When a Cover-Up Isn’t Secret, Did It Happen?Roundup
tags: Watergate, Nixon, James Comey, Trump
President Richard Nixon was forced out of office for a crime — the break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex — and we still don’t know if he actually ordered it. We don’t even know why it happened or what exactly the burglars were trying to find.
None of that mattered. What forced Nixon to resign was the cover-up, specifically a secret order to his chief of staff to have the CIA pressure the FBI to abandon its investigation of the break in.
What’s shocking about President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey was that he explained why he did it on national television, telling NBC News: “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”
Jonathan Rauch draws the parallel:
So there he was, right out in the open, volunteering that he had fired an FBI director partly because that director was investigating him. It was as if Richard Nixon, in 1974, had gone on TV, after all his aides’ denials, and said, “Sure, I told the CIA to quash an FBI investigation. When I decided to do it, I said to myself, You know, this Watergate thing with Nixon is a made-up story.”
Was Trump’s self-exposé impulsive, as some observers conjectured? Naïve? Incompetent?
None of the above. It was an exercise of the Trump doctrine, a new, strange, and surprisingly effective hack of American politics.
What Trump seems to have figured out is that people quickly adjust to behavior that is open and legal, even if it is unprecedented, antisocial, and sinister. Instead, they focus on what’s secret and illegal, assuming that secretive criminal behavior must be worse.
Ever since he started running for president, Trump has used his brazenness as a political weapon. ...