Well, the proverbial poo has hit the fan now, hasn’t it? Our president’s mounting problems are starting to feel increasingly reminiscent of both Watergate and the Clinton impeachment (sex, lies, and thankfully no videotape). I was only eleven when Nixon resigned, but I remember where I was. I watched it on TV feeling very sorry for the man who was, up until that time, the only president I knew. I looked up to him. He said in that speech, his voice breaking, “I have always tried to do what was best for the nation,” and that “the interests of the nation must always come before any personal considerations.”
To this day I feel sorry for Nixon. I have a picture of him on my bookcase, and a signed copy of his memoirs. I’ve read numerous biographies on the man, a fellow introvert, and sympathize (and even relate to) some of his early life struggles that ultimately led to his downfall. I think Nixon always had the good of the country at heart, flawed as he was. Trump, on the other hand, seems to care only for what brings him more personal adulation, and the country be damned. If it fires up the crowd he’ll go with it, no matter how vile. I don’t think I’ll ever feel sorry for him, no matter what becomes of the mess he created. After Watergate, Nixon redeemed himself as an elder statesman and died with dignity and honor. He understood that he must “put the interests of America first.” I doubt Trump has enough selflessness to do the same.
And what of Congress’s obligation to keep the president in line? I didn’t like Congressional Republicans much to begin with, but I will never forget how they have put their own selfish interests – winning elections, Supreme Court picks, and advancing the conservative agenda – above the overall good of the country. They have stood by as our president attacks our top law enforcement institutions, scapegoats the free press for his own indiscretions, and lies so often that truth-telling has become the exception, not the rule. During Watergate, the president’s own party turned against him because they knew when enough was enough (or, you could more cynically argue, they knew when it started to affect their own hides). We haven’t seemed to reach this point yet with the current crisis of leadership, but I pray that it’s coming.
Trump can still pull some tricks out of his hat – and he surely will try – but his options are dwindling and he’s getting increasingly desperate. The bigger problem is his rabidly loyal fan base – they are the ones who put him in office in the first place, whose continued support has kept him there, and who will still be around with their paranoid delusions even after he’s gone. The fact that they worship Trump and think just like him means that we’re still left with a “Trump problem” even after he’s out of office. Their Dear Leader encourages them endlessly, so they will lose some steam without his rallies and tweets and diatribes to keep them offended and angry. But if they weren’t able to see through him before he was elected (as many of us were), I don’t trust them to make good choices in the future, and their votes count just as much as mine. They will just continue to vote for Trump-like candidates, at both national and state levels, at least for a while, especially because they’ll be angry that their hero was brought down (yeah, our fault!)
So, post-Trump, there will be healing to accomplish. We will need a leader who is up to the task, one who is more moderate and doesn’t give in to the fringe elements of either party. Clearly, the country cannot handle being yanked in one extreme or the other. It puts us at each others’ throats. Change needs to be more gradual. I imagine anyone who runs will seem bland and normal compared to Trump, and maybe that’s just what we need – a Gerald Ford. Sure, he didn’t do much, but that was a good thing.