I majored in History in college and I remain a History buff, so when I want to understand current events, I often look to the past to inform the present. In this case, I wanted to put current events such as the controversies surrounding the Trump administration and the special counsel looking at the Trump campaign into historical perspective, so I went searching for a book to read. I found The Final Days by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward about the last days of the Nixon administration as Watergate and accompanying controversies closed in on Nixon, eventually bringing about his resignation.
“The people of the United States are entitled to assume that their President is telling the truth. The pattern of misrepresentation and half-truths that emerges from our investigation reveals a presidential policy cynically based on the premise that the truth itself is negotiable.”
While the Nixon and Trump administrations aren’t analogous, I do think there is at least one comparison, and it is in relation to truthfulness. The quote above is an observation on the Nixon administration, but I think it could just as easily apply to the Trump administration. Trump and some of his associates aren’t afraid to tell us things that are blatantly untruthful. Whether they’ve gone to the same extreme as the Nixon administration we don’t yet know, but it is obvious we can’t assume that Trump is telling the truth any more than Nixon told the truth.
Another thing that really stood out in my reading was Congress. The Congress of 1973 and 1974 was partisan, but at the end of the day, they were willing to do what was right for the country. The Congress of 2017/2018 instead has consistently put ideology and party ahead of the country. Indeed, there are differences in that with Nixon there was Republican President and a Democratic Congress and with Trump, there is a Republican President and a Republican Congress, but it seems that both the Democratic and Republican parties these days both put their party and their ideology before what’s best for the country.
“The problem is not Watergate or the cover-up,” he began. “It’s that he hasn’t been telling the truth to the American people.” He paused again. “The tape makes it evident that he hasn’t leveled with the country for probably eighteen months. And the President can’t lead a country he has deliberately misled for a year and a half.”
One thing that really put things into perspective for me was Patrick Buchanan’s statement above. I think that statement sums up the biggest problem of the Nixon administration and why Nixon had to go. It sums up why Trump must go if it is proven that he obstructed justice and attempted to cover up wrongdoing. You can’t lead a country that you have misled.
I can’t say that I enjoyed reading The Final Days because it’s not the kind of book you enjoy reading. That said, it’s a very informative read on a critical period of US History. It’s compelling reading; it makes you run the gamut of negative emotions throughout and then feel relief at the end even though you know how the story ends. Bernstein and Woodward do a terrific job of telling the story of the last days of the Nixon administration from the inside; at times it’s almost like being a fly on the wall. Even though, as I said above, the Nixon and Trump administrations aren’t analogous, I think this is a great book to read to put current events into historical perspective.