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Old 05-17-2017, 11:16 PM
Polerius Polerius is online now
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Nixon-era vs Trump-era Republican apologism: How do they compare?

For people who were old enough to live through the Watergate era, were the Republicans defending Nixon and saying stuff like "it's no big deal" after the information started becoming public, or did they acknowledge that what he did is bad and likely impeachable?

Basically, I just want to compare today's climate, where no matter what Trump does, Republicans come out to support him ("it didn't happen", "fake news", "it's no big deal", etc)

I'm referring to both the politicians and the members of the public.

I'm assuming that today's hyper-partisan climate is worse than in the 70's, but it would be good to hear from people who lived it.
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Old 05-17-2017, 11:55 PM
foolsguinea foolsguinea is online now
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I didn't live it.

I did used to read National Review, and it does seem that one element of the "conservative movement" is the camp that insist that Nixon had every right to act like Don Corleone once in office; that special prosecutors shouldn't exist; and that corruption, if it's even a word, must mean something else, maybe something those pantywaists on the other side of the aisle do.
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Old 05-18-2017, 07:33 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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It depended on the Republican. I watched the Watergate hearings extensively; of the three Republicans, Lowell Weiker (who later left the party) was clearly skeptical of the president, Howard Baker seemed open minded (he would go where the evidence led). and Edward Gurney was a full-fledged Nixon supporter who was skeptical about any charges.

I think you saw that throughout the party -- a handful were skeptical of the president, some were open-minded (thinking it was a possibility, but not willing to accept it until evidence was in), and some were strong supporters (mostly, though, by arguing that nothing had occurred, not that the president could do whatever he wanted).

The main difference back then was the Republicans were interested in governing, and in doing what was right for all the country. Now, they're only interested in political power and being ideologically pure.

The general public also fell into three categories. I'd say the largest portion were willing to look at the evidence; politics back them wasn't sports, where you rooted for your favorite team no matter what.
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Old 05-18-2017, 07:41 AM
OttoDaFe OttoDaFe is offline
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Granted that we're still in the early stages, one thing that comes to mind right away is the tendency to dismiss the "lamestream media" out of hand. While there were certainly accusations of media bias and attempts to dismiss events ("two-bit burglary"), claiming that they had not happened ("fake news!") were in my recollection much less common.

We've got a long way to go, and I'm sure that many more similarities/differences will shake out as the situation develops.
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Old 05-18-2017, 03:52 PM
davidm davidm is offline
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It's difficult to compare the two times. There was no internet (at least not for the general public), and news was almost exclusively delivered by three TV networks and print newspapers; and there was no 24 hour coverage. Also, there were few, if any, news outlets delivering blatantly fake news. People didn't mistake Mad Magazine or The National Enquirer for real news.

The arguments and spin were overall more... I guess the word I'm looking for is "adult".

Yes, there were various subcultures, and numerous cheap "underground newspapers" printing various conspiracy theories, but the phenomenon was nowhere near as mainstream as it is today.
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Old 05-18-2017, 05:12 PM
F. U. Shakespeare F. U. Shakespeare is offline
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I was only a teenager when Nixon resigned, but my family followed politics.

It is hard to compare the two situations.

My impression is that there are more people who voted for Trump who acknowledged their misgivings up front than was the case with Nixon voters.

But whereas plenty of Nixon supporters changed their minds after the truth came out, few who haven't already expressed misgivings will do that with Trump: if Trump were to barricade himself in the Oval Office and start picking off pedestrians with an elephant gun, his base would consider the SWAT team a witch-hunt.
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Old 05-18-2017, 05:12 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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First, there was no covering up that CREEP had burgled the Dem headquarters at Watergate. The question was really whether it had been done with Nixon's agreement and/or knowledge. As it gradually became clear that Nixon at least knew about it, more and more Reps started getting critical until a delegation of Rep congressmen convinced Nixon that he would be impeached and likely convicted unless he resigned.

The burglary itself was an act of monumental stupidity. Nixon was going to win reelection and everyone knew it. Why get involved with this incredible act even if it was a "two-bit affair"? But it was the coverup, not the burglary itself that did Nixon in.

