Trump’s Nixon Moment

A few hours after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey I Googled “Nixon” and found 80+ articles on the similarities between this action and the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.”

Typical among so many breathlessly written articles was this:

On the evening of Saturday October 20, 1973, Federal Judge John Sirica sat in front of his television set watching FBI agents seal off the office of the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had just been fired at the command of the Nixon White House. The scene reminded him of a banana republic coup. “What the hell is this crowd doing?” he asked.

It’s far too early to say whether President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey will have the same dire consequences for his political future as Richard Nixon’s dismissal of Cox did for his. But not since that “Saturday Night Massacre” more than 40 years ago has a sitting president dared to fire an official in the middle of investigating potential misconduct by his own campaign. The risks of doing so are enormous.

Todd S. Purdum. “Trump Pulls From Nixon’s Playbook”. Politico. 9 May 2017

The optics thus far are strange indeed. Trump fires the man who was investigating his administration and associates, forcing Democrats to suddenly defend the man they were denigrating just days before.

Still, it’s a high-wire act that Trump isn’t lithe enough to play. And considering that he fashioned himself “the law and order candidate” in last year’s election, ran a textbook Southern Strategy, and has had close ties to Roger Stone for over 30 years, one could say that he’s been tempting fate ever since November 8th.

By fate, I mean leaks. And speaking of leaks—expect more.

Here’s a possible scenario: Trump installs a stooge like “Mr. Meatloaf” Chris Christie to run the FBI. This pisses off rank and file agents loyal to Comey and hostile to a mafioso presidency. Maybe even “The Flynn Stones”, the Michael Flynn appointees still on the NSC, will be brought into the mix. The rebels leak details of Comey’s investigations into Trump’s Russia connections. Flynn’s people continue their attack on H. R. McMaster—an oblique attack on Trump. Both camps leak tidbits that could smear certain White House staffers in hopes of finding a disgruntled Cassius for our orange Caesar.

Today’s media environment is more intense, more rapacious, and much more partisan than it was in Nixon’s time. Compared to now, Tricky Dick had it easy. However, considering how thin-skinned Trump is, he might eventually regret that he didn’t have the team of plumbers Nixon had.

I was four years old in 1973 during Watergate. By 1987 I was already a news junkie and closely followed the Iran-Contra Hearings. Things can (and will) change, and right now “Trumpgate” could refer to several would-be scandals. But the Comey firing, and what could possibly spin out from it, feels like something in between Watergate and Iran-Contra. In the coming days, expect a series of distractions from this story, such as the “Trump fired Comey for what he did to Hillary” line of bullshit peddled by Carmen San Diego. Oops. I meant Kelly Anne Conway.

“Where In The World Is Kellyanne Conway? – SNL – YouTube”. YouTube. 2017.

Also expect elements from the far/alt Right to cast Comey as a globalist agent of the the Deep State whom Trump had to sack in order to make America great again. Expect the distractions to be countered by little leaks that keep Beltway drama on the front pages. And expect both to vie with grand jury subpoenas for eyeballs.

“Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.”

Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown. “CNN Exclusive: Grand Jury Subpoenas Issued In FBI’s Russia Investigation”. CNN. 10 May 2017.

Instead of spinning narratives to distract us, Trump’s time would be better spent determining who’s truly loyal to him. He’ll need even people like Roger Stone when the long knives come out.

Remember that the only reason why Reagan wasn’t forced to resign in disgrace was because enough insiders (Oliver North, John Poindexter, Elliot Abrams, Donald Regan) hoisted themselves on their own petards to preserve the (neo)conservative agenda.

Do you see Steve Bannon or Reince or Priebus falling on their sword to protect someone who’s famous for saying “You’re fired”? I don’t.


IMAGE SOURCE: Richard Nixon

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