Trump shows echoes of Nixon
Of all the adjectives available to describe a U.S. president’s behaviour, there is one that stands alone as the most emphatically damning. “Nixonian.”
Stirring up the ghost of America’s most notoriously crooked commander-in-chief is an extreme measure, but “Nixonian” has been employed frequently and loudly in the aftermath of last Tuesday’s sudden and controversial firing of FBI director James Comey by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The direct comparison being drawn between presidents Trump and Nixon has to do with Mr. Nixon’s infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” in October 1973, when he ordered the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had been appointed to investigate the bungled Watergate burglary that would ultimately lead to Mr. Nixon’s downfall.
Comey, of course, in his job as FBI director, was in charge of the bureau’s ongoing investigation of ties and possible collusion between officials in the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government. His abrupt dismissal comes close on the heels of Comey’s testimony last week before a Senate judiciary committee, during which he confirmed the FBI is continuing its probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
On Wednesday, reports by several U.S. news outlets stated that, in the days before his firing, Comey met with U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to request additional resources for the Russian-influence investigation.
According to Trump, the dismissal of the FBI director was carried out on the recommendation of Rosenstein and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Because of his deep involvement in the Trump campaign, Sessions had previously recused himself from matters related to the Russia/election investigation, but still saw fit to voice support for Comey’s ouster.
The White House’s justification for Comey’s firing is as ridiculous and unbelievable as its timing is troubling and suspicious. By stating that Comey’s firing was primarily motivated by his unfair treatment of Hillary Clinton during the FBI’s investigation of her private emails, Trump and his staff are either playing the American public for a bunch of fools or are so acutely foolish themselves that they may have actually believed, at least temporarily, they could get away with such a clumsily transparent ruse.
The problem, for Trump just as it was for Nixon, is that things are not at all likely to “calm down” after a rash and ill-advised action such as the firing of an official whose investigation has the president among its subjects.
The way it ended for Nixon in the ’70s explains how his name earned its noxious adjectival form. And its application to this week’s actions speaks volumes about the current president’s downward-spiralling predicament.
One might even say “Nixonian” trumps any negative words that might have been considered.
It’s as harsh as POTUS-prodding descriptives get, but in this case, it becomes more evident with each new revelation that it is being fairly applied.