The current situation has a completely different feel. If the allegations are correct, it is not a two-bit affair but getting entirely too close to treason. If the only use Trump makes of security briefings is to spill to the Russians, pretty soon his security briefings are going to get pretty thin on facts.

I have a friend--not a conspiracy theorist--who conjectures that Ryan is just waiting for a propitious moment to institute impeachment proceedings in order to install a president who can and will really implement his agenda. The Votemaster seemed to have similar thoughts and doesn't think the Dems are any too anxious to impeach, although I hardly think they would be in a position to oppose it.
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Old 05-18-2017, 05:20 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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As others are saying it was a very different situation in a very different time. Nixon had plenty of defenders until the details about the cover up began to emerge. We haven't reached that point in this messy affair.
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Old 05-18-2017, 07:46 PM
Melbourne Melbourne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
I'm assuming that today's hyper-partisan climate is worse than in the 70's, but it would be good to hear from people who lived it.
You can take President Clinton as another reference point.. My memory is that if felt very much the same as the Nixon time. (Except that the jubilation after the Nixon event found no match in the disapointment following the Clinton event)

As a Republican supporter, I don't feel that today's climate is more hyper-partisan than any time in the past. My father regarded Democrats as crininals, the Democrat supporters I knew always regarded Republicans as liars.

Two things seem different now: The disfunction of the House and Senate, with ? apparently ? each party regarding the other as responsible, and, Trump is treated as subject of Gossip Column / Entertainment News.

That doesn't mean that the climate is more partisan, just that everbody is treating it as entertainment news, to be reported, discussed, disected, instead of political news, to be treated as "don't discuss religion or politics"

Last edited by Melbourne; 05-18-2017 at 07:47 PM.
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Old 05-18-2017, 09:12 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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Although I hated the son of a bitch, Nixon had a certain level of gravitas, and both his critics and his defenders argued on, as davidm said, a more "adult" level than what we're seeing now.

At the beginning few people thought that Nixon would even bother to get his hands dirty over "a third-rate burglary." It took two years for the entire story to come out. Watergate was like an eight-course meal prepared by a master chef and served over an entire evening. Trump's crisis is like microwave popcorn.
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Old 05-18-2017, 10:03 PM
davidm davidm is offline
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I should add to my previous remarks.

There were definite parallels to the current divide. Racists, political and social conservatives, and religious fundamentalists, strongly tended to be Nixon supporters. Youth were strongly anti-Nixon.

Also, you have to throw the Vietnam War into the pot.

Try to imagine the current situation except tens of thousands of draftees are dying in Afghanistan or Iraq, and imagine that college students (read "white, upper class") are exempted from the draft.
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Old 05-18-2017, 11:42 PM
DataX DataX is offline
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I watched an interview with Nixon the other day (not sure time period - or if this excuse was used at the time). I thought the excuse was fairly funny, but I can see republicans using something like that.

I can't remember the exact words, but it was something like "I never thought I should/could have been impeached, because I did what I did for political and not criminal reasons."

He definitely had some of the Trump type thinking. He said (it may have been a different interview) that anyone should be prepared to take a dive for the president. He was including members on his own staff PLUS members of congress in his own party. At least he seemed to be suggesting - and I think he actually said - he would have done it too (taken a dive).

It's kinda interesting to listen to the telephone calls of presidents - not really related, but just saying. Found one with Hoover and LBJ about Kennedy assassination- and surprised how well it holds up - almost could be use as a "in media res" introduction.
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Old 05-19-2017, 12:02 AM
foolsguinea foolsguinea is online now
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As I understand it, Watergate kind of was a "two-bit burglary." But it was the tip of the iceberg of criminality, including spies & agents provocateurs used against dissident groups. The really big scandal was the foreign policy stuff revealed in the Pentagon Papers, and Nixon's administration fought very hard against their publication.

