Since the January inauguration, the White House seems to on a rollercoaster ride plagued by infighting, firings, resignations and the dark cloud of Russia. In terms of pure chaos, the Trump Administration may rival the two most controversial in American history — Richard Nixon and Andrew Jackson.
Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon
Ranked among the most controversial of the modern era, Pres. Richard Milhous Nixon was widely unpopular and ultimately resigned over the siege of allegations related to the Watergate break-in.
Historians consider Pres. Nixon a paranoid politician who wielded power against anyone he considered an enemy. Tricky Dick went as far as to set up a clandestine group called the “White House Plumbers,” tasked with stopping leakers. Sound familiar? This covert group reportedly went as far as to break into an opponent’s psychiatrist’s office and steal records.
The group branched into CREEP, “Committee to Re-Elect the President,” employing “dirty tricks” to undermine opponents. They went as far as to release dossier-like information, fake news and steal people’s shoes.
The Watergate scandal and cover up be might likened to Russian hackers or meeting with foreign entities to gain “opposition research.” Most people just call that “dirt.” Watergate played out much like today’s Russia investigations in the media. As evidence mounted, Nixon unleashed the “Saturday Night Massacre,” firing U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and deputy A.G. William Ruckleshaus. The move rings similar to the firing of FBI director James Comey and the social media pressure Trump regularly heaps on Jeff Sessions. Pres. Nixon weaved a tangled web that ultimately ended in a pardon. Sound familiar?
Andrew “Badass” Jackson
Founder of the Democratic Party, Pres. Andrew Jackson was a successful military general elected on a campaign that promised to fight for the “common man” against a corrupt American “aristocracy.” In many ways, it was a lot like Pres. Trump’s “forgotten men and women” advocacy to Make America Great Again and “drain the swamp.” Jackson ran the meanest, dirtiest and most ruthless campaign in political history to earn victory over heavy favorite John Quincy Adams. Sound familiar?
Jackson’s inauguration was held March 4, 1829, and is considered the wildest, most raucous such party in history. A drunken mob comprised of supporters and opponents clashed and nearly destroyed the presidential home. Jackson was forced to flee the premises. An angry mob even stomped cheese into the president’s rug to make the home stink. His abrasive personality and reputation as a “badass” willing to fight or duel anyone earned him populist favor and disdain from elites. Hmm.
Donald “The Apprentice” Trump
The upset of nominee Hillary Clinton sent Democrats into an unforeseen upheaval that has prompted widespread excuses for the loss and an “obstruct” and “resist” policy focused on tripping Pres. Donald J. Trump at every turn. There’s no doubt that the administration faces an uphill battle across the board. But, they haven’t exactly done themselves any favors in terms of public perception.
The Trump presidency certainly has echoes of his most controversial predecessors. From the viscous campaign that belittled senators such “Little Marco” Rubio, impugned Ted Cruz’ family lineage and nicknamed Democratic opponents “Crooked Hillary,” “Nasty Woman,” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” the hateful rhetoric flowed freely. The nine or more Russia investigations may never yield an actual crime, but they hover like a dark “Watergate-esque” cloud over the administration that obstructs any semblance of a positive message in the mainstream media.
Beyond the external struggles and constant security leaks, the real-life internal feuds between son-in-law Jared Kushner and cabinet members, resignations by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and profanity-tinged character assassinations by new communications director Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci give Americans the impression that White House is one big WWE Royal Rumble. That only seems fitting given a Trump-CNN body slam meme went viral.
Given the impact of fake news, social media and Pres. Trump’s disinterest in decorum or acting all “presidential,” it appears chaos is Trump’s brand and he’s sticking with it. But, don’t assume it’s an ineffective approach. In fact, the method of “confuse, distract and attack” is one of the most effective fighting styles because you never see it coming. Trump may be on to something here.