* It’s no surprise that the longer the Donald Trump Administration continues, the more parallels there are to the presidency of Richard Nixon. The Mueller investigation–and what it possibly portends–guarantees no less. Plus, both were self-serving and duplicitous, both kept enemies’ lists, and both were given to race-baiting to gin up a base.
But there will always be one notable difference.
However impeachment worthy and however unlikable, Nixon was not unqualified for the presidency. He wasn’t jumpstarted by a millionaire father. He was a Duke Law graduate. He served in the Navy. He was a member of the House of Representatives, a U.S. senator and a two-term, Cold War vice president. Trump had no government experience, was largely unread and was best known for branding towers and reality TV. The EPA was started during the Nixon presidency. The EPA has been under assault during the Trump presidency. And while both presidents showed animus toward the press, only Trump has labeled it “the enemy of the people” and encouraged violence against it.
“Tricky Dick” never looked so presidential. Watergate vs. Global Threatgate.
* Trump has told reporters that any new rules for press access would focus on “decorum.” “You have to act with respect,” he (actually) said. “You’re at the White House.” This, of course, from the bully pulpiteer, the disparager-in-chief, the spewer of insults, the one who routinely demonizes the press as “the enemy.”
What we need to remember about presidential press conferences, which are a relative rarity anymore, is that they are often more performance art than information sharing. It’s the convergence of the First Amendment, show business and showboating. Ratings matter for everybody. Fourth Estate elites has been known to preen; presidents have been known to palaver and pivot.
Advice to Trump: Watch some old video of John F. Kennedy press conferences. They weren’t all love-ins. Some were contentious. But never uncivil. This, after all, was America’s commander-in-chief, the one who was speaking to his fellow citizens–and global interests–through a press conference forum. There were always multiple agendas–including how a president handled media push back on controversial subjects. Trump, alas, is still an Apprentice, one who pathologically cannot grow in this job.
I miss Sam Donaldson and Helen Thomas.
* Trump recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which reminded us that this country’s highest civilian commendation is beyond eclectic. Exhibits A, B and C: the late Babe Ruth, the late Elvis Presley and the not-yet-late, retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch.
* Speaking of Hatch, the Utah Republican had a take on Trump that defies credulity–but certainly not fealty and sycophancy. “Eight years ago to 10 years ago, Trump was not what I consider to be a pillar of virtue,” he said. “I think he has changed a lot of his life once he was elected. I think Trump is a much better person today than he was then.” Yeah, he really said that.
* While the president was stewing over the mid-terms, what Bob Mueller was up to, how to respond to the Saudis over the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and how many soldiers and how much barbed wire to order up to halt a Central American caravan of asylum seekers, Vice President Mike Pence pinch hit for him at the Asia-Pacific summit meeting in Singapore. Pence managed to speak out for human rights for Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and called for press freedoms in a part of the world known for government-controlled media. Given that he signed on for this and represents moral-cherry-picking evangelicals, he probably doesn’t see any hypocrisy in lecturing others.