Humphrey to win, Saigon wanted Nixon to win. Saigon’s interference won out in the end.

    It was *Saigon* with whom Ms. Chennault conspired, thereby violating the Logan Act on private citizens carrying on diplomacy-but it was the South Vietnamese who had agency in that one, not the GOP, and our NSA reports at the time make clear that Thieu wasn’t going to play ball with LBJ. Thieu and his buddies knew full well there was an election in the US and who they wanted to win, long before “that rather silly woman” (to quote Stephen Ambrose) landed in Saigon.

    This issue suffers from the same problem in American discourse that many Vietnam War topics do insofar as the Vietnamese themselves are ignored entirely, both by left and right wing pundits. There is no evidence whatsoever that either the DRV or RVN were seriously contemplating peace at any time during 1968. This does not excuse Nixon by any means, but peace wasn’t sabotaged, mainly because a prospect for peace did not exist at the time in the first place-and because Hanoi and Saigon could think and act for themselves.

    All that was being discussed in late 1968 was a new stage in the Paris talks where Hanoi conceded that Saigon could come to the table, if the NLF could as well. Thus, the Chennault episode often reflects US-centric politics when being discussed in hindsight, as opposed to the potential of any change in the actual substantive conflict between the two warring Vietnamese states.

    Read More
  13. OutWest says:

    Next thing you’ll be telling me is that Churchill meddled in our politics too.

    Read More
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