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Donald Trump and Nixon: do you see the similarity?

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In the New York Times on Sunday, conservative columnist Ross Douthat suggested that people like him who "feared disaster from this presidency" could relax. We've just witnessed "the most politically successful six weeks of Trump's presidency to date," he said.

Trump's approval ratings are up, Douthat said, things look better for Republicans for the midterm elections, and the economy and foreign policy are looking good. And that was before the latest Trump Base-pleasing developments, Iran and Schneiderman.

What about all that stuff dripping out about Stormy Daniels? Just a distraction, said Douthat.
Maybe so. But there's something eerily familiar about the Daniels stories, and I'm not thinking about Clinton-Lewinsky. This is beginning to feel a lot like Nixon.

First Trump denied knowing anything about Michael Cohen's $130,000 payment to Daniels: He didn't reimburse Cohen, and he didn't know where Cohen got the money. Then Rudy Giuliani assured Fox News' Sean Hannity that indeed Trump had repaid Cohen, and that Trump knew "the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this with my clients.”

Next Giuliani insisted on Fox and Friends that the payment – made shortly before the election – had nothing to do with the election. “This was for personal reasons,” Giuliani said. “This was… the president had been hurt – personally, not politically, personally, so much, and the first lady – by some of the false allegations, that one more false allegation, six years old….”

And then Giuliani added: "Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton…." (Trump: “Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago. He’ll get his facts straight.”)



Nor are Trump's troubles only about Stormy Daniels and sex. One after another, Trump's attorneys have resigned. Trump has continued his on-again, off-again threats against the Justice Department. On Monday, he ramped up the threats. The investigators looking into Russia's interference in the presidential election are Democrats, he said, and they're prolonging the investigation to try to influence this year's midterm Congressional elections.

And over the weekend, there were reports that Trump operatives hired a private Israeli intelligence agency to dig up dirt on the Obama representatives who worked on the Iran deal, hoping to help taint the deal.

The day-after-day developments, the sense that some of the people running the country are the Keystone Cops, the attacks on the media, the tension between the White House and the Attorney General ….

It's risky to draw comparisons, but this does indeed remind me of the last year or so of the Nixon administration, when week after week, the bizarre stories oozed out, and the president continued to insist that he knew nothing about and had nothing to do with the sleazy little burglary at the Watergate.

The Trump chaos is different, to be sure, but at the roots, aren't there similarities? Given Nixon's paranoia, once the Watergate break-in occurred, what he and his staff said and did was logical: It was essential to distract and to cover things up.

As for the bobbing and weaving by Trump and Giuliani: Once Trump and his protectors knew that the FBI had seized Cohen's records, including those pertaining to the Stormy Daniels payments, somebody had to come up with an explanation. And the cover-up began.

I'm finding it hard, then, to ignore the comparisons between Trump's drama and the lead-up to Nixon's resignation. I'm not sure I want the outcome to be the same, though.

When Nixon left, we got Gerald Ford. (Thank our stars for that; we could've gotten another crook, Spiro Agnew, who had resigned in disgrace.) If Trump leaves, we'll get Pence.

And if that happens, Republicans will not only be relieved, they'll be delighted. Because he's been their fallback all along. Heads they win, tails they win.

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