Last edited by foolsguinea; 05-19-2017 at 12:04 AM.
  #14  
Old 05-19-2017, 01:33 AM
Lord Feldon Lord Feldon is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Nixon had plenty of defenders until the details about the cover up began to emerge.
He had plenty of defenders after it began to emerge too. IIRC he retained the approval of around half of Republicans when he left.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 05-19-2017 at 01:37 AM.
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Old 05-19-2017, 01:59 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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He had plenty of defenders after it began to emerge too. IIRC he retained the approval of around half of Republicans when he left.
That was remarkable at the time. It wasn't so much based on partisanship then, the diehards believed as president he was entitled to obstruct justice.
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Old 05-19-2017, 02:53 AM
TokyoBayer TokyoBayer is offline
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I was still young, late elementary school and junior high, but my father was a die hard Nixon supporter, very conservative, ultra religious and bordering on membership in the John Birch Society.

Nixon was saving the nation from those liberals i.e. atheist Commies. Nixon doing wrong was as inconceivable as Jesus wanting women to wear pants or work outside the house. All of which were signs of the Second Coming. Dean was a traitor.

Somehow it was entirely the fault of the Democrats.

Maybe someone made a small mistake but Nixon was targeted because he was too tough on Commies. The Democrats wanted to sell out our beautiful country just because they hated us.

Dad's dead but if he were still around, I'm sure he would have emptied the bank accounts to contribute to Trump in order to have us from Hillary.

When the nation itself is at stake, you need a strong leader. Expect the enemies to lie in order to stop you.
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Old 05-20-2017, 05:46 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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Certainly, the Nixon apologists and the Trump apologists sound very similar to me.

However, bear in mind that:

1) Thus far, Trump has not been accused of anything remotely similar to the Watergate break-in. The crimes Nixon was charged with were MUCH more serious than anything Trump is being investigated for (the worst crimes Trump is accused of are crimes he definitely did NOT commit). Richard Nixon WAS a crook. Donald Trump, so far, is just a jerk- which is NOT an impeachable offense.

2) EVERYBODY who makes excuses for a beloved but dirty politician tends to sound alike. "He didn't do anything, and besides, he was RIGHT to do the thing I just said he didn't do, and everybody does it, and hey, what about the time that other guy did something worse, and anyhow, it's time to move on, and WHY ARE THE MEDIA MAKING SUCH A BIG DEAL OF THIS..."

Last edited by astorian; 05-20-2017 at 05:46 PM.
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Old 05-20-2017, 07:59 PM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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Also was just a teen at the time but the time course was completely different. Nixon was into a second term which he had won in a landslide, and the events unfolded over two years. Also conservative outlets were not the extreme entities they are now.
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Old 05-20-2017, 09:18 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Nixon embarrassed the Republican party. They're well beyond that making a difference now.
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Old 05-21-2017, 08:45 AM
ftg ftg is offline
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It's interesting to compare the White Press Secretary's Office then and now.

Ron Ziegler* and company tried to put on a serious patina of telling the truth for a while. They and other Nixon administration people thought about what they would say and carefully phrase things to give an impression while minimizing obvious lying. They issued what Woodward and Bernstein called "non-denial denials". Where the speaker would seem to deny a report but not specifically deny an allegation.

Note that they cared to some extent about being caught in a lie. ("Caught" is the key word here.)

At one point it was all too much of a house of cards to maintain and Ziegler had to make his famous statement saying that all previous White House comments on Watergate were "inoperative". While not directly admitting they had been lying, this is as close to an admission as one could expect.

The current administration puts no thought into anything. They just think up stuff on the fly and let 'er rip. They make obviously false claims and don't care at all when they are caught lying. Spicer (or replacement) will never issue an "inoperative" statement.

It was Ziegler who used the term "3rd rate burglary" (not "two-bit") to describe Watergate break-in, btw. And I consider stealing Democratic emails a far worse crime than trying to bug Larry O'Brien's phone.
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Old 05-21-2017, 09:10 AM
Lord Feldon Lord Feldon is online now
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This old satirical article by Art Buchwald has been circulating recently. It gives some of the common retorts that Nixon-supporters would use when talking about Watergate. Some of them could be recycled today with no changes whatsoever.
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Old 05-21-2017, 10:20 AM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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Quote:
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... And I consider stealing Democratic emails a far worse crime than trying to bug Larry O'Brien's phone.
Yeah, astorian seems to be a bit ahistorical here.

