On Sunday, CNN is airing the second of a 4-part documentary “Tricky Dick.” It’s about Richard Nixon, the only president in American history to resign. Nixon was ruthless and vengeful but, compared to Donald Trump, he was a combination of Mother Teresa and Winston Churchill.
There are similarities between Trump and Nixon and yet glaring differences. Almost all favor Nixon as a president and as a human being. To begin with, both were obsessed with “getting even,” but for contrasting reasons.
Nixon’s childhood was marked by poverty and the death of his two older brothers. Richard was 12 when Arthur passed from tubercular meningitis and 19 when Harold died of tuberculosis. (Richard turned down a scholarship to Harvard to stay home and help his mother care for Harold.) Years later, Nixon acknowledged his survivor guilt and the vow he made to his mother to one day make her proud of his life.
Born with a silver foot in his mouth, Trump was a millionaire by the time he was 8. He was 35 when his older brother, Fred Jr. died of alcoholism. Trump reportedly loved Fred Jr and yet, upon his becoming an airline pilot, reportedly said, “A pilot is just a bus driver in the sky.” (How loving.)
During WW2, Nixon was eligible for an exemption because he was a Quaker and also working for the Office of Price Administration (OPA). And yet, he served in the Navy though he didn’t see action.
During Vietnam, Trump didn’t serve due to a bone spur that didn’t interfere with baseball, football, basketball and golf, but evidently made marching impossible. (The painful spur was supposedly debilitating but, in 2016, Trump couldn’t remember on which foot it occurred.)
I suppose Trump could have fought in Vietnam if he’d had a golf cart. As for “action,” Trump had plenty as he admitted on the Howard Stern show that “My personal Vietnam was avoiding sexually transmitted diseases.”
In 1969, Nixon signed the Environmental Protection Act and in 1970 he created the Environmental Protection Agency. Since becoming president, Trump has overturned almost everything Obama did to protect the environment. And worse.
Trump has proposed to open U.S. coastal waters to oil drilling, including California and Florida, and has directed the Interior Department to consider auctioning oil and gas leases in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. (However, there’s no truth he’s planning on deeding Alaska back to Russia in return for 2020 election interference or selling the Grand Canyon to the Saudis.)
In 1969, Nixon was the last Republican president to balance the budget. Trump, the self-described “King of Debt,” has infamously set a record for trade deficits and the national debt, $22 trillion and climbing.
In his private life, Trump had 6 bankruptcies and gleefully wiped out millions in debt. In June, 2016 he told CBS host Norah O”Donnell “I could declare America bankrupt” and force creditors to take pennies on the dollar. Say what?
Trump reportedly shrugged off the debt problem because he “Won’t be around to shoulder the blame when it becomes untenable.” (The Daily Beast cited “sources close to the president” but, frankly, I don’t think Trump even knows the word “untenable.”)
With Watergate, the Nixon administration racked up a record 55 indictments and 15 prison sentences. “I only hire the best people” Trump has “only” six convictions but with the Mueller report due soon, Trump still has time to catch “Tricky Dick.”
Nixon was a brilliant “top of his class” student. Trump’s grades were evidently so poor he threatened schools (and the SAT) with civil and criminal liability if they released his grades or test scores. Nixon was a workaholic, whereas Trump is a Fox News, golf and junk food-aholic.
A voracious reader, Nixon wrote 11 scholarly books. Trump doesn’t even read his Daily Briefings. Tony Schwartz, the actual author of “Art of the Deal”swears, “Trump didn’t write a word of it. I don’t even think he read it.”
“Tricky Dick” was considered by many in the psychiatric field as “paranoid” Trump is frequently described as a “sociopath.” Nixon was ruthlessly cold and calculating. Trump is dangerously impulsive and reckless. Nixon was an expert on world history. Trump gets his history from “Fox and Friends.”
Former White House Counsel John Dean described Nixon as “corrupt,” and Trump as “Evil.” Dean added, “Never for a moment did I worry Nixon, if impeached would refuse to leave office.” But he has serious concerns Trump would leave peacefully as he has shown contempt for the law.
To his credit, Nixon’s remarkably touching farewell speech to his staff revealed that, under all the bitterness, he had a genuine heart. Assuming he has the emotional capacity, I would love to see Trump deliver a farewell speech. In fact, the sooner the better.