To fully appreciate the lawlessness of the Trump administration, it’s helpful to look at the five GOP administrations that preceded him. As you will see, there is a pattern of disdain for the Constitution and the opposition party. But none of them have taken it to such extremes as Trump.
Nixon – In 1968, before the election, he sent an envoy to undermine the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam leading to hundreds of thousands more deaths in the war. Though his administration did some remarkable things (created EPA and OSHA and opened relations with China), he tried to corrupt our democracy by ordering the break-in of the DNC’s Watergate offices. As a result, 40 Nixon administration officials were indicted or jailed. Separately, Nixon’s vice-president Spiro Agnew was forced to resign amid a corruption scandal and pled guilty to tax evasion.
Ford – Before his forced resignation, Nixon chose Gerald Ford to fill the vacancy as vice-president. When Nixon resigned, Ford assumed the position of president and immediately pardoned Nixon of any crimes. His term in office was largely unremarkable, except for the annual deficits created by his policies.
Reagan – Though charming and inspirational, Reagan’s administration had a very dark underbelly. Before the 1980 election, he undermined a proposed agreement with Iran to release the hostages, convincing Iran to delay their release until after the election. His domestic policies included attacks on labor unions, Reagonomics (aka trickle-down economics) which cut taxes for the wealthy resulting in large deficits, an attempt to relax the Voting Rights Act, attempting to push prayer in schools, creating the War on Drugs and ignoring the AIDs epidemic.
His foreign policies consisted of escalating the Cold War, sending US troops to intervene in the Lebanese civil war resulting in the deaths of 241 US soldiers, invading Grenada, bombing Libya, and opposing the disinvestment from apartheid South Africa. Though the Cold War was ended during his second term, it was the result of an initiative by Gorbachev. The lowlight of his tenure was the Iran-Contra scandal, which consisted of illegally selling arms to Iran and using the proceeds to prop-up the Nicaraguan Contras in their fight against the Sandinistas who were fighting to overthrow a dictator. In effect, the administration was running a shadow government hidden from congressional oversight that destabilized the entire region.
Bush I – George H.W. Bush’s domestic policies were unremarkable. But there were many questions about his foreign policy. He ordered the invasion of Panama. His administration provided weapons to Iraq and led Saddam Hussein to believe that the US would not intervene in Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. Then he led a coalition to attack Iraq and free Kuwait. Following the Gulf War, he closed numerous US military bases, which thrust the economy into recession. And he ended his term by pardoning those convicted in Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal.
Perhaps the most lasting action by his administration was the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which held broadcast media accountable for telling the truth.
Bush II – Having lost the popular vote, George W. entered office only as a result of his brother’s meddling in Florida elections and a decision by a conservative-led Supreme Court. (A media consortium that recounted the entire Florida vote, found numerous improprieties and concluded that a significant majority of Floridians intended to vote for Gore.)
Once in office, Bush revived the discredited trickle-down economic theory to reward the big money and oil interests that powered his campaign. His tax cuts sent deficits soaring. He advanced oil interests at the expense of the environment. His administration botched the rescue and recovery from Hurricane Katrina. He ignored the threat of al-Qaeda and advice from the Clinton administration resulting in the attacks on 9/11. He responded with the war on terrorism. And he allowed vice-president Cheney to start the War in Iraq on false pretenses. His administration ended with the collapse of the world financial system as the result of his belief that free markets would self-regulate.
Trump – As bad as they were, the failures of the previous GOP presidents pale in comparison to the man who currently occupies the Oval Office. Donald J. Trump will be chronicled in history books as the worst president in history. He announced his campaign by making racist attacks on Mexicans. He encouraged interference in the election by Russia spawning a Special Counsel investigation which found extensive collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives that likely swayed the election in his favor.
Despite being the second Republican in 16 years to gain the office while losing the popular vote, he claimed a mandate. With the help of a GOP-led Congress he quickly set about undoing his predecessor’s legacy through executive order. He withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear treaty, withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords, repealed DACA, and made cuts to Obamacare. From the beginning, his policies have been marked by greed, cruelty and fealty to Russia. He banned entry from Muslim countries. He gave hope and encouragement to white nationalists with his response to Charlottesville. He has funneled millions into his own properties through weekly golf outings. Foreign leaders have been encouraged to stay at his hotels and resorts in order to gain access. And he ordered the CPB and ICE to place refugees into horribly overcrowded facilities and to separate families.
Trump has exposed the flaws in our current system of government by acting as a monarch. He has refused to cooperate with any congressional oversight. He has ordered anyone connected to his administration to ignore subpoenas and claim presidential privilege and trampled over the separation of powers. Worse, with the help of Mitch McConnell, he has stuffed the judicial system with dozens of unqualified and ideological judges.
On top of all that, he and the GOP exploded the deficits and federal debt by cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy with the intent of eventually ending Social Security and Medicare on the pretense of cutting the budget.
Finally, and worst of all, he has repeatedly acted on behalf of Vladimir Putin and Russia. He has refused to acknowledge Russia’s role in his election, he publicly kowtowed to Putin while attacking our most loyal allies, and he delayed congressionally-ordered sanctions on Russia. Finally, he held military aid to Ukraine hostage in order to elicit Ukraine’s help in his re-election. In doing so, he adhered to a Putin narrative that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered with our election.
No president in history has been removed from office through impeachment. But Trump has richly earned the right to be first.
It’s worth noting that no Democratic president in recent history has been so disdainful of the Constitution and the rule of law. That fact alone should make voters look more carefully at candidates whose names precede the R on a ballot.