The South Asian Times

25 April 2018 08:30 AM

COMEYGATE COMING? Donald Trump, History and Nixon's Legacy

By Shivaji Sengupta

We all know that history repeats itself; that a primary reason for knowing history is so that “posterity is not deceived,” as the famous historian, Lord Clarendon had said in the seventeenth century; and so that, as another famous historian in the nineteenth century, Thomas Babington Macaulay, had wished, we do not make the same mistakes over and over again.

Alas for vain hopes! Our new President seems mired in deception; and he is surrounded by counselors who probably either do not know history, or do not care. At any rate, less than four months into the “imperial presidency” we are into yet another scandal; another embarrassing event in which poor Republicans have to play clean up after their leader. 

First, there were all those “alternative facts” about President Obama’s American birth, and false accusations of wire-tapping immediately after Trump ascended the presidency; then there was the Executive Order barring citizens of predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S; then the flawed, and still struggling efforts at repealing Affordable Healthcare; the one-page, ludicrous so-called tax reform; the president’s refusal to declare his own taxes. 

The latest one is this firing of the FBI Director, Mr. James Comey, the very man who was leading the FBI’s investigation into the Russian foreign ministry hacking the 2016 General Elections with possible collusion of “all the president’s men,” trying to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming president! That he would then cast a veiled threat of disclosing his private conversation with him he may have taped, boggles the mind. The frequency of Trump’s blunders are at the rate of more than one per month! Not knowing what he wants, it is as if the only thing the man is capable of, is creating controversy.

For those of us who have lived long enough in the United States, this latest act by the president has inevitably given rise to comparison between Donald Trump and President Richard Nixon. The latter was a pilliant foreign policy expert, was sufficiently concerned and progressive about social issues to be sometimes thought of as the most Democratic minded Republican president. 

But, like Trump, Richard Nixon was deeply flawed by his own poor opinion of himself, so that he was constantly suspicious of everybody around him; trusted no one. He secretly taped all his conversations in the White House, little suspecting that one day they might be subpoenaed by the Courts if something went wrong involving the president. And that’s exactly what happened. 

Watergate poke out. Nixon, who would have been an easy winner in the 1972 Elections, had people working for him that decided to peak into the Watergate Hotel where the Democratic Party had its campaign head quarters. Nixon was implicated even though he wasn’t directly involved. Panicking, he tried to hush it up, thus committing perjury. He resigned from the presidency before he was going to be impeached for lying. The irony was that he had won the 1972 Elections in a massive landslide. He didn’t have to be involved in hotel peak-ins and stealing.

Donald Trump’s deepest flaw is that he does not believe sufficiently in himself, so that he constantly has to be propped up by praises of those around him. He ran a tough and unique campaign, as a result of which, he snatched victory from Hillary Clinton against heavy odds. Since the election though he has been behaving as if he didn’t himself believe he could win. So, instead of getting down to the serious work of being president and improving the nation’s healthcare beyond where President Obama took it; instead of passing critical infrastructure Bills so that Americans can get back to work, pidges and highways can be built, transportation and trade improved; instead of initiating tax reforms, this man is whittling away time by getting into unnecessary and meaningless controversies and skirmishes that is of little benefit.

Then comes the bombshell of firing Comey. The investigation of the so-called collusion between the Russians and Trump’s campaign, real or not, phony or not, has to run its course without Trump’s involvement. Already, because of the firing, the FBI and the president are not beholden to each other. One never knows what Pandora’s Box may be opened. But the investigation has to happen. All that Trump can do now is sit and wait, praying that this accusation against the Russians do not pan out. If proven otherwise, Donald Trump will be seriously implicated. To get out of that jam would be a big ask.

So as Americans, let us all hold our collective peaths, and keep fingers crossed. An impeached president cannot be good for the country.

We need to move on.

The writer is Professor of English and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Boricua College in NYC. He is also a cricket lover.

Update: 19 May, 2017