By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: February 17, 2017
It was Tuesday, August 6, 1974. New evidence had surfaced showing that the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, had lied to the nation about his knowledge of the Watergate burglary and attempted coverup. Senator Barry Goldwater blurted out in frustration at a Republican luncheon: “There are only so many lies you can take, and now there has been one too many. Nixon should get his ass out of the White House — today!”
The next day, Goldwater led a delegation of Republican leaders to the White House. They told Nixon he had lost the confidence of his party; he did not have the votes in the House to ward off impeachment or the votes in the Senate to avoid conviction. The very next day, Thursday, August 8, 1974, Nixon addressed the nation and announced his resignation as President.
One could see August 2017 playing out in a similar vein if Republicans in our current Congress do not quickly find the mettle to meet with President Trump and demand that he starts behaving in a manner befitting the Oval Office.
Yesterday’s hastily called press conference by Trump and its tortuous 80 minutes of “alternative facts,” berating the media, and painfully embarrassing bouts of unhinged braggadocio, should have been the last straw for Republicans in Congress who love their country more than they fear becoming the target of Trump’s next Twitter rant.
Robyn Urback of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation summed up the disaster as “unpresidential,” noting the following low points of the press conference:
“Don’t get me wrong; from a safeguarding-democracy perspective it was horrific. Trump dismissed legitimate questions about Russian influence over his now-former national security adviser as ‘fake news’; told reporters he disagrees with ‘everyone in this country,’ all of whom apparently want him to torpedo a Russian spy ship sitting 30 miles off the Connecticut coast; deflected questions about his team’s connections to Russia by attacking no-longer-rival Hillary Clinton; and most alarmingly, declared that he recently learned from a briefing that a ‘nuclear holocaust would be like no other.’
“Sleep well tonight, everyone.”
According to the transcript of the press conference provided by CNBC, Trump’s remarks about blowing up the Russian spy ship went like this:
“I didn’t do anything for Russia. I’ve done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20 percent of the uranium. Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember, with the stupid plastic button made us look like a bunch of jerks. Here take a look. He looked at her, like, what the hell is she doing, with that cheap plastic button? Hillary Clinton — that was a reset. Remember it said reset. Now, if I do that, oh, I’m a bad guy, but if we could get along with Russia, that’s a positive thing. We have a very talented man, Rex Tillerson, who is going to be meeting with them shortly and I told them, I said, I know politically it’s probably not good for me. Hey, the greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone in this country is going to say, oh, it’s so great. That’s not great. That’s not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia. Now, you had a lot of presidents that have not taken that tack.”
Presenting the entire people of the United States as a war-mongering pack of crazies who would jump to their feet and shout “oh, it’s so great,” if Trump bombed a Russian ship traveling in international waters, is unpresidential. Period.
The President’s remarks on nuclear holocaust were as follows:
“We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they [Russia]. I’ve been briefed. I can tell you one thing about a briefing, that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They’re a very powerful nuclear country, and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia — believe me — that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Trump’s interest in an amicable relationship with Russia is, indeed, a good thing. A newly installed President uttering the words “nuclear holocaust” in a rambling, frequently unhinged press briefing is a bad thing. It frightens the American people and sucks confidence out of business leaders.
Trump also lapsed into more of his alternative facts about his electoral college win to buttress his mantra that he has a huge mandate from the American people to carry out his agenda. Trump stated at the press conference: “We got 306 [electoral college votes] because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.”
PolitiFact quickly shot that down with the following reality-based facts:
“Trump received a smaller share of the Electoral College votes (56.88 percent) than former presidents George H. W. Bush (79.18 percent), Bill Clinton (68.77 percent in 1992, and 70.45 percent in 1996) and Barack Obama (67.84 percent in 2008 and 61.71 percent in 2012).
“So that’s five elections since Reagan and in which the winner got a larger percentage of the Electoral College votes than Trump.”
Another cringe-worthy moment came when a reporter asked about an upsurge in anti-Semitic threats in the United States. Trump’s response was truly bizarre:
Trump: “It’s not a fair question. Sit down. I understand the rest of your question. So here’s the story, folks. Number one, I’m the least anti-Semitic person you’ve seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person… Quiet, quiet, he lied about getting up asking a straight, simple question, so, you know, welcome to the world of the media.”
Senator John McCain, who has already shown courage in publicly chiding Trump, needs to muster the guts of Senator Barry Goldwater on August 7, 1974 and take a delegation of Republican leaders to meet with Trump. At that meeting, in the most strident of terms, the Republican leadership needs to explain to Trump that he must cast his narcissistic tendencies aside, behave in a Presidential manner, verify his facts before he presents them to the American people, or step aside for the good of the country.