Thursday, May 11, 2017

Republicans backing Trump

"Ultimately, we’re looking at Nixon 2.0, with significantly more power to potentially overcome whatever investigatory hurdles appear in his path. " - Bob Cesca (Nixon didn’t have Twitter: The parallels are clear, but Trump might be more dangerous Salon 05/141/2017)

He's talking about Donald Trump, of course.

The firing of James Comey has understandably brought flashbacks to Nixon, Watergate and the Saturday Night Massacre.

Cesca raises a question about this difference between our current moment and the reaction to the Saturday Night Massacre:

Nixon also didn’t enjoy the unwavering support of the GOP Congress. It’s unclear why exactly the Republican caucus is so completely motivated to flack for Trump, but that loyalty comes despite the fact that the president is utterly toxic, and has been since day one. GOP lawmakers largely don’t seem to care. Early Wednesday, for example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t hesitate before he declared that there would be no more Russia investigations, including special hearings to probe the firing of Comey. Few if any Republicans will dare to criticize the president’s actions on anything, much less his sloppy treatment of the Russia story.

Along those lines, imagine if the Russia attack had come in the form of a nuclear device that was detonated in a major U.S. city — a more destructive attack than a cyber-attack, sure, but still a direct assault on American sovereignty, our people and our democracy. Now imagine the president calling that attack a hoax, while the Republican Congress silently shrugged its shoulders. We’d have no choice but to wonder: What’s in it for Congress? Analogies aside, why the lack of outrage over a foreign attack on our political institutions? Why such loyalty to a chief executive whose approval numbers had dropped to 36 percent even before the Comey news? At what point does having Trump’s jagged autograph on their legislation fail to make up for the myriad political liabilities commensurate with being linked to such a loser?
A couple of reasons strike me. One is that conservatives have coalesced decades ago around the idea that the Watergate scandal and Nixon's 1974 resignation were basically completely "political," as in a partisan Democratic Party dirty deed. And that Nixon could have survived an impeachment by the House and a trial in the Senate. And this position regards Republicans like Howard Baker and that notorious liberal squish Barry Goldwater as RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) who stabbed Dear Leader Tricky Dicky in the back.

And it tells us something important about the American hard right that they have been willing to bestow such a retrospective martyrdom to Richard Nixon. Because the kind of conservatives that have effectively controlled the Republican Party since 1980 were deeply suspicious of Nixon as of 1972-3, even though of course they preferred him to Democrat George McGovern in 1972. Nixon had started a reconciliation with China, which acknowledge that Taiwan was part of China. (That was the long-standing arrangement that Trump blundered into disturbing during his transition period; see Charlie Campbell, Donald Trump Angers China With Historic Phone Call to Taiwan's President Time 12/05/2016) He had negotiated the SALT nuclear arms control treaty with the Soviet Union, the most important nuclear arms treaty until that time, which pleased most Democrats but upset the more conservative Republicans. He had instituted affirmative action as the lead federal approach to ending illegal racial discrimination. He set up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He declared himself a Keynesian and imposed wage-and-price controls on the economy.

But once they could see him as a martyr to the Mean Libruls, he looked more heroic to hardline conservatives.

And second factor is that Watergate and Nixon's resignation badly shook the Washington Beltway Village media crowd. Despite the iconic status of Watergate as one of the finest hours of the free press, the corporate press was reluctant to have another one. This is a major reason that the media was willing to basically give St. Reagan a pass on the Iran-Contra scandal.

And this in the context of a Republican Party that has been radicalizing itself more and more intensely over the last several decades.

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