Monday, October 30, 2017

Using Nixon To Put Trump's Denials Into Context - What Are They Really Thinking And Doing In The White House

To get some insight into the President's denials of wrong doings and attempts to redirect attention to Clinton emails, we can look at what President Nixon did when Watergate investigations were going on.  (The Dean investigation mentioned in the second half was an internal White House investigation that Nixon hoped could quash any further outside investigations.)

Here, from HistoryCommons:

President Nixon responds to the report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) alleging possible illegal campaign finances in his re-election campaign (see August 22, 1972). Nixon tells reporters, “[W]e have a new law here in which technical violations have occurred and are occurring, apparently on both sides.” When asked what illegalities the Democrats have committed, Nixon says: “I think that will come out in the balance of this week. I will let the political people talk about, but I understand that there have been [violations] on both sides.” The financial director of his re-election campaign, Maurice Stans (see Before April 7, 1972), is an honest man, Nixon says, and is currently investigating the matter “very, very thoroughly, because he doesn’t want any evidence at all to be outstanding, indicating that we have not complied with the law.” Between the GAO’s and the FBI’s investigations, Stans’s own internal investigation, and an internal White House investigation by White House counsel John Dean, Nixon says there is no need for a special Watergate prosecutor, as some have requested. Of the Dean investigation: “I can say categorically that his investigation indicates that no one on the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident [the Watergate burglary—see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972]. What really hurts in matters of this sort is not the fact that they occur, because overzealous people in campaigns do things that are wrong. What really hurts is if you try to cover it up.” [BERNSTEIN AND WOODWARD, 1974, PP. 57GERALD R. FORD LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, 7/3/2007] A Washington Post story on the press conference highlights Nixon’s use of the phrase “presently employed,” and notes that several people suspected of campaign wrongdoing—G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt, Maurice Stans, Hugh Sloan, and John Mitchell—no longer work for the administration. [BERNSTEIN AND WOODWARD, 1974, PP. 57] An assistant attorney general is convinced that the Dean investigation is “a fraud, a pipeline to [White House aide H. R.] Haldeman.” [BERNSTEIN AND WOODWARD, 1974, PP. 206] In April 1973, an associate of Dean tells Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that there was never any such investigation, that Dean had not even discussed anything to do with Watergate as of August 29. “There never was a report,” the associate says. “Dean was asked to gather certain facts. The facts got twisted around to help some other people above him.” [BERNSTEIN AND WOODWARD, 1974, PP. 297-298] Dean later tells Watergate investigators that he never conducted any such internal White House investigation (see June 3, 1973). [WASHINGTON POST, 6/3/1973]

And if you want to know what Trump is thinking and doing, here's George V. Higgins' 1974 Atlantic Monthly account of what happened in the Nixon White House.  I'd note that all things considered, Nixon was a very capable president in many ways and a number of very important policy was made during his administration.  Here's a short excerpt:

"It is impossible, now, to ascertain with any assurance when it was that Richard Nixon first began to practice to deceive. But it is clear that over the years he perfected his art at least to the point of ‘trusting his monstrous craftsmanship completely, and believing it sufficient unto the most anxious of days. He became a virtuoso of deception, a wizard as a manipulator of reality and facts, and of the nation’s trust. Harry Houdini would have been hard pressed to imitate him with a set of handcuffs.
He guarded his ambition closely. A few intimates—Bob Haldeman, for example, who knew for more than two years what whoppers the President was piously reciting to the country on the subject of the cover-up—may have guessed at his prodigious skill in mendacity, but he was enough of an artist, with others, never to confide in them the truth about his fondness for lies, the final conceit of his mastery. It was that which led to Attorney General Richard Kleindienst’s disgrace, and to Attorney General Elliot Richardson’s stunned fury, and to the helpless rage and sorrow of James St."

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