My Deja Vu Moment

Yesterday within minutes of each other, two news bombshells dropped on President Donald Trump’s carefully coiffed head. The guilty pleas of Trump’s fixer/lawyer, Michael Cohen, and the eight-count guilty verdict against Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. These developments undoubtedly mean difficult times ahead for our President.

Now, I know that every day has headlines that outrank news of Donald Trump’s latest troubles. However to me, yesterday’s story didn’t feel like just another entry in media’s never-ending list of world woes. I’m guessing that most people who heard the Cohen-Manafort news were somewhat surprised at the clarity and finality of the trial results. I certainly was.

The thing is, as yesterday’s news bulletins kept coming, surprise wasn’t all I felt. I started getting a strong sense of déjà vu. I felt I was repeating something I’d experienced 45 years ago — an event that jumped the news train our nation was riding onto a completely new track. Back in 1973 President Nixon’s Watergate scandal was like nothing we’d ever seen.

I vividly remember choosing the then staunchly Republican (a bit better now) Chicago Tribune for my commute, so I could have the perverse pleasure of reading their reports on the crimes committed by their Republican President and his staff. As things turned out it was a turning point, of sorts, in our nation’s history — the first U.S. president ever to resign from office. The fallout from Watergate reaffirmed that the U.S. presidency was not a position of supreme power, untouchable, above the law.

We’ve all heard the old adage about history “repeating itself.” However, I prefer the aphorism attributed to Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” So, It would be foolish for anyone to predict what specifically will develop as the Mueller investigations continue. And whether or not Democrats win control of the House of Representatives, you can be sure that what transpires in the coming months won’t simply be a duplication of the Watergate scenario.

It does now appear that several of the former Trump insiders, charged with or actually convicted of crimes may begin to reveal information that incriminates President Trump in criminal acts. Facing jail time was a prospect that terrified President Nixon. His resignation avoided an impeachment trial and President Ford’s blanket pardon made sure he would never be prosecuted in court.

We’re still a long way from that sort of scenario. (Or, are we?) Right now, Donald Trump is traveling to the reddest parts of the U.S., campaigning for Republican House candidates with the appeal that their election will protect him from any impeachment proceedings. I must say, he has a valid point. — I would also say that I believe Democratic Party strategists would be wise to not to push the impeachment appeal. It will only fire up Trump’s voter base and reinforce the myth that Mueller’s investigation is one big conspiracy to take away their savior.

So, what will our childish and unstable president do if things get more dangerous for him? I can only hope that there are White House people near Trump who have a tighter grasp on reality than he does, as well as an appreciation for our constitution and an honest concern for the safety of our nation.

Richard Nixon turned to heavy drinking as the investigative pressure on him reached their peak. That doesn’t sound like something Trump would do. (But that isn’t especially reassuring. A self-pitying drunk is a lot less volatile than a tantrum-throwing child.)

After Nixon left the presidency he kept a relatively low profile, and gradually saw his reputation somewhat rehabilitated – although I hope history will always include his (and Kissinger’s) unforgiveable sabotage to peace talks that prolonged the Vietnam War for years.

In Donald Trump’s case, maybe he will manage to stay in office for his full four-year term. In fact, maybe he’ll find a way to remain the Republican candidate for President in 2020. I won’t venture any predictions on those possibilities.

Back in 2015, I don’t think Donald Trump expected to win the Republican Primary and he may not have even wanted to win the presidency. I think he simply saw the public spotlight as a way to enhance the growth of his fortune in the future. But in the process, he became addicted to the cheers of his adoring crowds. He’d never felt such “love” in his life.

So now I will throw out this prediction. Donald thrives on the adoration of his voter base. I believe that whatever happens in the next two years, he will cling to his claim (and possibly delusional belief) that he is the victim in all of this. I can see Trump continuing to position himself as the one true hope for his most loyal followers.

Whether he is voted out of office in 2020, impeached before then, indicted sometime in the future, thrown in jail, he will continue to woo his base with public appearances, ghost-written books, Fox News interviews. He will continue promising them lies, inflaming their prejudices, doing whatever he can to keep the applause coming.

Whatever comes out of the Mueller investigation, Donald Trump is not going to disappear quietly. I’m afraid that whatever happens, he will be a divisive presence in our society, continuing to harm our country for years to come.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973

P.S. Last week I met the Democratic candidate for the 17th District Cook County Commissioner’s office, Abdelnasser Rashid. Abdelnasser, a Harvard graduate, has been the Deputy Chief of Staff for the office of Cook County Clerk, David Orr and was also the deputy director for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in Illinois. He is an impressive young man who is making a strong showing in his district-wide campaigning. Incidentally, his opponent is the Chairman of the Cook County Republican Party — and he’s vulnerable. Abdelnasser is one of the promising Democratic Party leaders of our future and your support will be welcomed. Visit rashidforcook.com to learn how you can help his campaign.