SHITSHOW DU JOUR — OR HOW OLD HICKORY HELPED LPOTUS HAVE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL FIRST HUNDRED DAYS IN HISTORY
On Sunday’s Face the Nation, CBS Political Director John Dickerson was summarily tossed out of the Oval Office when he had the temerity to do his job and press LPOTUS on his March 4th tweet accusing President Obama of wiretapping him.
Dickerson reminded Trump that he called Obama “sick” and “bad”. After Trump sulkily muttered that he was entitled to his opinion, Dickerson pursued LPOTUS to state what that opinion was. Trump declared the interview over, turned on his heel and sat down at his massive desk, pretending to work by pointlessly shuffling papers around.
I am sure Dickerson has a thick skin, and is perfectly non-plussed by the snub, but he should not think he is the first journalist to be tossed out of a Trump office because His Royal Highness LPOTUS didn’t like a question.
Trump and the USFL
Some 32 years ago, I wrote a sports labor and business column that was placed in a number of different publications, including The Wall Street Journal.
To be clear, the column was placed as an ad in these publications by Lorillard Tobacco Company on behalf of its best selling brand, Kent. The sponsor made it clear it wanted to reap the rewards of being associated with good journalism and that the writing should be factual and objective, although I was free to offer commentary and opinion when warranted. The ad agency also said there would be no restraints on me, although I am sure if I took off after the tobacco industry that column never would have seen the light of day.
It was a good job, paid reasonably well, and at the time, there wasn’t a lot of stories being done about the business and marketing of sports. Nor was there much sports labor coverage. I had the niche largely to myself.
In the mid-1980’s, a group of rich football enthusiasts got together and started up the United States Football League. The USFL wasn’t an alternative to the NFL because they played their games in the Spring, giving diehard football fans the opportunity to shun baseball and indulge their passion for face paint and boozy tailgate parties year round.
Among the owners? Donald Trump.
The 37-year-old Trump bought the New Jersey Generals after their first season in 1983, and as near as I can remember, I interviewed him in his Trump Tower offices in the late Fall of that year. He made a big splash by signing the Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe, replacing Sipe later with Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie (over the objections of coach Walt Michaels, who wanted to sign the more talented Randall Cunningham). Trump also tried to lure Dolphins coach Don Shula to the Meadowlands and almost signed him, but the deal was scotched when Trump couldn’t resist boasting about his pursuit during the halftime of a Dolphins game.
My stock-in-trade was to get owners and players to open up about salaries, labor agreements, lawsuits, payrolls, acquisition costs, overhead expenses, endorsement deals, in short what business journalists write about. Trump was bragging to me about moving the USFL schedule to the Fall and Winter and competing head-to-head with the NFL when I began to question what made him think viewers would be attracted to a league where the players weren’t as talented and the teams not as strong as the NFL.
Trump apparently didn’t like my line of inquiry and it was at that point I was shown the door.
To give him the benefit of the doubt, LPOTUS is, according to him, a noted teetotaler and non-smoker. It was my practice to clearly disclose to interview subjects and sources that I was employed by a sponsor, a tobacco company, and not a publication, but the column content was no different than newspaper or magazine editorial content. And my pieces had to pass muster with the publication’s standards and practices attorneys. I made these disclosures when I arranged any interviews, and again before interviews began.
It could have just dawned on Trump that his interview and name was going to appear under the banner of a tobacco company, or he simply didn’t like being pressed to answer a difficult questi0n. Either or both are possible, but the fact is I was summarily ignored, snubbed, dismissed and shown the door, in that order.
So John, don’t feel bad. You weren’t singled out. Like appearing on Nixon’s enemy’s list, it’s a badge of honor.
Trump vs. Nixon
Speaking of Nixon, I spent four hours Monday touring the Richard Nixon Museum and Library in Yorba Linda CA on Monday and, with the benefit of nearly fifty years distance and 20–20 hindsight, the exhibits conjured up in very sharp focus the odious and acrid environment Trump has created when viewed through the lens of the tumultuous Nixon years.
Full disclosure. In my youth, I hated Nixon. I thought he was a liar and hypocrite, paranoid to the border of insanity, ruthlessly legacy driven, and uncaring about how many lives were lost in Vietnam, so long as he was credited with ending the war. To my immature intellect, Nixon’s whole career bore this out. To me and to many, if not most, members of my generation, he was a crook, the worst president in American history and Beelzebub incarnate.
Nixon was paranoid to the point of insanity, bigoted (how many times in the tapes did he talk about how the Jews were out to get him), and willing to cut any corner as a means to his ends. He tried to undermine the Paris Peace talks by signalling the South Vietnamese to hold out for a settlement. His emissary told them they would get a better deal than Lyndon Johnson was offering if he was elected.
Yes Mr. Trump, that’s what treason looks like. The same as when you implore the Russians to hack your opponent’s emails.
You think Watergate was bad? White House adviser Chuck Colson wanted to firebomb the Br0okings Institute as a diversion while the White House “plumbers” burglarized the think tank looking for what they believed were classified State Department documents housed there by a former State Department official. The hare-brained scheme was shut down by White House counselor John Dean III.
In this little game of “Who’s Worse, Trump or Nixon”, Trump wins lopsidedly. Not even close. For all of his dangerous nuttiness, Nixon was possibly the most prepared man ever to be elected president. He was prescient in his analysis of world affairs, and, making Trump look like a dumbbell (not very hard), was able to find common ground and interests with Russia, China, Egypt and Israel. He opened up relations with China after 25 years of estrangement, signed an early nuclear non-proliferation treaty with the Soviet Union, and paved the way to peace for Egypt and Israel. He made the world safer.
On the domestic front, he threw his support behind the Clean Air Act and the EPA, and supported Title IX legislation prohibiting discriminatory funding of public school athletics, both liberal causes. He had cordial relations with black leaders, even though the basis of his 1968 “law and order” campaign was a not-so-subtle pitch to white Wallace supporters.
He was a fearless politician who, despite some awkwardness, managed to engage people who disliked him with grace and intelligence. I can’t imagine Trump opening up a Laugh-In door and barking “Sock it to me”.
In short, if you take away Watergate, Nixon rockets up the presidential list, possibly to the top 15, maybe even the top 10.
That will never ever happen with Trump. Ever.
There isn’t much more opprobrium that can be heaped on him. You can pretty much check every box of the seven deadly sins, and check them again and again until your wrist hurts. You can add in that he is also just not that bright, which is the most fatal of fatal flaws when you combine it with sloth and the other six sins.
And this is what makes his presidency a tragedy of epic proportions. He has accomplished little of note during his first hundred days. That’s unless you count as accomplishments trying to rob us of the health care safety net, environmental protections and turn Americans against one another.
As tragic, he has also managed to erase the legacy of America as role model among nations, a country whose laws are the envy of the oppressed throughout the world and a land that promises success to those who work hard and work smart. His assumption of the presidency teaches our children that we don’t care about electing good people to the highest office in the land and announces to the rest of the world that the American president is no better than cutthroats and liars like Putin, Duterte, al-Sissi, Thailand’s Chan-ocha (who in 2014 overthrew an elected government) and Kim Jong-un, whom Trump would be “honored” to meet.
I didn’t think he would be able to top himself when he bragged about being able to get away with grabbing a woman “by the pussy”. He debased only himself on the Billy Bush tapes. In his first hundred days, he has singlehandedly debased an entire nation.