Watergate began with a break-in ordered by Nixon and Mitchell to find out what Larry O'Brien knew about a $100K cash payment from Howard Hughes to Bebe Rebozo. That break-in itself was not of "high crimes" stuff. The "high crimes" was the abuse of power involved with trying to cover that up, and in trying to cover-up the cover-up.

IF Trump actually was aware of and (even indirectly) complicit in his campaign colluding with a Russian hack of our election system then such is a much bigger initial event than the Watergate break-in itself was. If true it itself would have been treasonous, one of two explicitly named "high crimes and misdemeanors".

But the bigger comparison will be what is (or is not) found about any abuse of power in covering it up, using the power of the office to attempt to obstruct justice. For their part Nixon and his crew knew that abusing power in that was was bad and parsed what they said accordingly. They were perhaps bad people but they weren't stupid and they had some discipline. I'm not sure that Trump gets why he cannot as president just use the power of the office any damn way he wants to, and neither he nor his crew have either Nixonian smarts or discipline.

I suspect apologists then and now will use the same sorts of talking points. The issue more will be (depending on how the facts infold) how long it takes who to jump out of the apologist camp.
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Old 05-21-2017, 10:55 AM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is offline
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Certainly, the Nixon apologists and the Trump apologists sound very similar to me.

However, bear in mind that:

1) Thus far, Trump has not been accused of anything remotely similar to the Watergate break-in. The crimes Nixon was charged with were MUCH more serious than anything Trump is being investigated for (the worst crimes Trump is accused of are crimes he definitely did NOT commit). Richard Nixon WAS a crook. Donald Trump, so far, is just a jerk- which is NOT an impeachable offense.
Trump is being investigated for obstruction of justice related to collusion with a hostile foreign nation (Russia). He has also betrayed Israeli intelligence by sharing their secrets with Russia.
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Old 05-21-2017, 08:41 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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Trump is being investigated for obstruction of justice related to collusion with a hostile foreign nation (Russia). He has also betrayed Israeli intelligence by sharing their secrets with Russia.
The betrayal was stupid, not illegal.

And so far, there are a lot more accusations of wrongdoing than proof of anything illegal.

Trump is a sleazeball and an asshole who should never have been elected, but he WAS. The RUSSIANS DIDN'T MAKE HIM PRESIDENT!!!! The American people did (the idiots).

So far, Trump has repeatedly proven I was right to vote for Evan McMullin. He has yet to do anything that warrants impeachment or use of the 25th Amendment.

Trump isn't going anywhere. I'm as sorry about that as anyone. If you think he won't serve out his term, you're dreaming.
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Old 05-21-2017, 08:50 PM
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In the Nixon era, the Democrats controlled the Supreme Court and both houses of government. Nixon was outright crooked and it was painfully obvious. It appears a number of his own republicans wouldn't stand behind him.

Fast forward to today, and Republicans control the Court, and the government houses and further, Trump's crookedness is viewed by many as a "shrewd businessman" and not nearly so obvious as Nixon.

IMHO, Trump will skate through all this but likely remains a controversial figure for as long as he remains president.
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Old 05-21-2017, 10:45 PM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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... And so far, there are a lot more accusations of wrongdoing than proof of anything illegal. ...
That is likely true (although there is possible obstruction of justice, which would be illegal, the amount seen so far would likely not rise to a "high crimes" level).

But of course there was no proof of Nixon's wrongdoing until the tapes were finally released. There is certainly cause for serious investigation.

If serious investigation finds no evidence of abuse of power by him in the process of attempting to cover-up wrongdoing by either himself or of his crew and no evidence of his participation with colluding with an attempted Russian hack of our election then you are completely correct. But note: whether or not the attempted hack had any measurable or significant impact is immaterial to whether or not colluding with the attempt was treasonous.

Of course what gets defined as "high crimes and misdemeanors" is up to the House. It would have to be worse than Watergate for the current House to declare something as impeachable. Of course who knows how long this process will take and if past midterms what the House will look like by then. Maybe more GOP. Maybe flipped. Who knows?
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