OPINION: Not even Nixon tried this

OPINION: Not even Nixon tried this

The 74-year-old toddler with the orange face — who put on such a disgusting performance during what was supposed to be a debate with his Democratic opponent Tuesday night, dragging the presidency down to levels never before plumbed — should be sent to bed without his supper. On Nov. 3, if we have any sense left in this country, the voters will tell him, “You’re fired.”

On the other hand, what Donald Trump did Tuesday, coming right out of the gate as an attack dog, made perfect sense: It has long been his tactic, whenever his actions or words are challenged, to interrupt, distract and divert. He learned the technique years ago from Roy Cohn, the malicious attack dog who helped Sen. Joe McCarthy destroy careers during the postwar Red Scare.

The Cohn strategy has been summed up, succinctly, as “1. Never settle, never surrender. 2. Counter-attack, counter-sue immediately. 3. No matter what happens, no matter how deeply into the muck you get, claim victory and never admit defeat.” 

Hollow threats and spurious lawsuits worked for Mr. Cohn, at least until his eventual disbarment, and they have been working for his one-time protégé, Mr. Trump, so far. We’ll soon see how far.

But back to Tuesday night. Even before the debate, Mr. Trump and his team had insinuated that Joe Biden was using performance enhancing drugs and/or wearing an earpiece to receive directions from his handlers. During the debate, Mr. Trump attacked Mr. Biden’s son Hunter (whose lucrative dealings with a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president, frankly, stank) but went on to question Joe Biden’s college credentials. This from a guy who, according to his own niece, paid somebody to take the SATs for him.

As part of his attack strategy, Mr. Trump interrupted Mr. Biden 73 times, according to CBS News, prompting Mr. Biden to say, at one point, “Will you shut up, man?” And that was one of the high points.

The low point came when Mr. Trump refused to condemn his white-supremacist supporters, instead encouraging them to flock to polling places — with transparent intent to intimidate the voters. Not only did he refuse to condemn the Proud Boys (one such group of socially underdeveloped wannabe vigilantes) but instead ordered them to “stand by” and issued a chilling warning about the election: “This will not end well.”

For those of us elderly enough to remember the Nixon years, 2020 is worse. Much worse. Richard Nixon was elected to the presidency twice, way back before the Republican Party turned itself into the personality cult it is today. However, once he had a few crimes under his belt, had violated enough norms and had evinced some serious personality flaws (sound familiar?), Mr. Nixon bowed to the wishes of the party. When the jig was up, he agreed to resign.

Earlier, though, when Mr. Nixon lost the very close 1960 race to John F. Kennedy — with lots of evidence of funny business perpetrated by the Democratic machines in Chicago and Texas — he took the high road and conceded, for which he deserves credit.

“In our campaigns,” Mr. Nixon told a joint session of Congress, “no matter how hard they may be, no matter how close the election may turn out to be, those who lose accept the verdict and support those who win.”

Rest assured we will hear nothing of the sort from Donald Trump.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.

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