Think The Trump Tapes Are Worse Than The Nixon Tapes? Think Again.Roundup
tags: racism, Richard Nixon, Watergate, White House tapes, Donald Trump
Leonard Steinhorn is a professor of communication and affiliate professor of history at American University and a political analyst for CBS News.
After Bob Woodward revealed that President Trump admitted on tape that he had deliberately undermined the nation’s covid-19 response, his former reporting partner Carl Bernstein told CNN that Trump’s act was perhaps the “greatest presidential felony” of all time and an act of “homicidal negligence.” He said it was a “dereliction of duty, recorded as no other dereliction of duty has been, even more so than the Nixon tapes in this instance.”
Bernstein isn’t the first to compare Trump to Nixon. “Donald Trump makes Richard Nixon look good,” tweeted former Nixon White House counsel John Dean. The compliments may be backhanded and the praise rather sparing, but former president Richard Nixon seems to be enjoying a modest reputation boost propelled by those who revile Trump and proclaim him — not Nixon — the most corrupt president ever.
But regardless of how history judges Trump, it would be a mistake to let the immediacy of our political moment mitigate or soften the singular record of damage and destruction that Nixon did to our politics, society and civic culture — and to people around the world. In fact, this damage and destruction played a role in the pathway to Trump’s presidency.
Those finding newfound value in Nixon cherry pick a few of his accomplishments, particularly his opening to China and his willingness to work with a Democratic Congress in establishing the Environmental Protection Agency. Occasionally they note his failed proposal to give all Americans a guaranteed annual income, and some commend him for trying to expand health insurance to more Americans.
No one excuses his Watergate crimes, but, as Dean put it, Trump “is making Nixon’s authoritarian behavior look tame.”
Yet there was nothing really “tame” about the Nixon presidency. He corrupted our elections, authorized criminal behavior, obstructed justice, abused the powers of his office, mainstreamed the politics of racial resentment, politicized the Supreme Court, demonized journalists, crafted policies to punish political opponents and caused immense pain and suffering overseas.
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