President-elect Donald Trump is often compared to infamous German dictator Adolf Hitler. However, a much more accurate comparison would be to former Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Warren G. Harding.
Recently, Rick Perlstein — author of the biography titled “Nixonland” — sat down with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes to discuss the similarities between Trump and Nixon. When Hayes asked Perlstein, as it related to the former president’s infamous negative personality traits, “How much Nixon do you see in Trump?” the author’s answer was sobering:
“On that basic core characterological question, that bottomless pit of need, that kind of absence where a soul should be, that has to be filled with domination and control. It’s absolutely Nixonian but I would, you know with so much with Trump, turn it up to 11 (on a scale of one to ten).”
The author also shared the biggest difference between the two men, which mostly hinged on Nixon’s self-control and ability to quietly seek ways to undermine and destroy his perceived enemies as opposed to Trump’s very public childish rants and tantrums.
“Nixon was very shrewd and tactical, sedulous, careful… he wouldn’t have been tweeting… he would have been saying, ‘Let’s take away the Washington Post’s broadcast licenses that they rely on for their revenue,’ which, you know, Trump may be doing soon when he is granted the power of the executive office,” Perlstein told MSNBC host Chris Hayes.
“Nixon would not have taken to the podium and said, ‘I don’t like this person, this person and Dan Rather’; he was self-controlled enough to channel that!” Chris Hayes added.
Perlstein also noted that America might see a modification of Trump’s temperament after he takes office, however, due to a much darker reason other than presidential maturity.
“William Binney, the whistleblower of the NSA, has called [it] basically the spying apparatus that a president has at his disposal… created by Bush but continued by Obama’s turnkey totalitarianism,” Perlstein said.
“So, basically once Trump can find out anything enemies are up to and find out where their vulnerabilities are, maybe find embarrassing things about them… leak them to Breitbart and soon it’s, you know, on CNN, God forbid MSNBC, then we’re talking about a different ballgame,” he explained.
Trump and Nixon’s shared contempt for the press, paranoia, and vindictiveness was apparent very early into Trump’s presidential campaign. Consider Trump’s answer to a question about what he felt was his greatest weakness during a November 2015 GOP primary debate:
“I trust people too much,” the Donald answered with his usual conviction. “And when they let me down, if they let me down, I never forgive. I find it very, very hard to forgive people that deceived me.”
We’ve seen this weakness throughout Trump’s campaign, as he attacked everyone from a disabled journalist to the Gold Star family of a fallen national hero. Trump’s inability to take even the slightest criticism or challenge was painfully apparent when questioned by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly during the GOP primary debate in 2015. The journalist asked Trump about his history of making demeaning remarks about women’s appearance. Here’s that exchange:
“Kelly: “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals.’ Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?”
Trump: “What I say is what I say. And honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry, I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treatedme. But I wouldn’t do that to you.”
Needless to say, the petulant billionaire did not take too kindly to Kelly’s line of questioning and began a long vindictive campaign against her, which set the tone for his future relationship with the press.
Like Nixon, Trump will soon have the power to go after his “enemies” in numerous ways directly. His presidency will ultimately be a pass or fail test for journalists and news organizations who may have to decide between having greater access to Trump and his administration or speaking truth to power.
Rest assured; that’s not a tough decision for some of us to make.