I almost could not believe at first that President-Elect Donald Trump pulled a Richard Nixon and claimed that if the president does something then it is not illegal but apparently he did in an exclusive New York Times interview. He was being asked about conflicts of interest he will have as president while still having vast business holdings. Trump appears heavily resistant to putting his holdings into some kind of blind trust or to liquidating assets as other presidents have done.
You can read the quote yourself in the Time’s transcript. I could not really tell what he meant for sure, if anything. Trump has his special way of being evasive and equivocal, or just seemingly to make positions up on the fly, all the better for changing one’s mind or claiming he never said what he seemed to have said later or to just plain obfuscate (Hillary Clinton just talked like a lawyer when caught in a difficult spot; Trump is the consummate salesman — people know what he is doing and buy anyway). I mean if you read the full transcript of his interview as I just did before writing this I am sure you will see what I mean, if you don’t already from just listening to him all these months.
For Nixon it was supposedly that “got you moment” in the famous David Frost interviews with the out-of-office, disgraced president who resigned after members of his own Republican Party gave him the word they were ready to proceed with impeachment as a result of revelations in the Watergate scandal.
Maybe I need to see the actual Nixon interview segment in whole, but it is as if he was so caught up in his own emotions of being above the law that in a weak moment he just blurted it out and then maybe realized what he had just proclaimed. Are we not taught that even the president is not above the law?
(But then there is the notion that presidents by virtue of their role have such an awesome responsibility for the security of the nation that there can be instances where they can do things that otherwise might be considered illegal. But that would be in the interests of national security not just politics. Nixon’s plumbers were engaged in the age-old game of dirty politics. And in Trump’s case, I can’t see how getting an unfair advantage in business dealings as leader of the free world qualifies as national security. And there is the so-called emoluments clause in the Constitution that some think would or should forbid Trump from profiting from his foreign business dealings.)
Nixon in one sense was not above the law being as he was forced out of office but he did escape punishment, other than being forced out. His successor pardoned him. Of course if President Gerald Ford had not issued the pardon and Nixon would have subsequently been tried and convicted and maybe jailed, the U.S. would have seemed no better than your average banana republic.
But now we have the wildly unpredictable, erratic Trump.
I am trying to be cautiously optimistic but I have severe doubts.
To me it seems as if he is holding the nation hostage.
The only thing more amazing about how few in the political establishment seem to stand up to him is how some who have stood up to him have wilted and come crawling back — Mitt Romney (being considered for Secretary of State, along with others), Nikki R. Haley (Gov. of South Carolina, selected by Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to the UN). Both heavily criticized Trump in the primaries and warned he was unfit to be president.
Lest they be flattered by his attention now, it might be he just wants both of them out of active political life and on his side.
For their part, though, they may figure they can do more good on the inside and maybe, hopefully, head off some of the otherwise bad influences from Trumpland.
(So maybe characterizing them as “crawling back” was unfair.)
If you read that transcript in the Times you will see someone who seems to have no deep convictions or who has heretofore given little thought to issues of the day with the only one bright spot being that he appears to be and in fact claims to be “open minded”.
But one caustic Obama critic I heard on a late night right-wing political talk show claimed that when Trump told the Times that he was “open minded” about the causes of climate change, most notably man’s contribution to it, he actually was giving them the “brush off”. She said it was just like when you are offered a dinner date you don’t want and say you will get back with your answer after you check your calendar.
I don’t know, but I do know that trying to get a straight answer out of Trump is as hard or harder than with any politician. Even when he disavows hate groups, such as the KKK, it sounds less than sincere — kind of pro forma, or blasé as if just pro forma for insistent reporters and kind of wink, wink, nod, nod (keep up your support boys; there’s no such thing as bad support).