Quick Takes: Nixon Was a Smoother Criminal Than Trump

A round-up of news that caught my eye today.

* Comparing Trump’s actions to Watergate is all the rage these days. In his article titled, “Is the Comey Memo the Beginning of the End for Trump?” David Remnick explores that comparison with Rick Perlstein.

“I actually think the comparisons at this point obscure more than they reveal. Nixon was just so shrewd, so strategic: it’s simply inconceivable he would get caught with his pants down implicating himself on the record, like Trump now does almost daily,” Rick Perlstein, the author of “Nixonland,” told me. “My favorite Nixon maxim was ‘Never get mad unless it’s on purpose.’ But the words ‘on purpose’ and ‘Donald Trump’ now feel like matter and antimatter; with him, it’s all impulse. Nixon was so obsessed with preparation he used to memorize answers to likely press conference questions, questions he’d delegate to staffers like Pat Buchanan to dream up. Can you imagine!? And, look, when Nixon fired Archibald Cox, he was truly backed into a corner, his king in check: that was the only move he had before the world discovered, via the tapes, that everything he’d been saying about the scandal since June, 1972, was a lie. But, even then, he managed to keep moving pieces around the board for ten more months!

“Both, of course, were authors of their own predicaments,” Perlstein went on. “But Nixon was so much the smoother criminal: everything was buffered through intermediaries and cutouts.

I consider the line, “But the words ‘on purpose’ and ‘Donald Trump’ now feel like matter and antimatter;” to be a classic.

* We’ve heard this kind of nonsense from Trump before. But just in case you’ve ever doubted that this guy lives in the kind of delusional world inhabited only by people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, here’s a reminder from the president’s commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy today.

Politicians like Abraham Lincoln, who were assassinated, might beg to differ, as would someone like Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in a South African prison. A little bit closer in history and geography would be the one referred to here:

* Paul Ryan articulated the most likely argument we’ll be hearing from Republicans about the release of Comey’s memo.

* Apparently when National Security Advisor McMaster made a point yesterday of saying that Trump’s leak of classified information to the Russians was “wholly appropriate,” he didn’t know what he was talking about.

Citing an unnamed U.S. official with direct knowledge of the matter, NBC reported that McMaster “is not steeped in counterterrorism” and thus was not immediately aware of the importance of the information Trump gave to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

* Yes, today Vladimir Putin decided to troll the US of A.

Russian President Vladimir Putin loves to troll the United States. But he took it to new heights during a press conference in Sochi, Russia, on Wednesday morning.

In the midst of the raging controversies in Washington over the James Comey memo and Trump’s disclosure of sensitive intelligence on ISIS in an Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Putin offered to provide a transcript of the controversial Trump-Lavrov meeting: “If the US administration finds it necessary, we are ready to provide the record of the conversation between Trump and Lavrov to the Senate and Congress.”

Putin’s comments amounted to a victory lap after his successful intervention in the US election — which accomplished more than Putin probably imagined it ever could.

* Finally, that last one reminds me that perhaps this could be the theme song for the investigations into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Vladimir to influence the 2016 election.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.