December 29, 2016

The similarities are striking, the differences are alarming.

On last night's All In with Chris Hayes, "Nixonland" author Rick Perlstein was asked to compare Donald Trump to Richard Nixon.


[AUDIO, Richard Nixon's recorded telephone conversation with White House staffer Chuck Colson]

RICHARD NIXON: [CBS reporter Dan] Rather is just a son of a bitch, don't you think? He always will be.

COLSON: He's a bastard, period.

NIXON: Be sure he gets a few nasty notes on his reporting. I don't know if it helps.

COLSON: He's very sensitive to that.

NIXON: Can you arrange that?

COLSON: Yes, sir.

NIXON: I'd hit him hard.

CHRIS HAYES: One of the defining features of the Richard Nixon's presidency was his distrust, even contempt for the press and his attempts to keep reporters at arm's length. It was through this carefully constructed effort to shape his public image it led to the activities that eventually cost Nixon his public support and led to his resignation, something author rick Perlstein does an amazing job of chronicling in his book "Nixonland." I wanted to talk to you today because one of the things that comes through in this incredible book is how central to all of Nixon's personality, leadership style, political style was grievance, pettiness, vindictiveness, getting back, a chip on his shoulder that people didn't take him seriously and he would show them. How much do you see, how much Nixon do you see in Trump?

RICK PERLSTEIN: On that basic core character-ological question, that bottomless pit of need, that absence where a soul should be with domination and control it's absolutely Nixonian. I would say, turned up to eleven. But different: Nixon was shrewd, careful, he wouldn't have been tweeting, he would have been saying "let's take away the "Washington Post's" broadcast licenses that they rely on for revenue, which Trump may be doing soon when he's granted the power of the Executive Office of the presidency.

HAYES: There's two things I want to follow up on. One is Nixon was -- what's striking to me isn't just this need to kind of always get back at people he feels slighted him, in the case of Donald Trump, but also the publicness of it. Nixon would not have taken to the podium and said: "I don't like this person, this person and Dan Rather." He was self-controlled enough to channel that. This is different in so far as it's all just out there in the public.

PERLSTEIN: But this is the pre-January 20 Trump, Chris. Think about it. William Binny, the whistle-blower of the NSA, has called basically the spying apparatus that a President has at his disposal -- created by Bush but continued by Obama, "turnkey totalitarianism." So basically once Trump can find out anything his enemies are up to and find out where their vulnerabilities are, maybe find embarrassing things about them, leak them Breitbart and soon it's on CNN, god forbid MSNBC, then we're talking about a different ball game here.

HAYES: So that's -- look, that's where -- that's where the sort of -- the real impeachable offense is for Nixon came in. There was a bunch of things he did but, you know, one of the things he did was had this group of folks that broke into the Watergate and did a lot of other things directed at enemies, they discussed -- they tried to break into a therapist's office of Daniel Ellsberg.

PERLSTEIN: They succeeded!

HAYES: They succeeded! Which is a crazy thing to happen. What is your sense of how strong civil service was in resisting Nixon's attempt to use it as a tool to pursue vendettas?

PERLSTEIN: I think the civil service has and had strong protections. And that drove him crazy, too. Most famously, the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What happens when they say the unemployment rate is 9%? Trump can't take that laying down. Richard Nixon didn't. He ordered one of his aides, a guy named Fred Malek, still involved in the Republican Party, to count the number of Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics so he could basically know who to cut off at the knees. He knew that the IRS was a very powerful tool so he basically ordered the IRS to create an operation in the basement in a locked room devoted to trying to take away the tax exemptions of anti-war groups and liberal groups. That's what the enemies list was for.

HAYES: This is a key point when you merge this with the tools of the state. I had forgot the famous Malek example was about the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.



Don't gloss over the media highway that runs from the Trump White House to Breitbart to CNN and then (we unfortunately have to expect) to MSNBC. And they left out Fox, founded as "Republican TV" by former Nixon staffer Roger Ailes in 1996. There is State Media supporting Trump, and the other cable networks are helping.

The whole thing is Nixon turned up to eleven, as Perlstein says. Who is going to keep the media accountable? WE are. Help us keep our video archive (which cannot be taken down by a Trump White House or a lapdog cable news channel) here:

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We are currently migrating to Disqus

On May 14, 2022, we started migrating our comments from Insticator back to Disqus. During this transition period, some posts will have Insticator and some Disqus. For more information on the transition, as well as information regarding old C&L accounts, please see this post.

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.