Tuesday, January 07, 2020


Frank Rich believes that infamy is the inevitable fate of President Trump's aides and enablers.
... Trump’s collaborators will one day be viewed through the long lens of history like Nixon’s collaborators before them and the various fools, opportunists, and cowards who tried to appease Hitler in America, England, and France before that. Once Trump has vacated the Oval Office, and possibly for decades thereafter, his government, like any other deposed strongman’s, will be subjected to a forensic colonoscopy to root out buried crimes, whether against humanity or the rule of law or both. With time, everything will come out — it always does.... And Trump’s collaborators, our Vichy Republicans, will own all of it — whether they were active participants in the wrongdoing like Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, Kirstjen Nielsen, Mike Pompeo, and William Barr, or the so-called adults in the room who stood idly by rather than sound public alarms for the good of the Republic (e.g., Gary Cohn, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson), or those elite allies beyond the White House gates who pretended not to notice administration criminality and moral atrocities in exchange for favors like tax cuts and judicial appointments (from Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr.).
Stop, Frank. Stop imagining that the arc of history will inevitably bend toward justice within the lifetimes of these bootlickers.

It's fun to compare every malefactor to Hitler or Nixon because their wrongs were acknowledged and stopped, but since Nixon we've seen the bad actors who brought us Iran-Contra, the Iraq War and its attendant torture, and the people who crashed the economy in 2008, then made off with all the money as it slowly recovered. All of these people are still considered respectable. All are still in demand as advisers and pundits.

People across the political spectrum were very angry about the Iraq War and the crash, and yet the perpetrators are still with us. Only progressives and some moderates are angry about what Trump has done, unless you count the handful of #NeverTrumpers in the media.

I have been saying this since 2017 and I'll keep saying it: We may rid ourselves of Trump, either through defeat at the polls or (much less likely) through impeachment and conviction, but if that premature defenestration comes, Trump will still have an approval rating of approximately 40%. It's swell that more people now want Trump impeached and convicted than wanted the same fate for Nixon in the early months of the Watergate investigation, but Trump's numbers won't move -- his GOP support is locked in, and it's not going anywhere. This time the collaborators and enablers include nearly half of our fellow citizens. In a year or two, they're not going to concede that people who clung to Trump are evil -- that would be like calling themselves evil.

Rich's notion that every Nixon flunky was shamed for life relies on a rather select reading of the facts.
To take two examples from the Nixon era, the White House criminals Charles Colson and Jeb Stuart Magruder both found God and dedicated themselves to ministries after doing time for Watergate-related crimes. (They were among 69 charged and 25 imprisoned.) But you won’t find their ostentatious efforts at spiritual redemption at the top of their Wikipedia entries or referenced more than fleetingly in the vast Nixon-Watergate literature. Nixon lackeys who did nothing illegal generally fared no better: The New Jersey congressman Charles Sandman, a House Judiciary Committee impeachment holdout until a few days before Nixon’s resignation, lost a seat he had held since 1966 in the subsequent 1974 midterms (48 other GOP members of Congress were wiped out as well) and would wind up the decade dishing out steamed crabs at a joint on the Jersey shore and losing a jury trial on the charge of slandering a police officer. When a Senate counterpart, Ed Gurney of Florida, a vocal Nixon defender on Sam Ervin’s Watergate Committee, died in 1996, his family tried to keep his death a secret, presumably to avoid renewed attention to his past.
Rich cites two little-known members of Congress. He doesn't cite Senator Bob Dole, who was one of Nixon's most fervent defenders, after which he gained a national reputation as a beloved Republican statesman. Among the aides, Rich doesn't mention Henry Kissinger, who's regarded as a savant to this day despite his deep involvement in matters many people think Nixon should have been impeached over.

When the Trump era ends -- assuming it ever does; assuming Trump doesn't find a way to become president for life; assuming Don Junior doesn't succeed his father five years from now -- we will still have to contend with rampant Trumpism, which is just a strain of the Reagan/Murdoch/Koch cancer we've battled for the past forty years. We might be rid of Trump in a year, but we'll be fighting his allies for a long time to come. In the short term, a lot of them will keep winning, even if Trump loses.

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