Are Trump, Nixon Comparisons Fair or Useful?

Jake Neher/WDET

Every day this week seems to bring a new scandal out of the White House.

On Monday, it was a Washington Post story that President Trump gave classified intelligence about ISIS to Russian officials. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Trump allegedly asked former FBI Director James Comey to end his investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Another New York Times article said Trump wants to arrest journalists who publish classified information.

One byproduct of these controversies has been an increasing number of comparisons between Trump and Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 after the Watergate scandal. Are these fair comparisons? Is it useful to look at the Nixon White House to help interpret what’s happening in 2017?

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with Melvin Small, distinguished professor of history emeritus at Wayne State University and author of “The Presidency of Richard Nixon” about parallels and differences between the Nixon and Trump administrations.

The big difference between Trump and Nixon [is that] Nixon was far more disciplined,” says Small. “He was more dignified, he was not as impulsive… as Donald Trump appears to be. And more importantly, up until about early spring of ‘73, his administration was pretty airtight when it came to leaks, which is not the case obviously with the Trump administration.”

The conversation continues as callers question whether changes in our media landscape could be informing Trump’s social media presence and his administration’s reputation.

I think [Trump] doesn’t know how the media works,” Small says. “It is true that Richard Nixon was strongly critical of a variety of people in the media and sports and entertainment… but that was secret. And much of the stuff that Nixon said on his secret tapes… are the kinds of things that Trump is saying in the open through his tweets… The bitter and mean and sometimes petty tweets that this president is turning out probably like 3 or 4, 5 times a week, this is unusual.  You cannot blame the current media and what’s available to us as a reason for why Trump is doing these tweets.”

To hear the full conversation, click the audio player above.

Image credit: whitehouse.gov

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

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