It’s about time the last one, Trump, is held accountable
Trump’s impeachment trial is coming up in the Senate, and already his allies are trying to throw up procedural roadblocks to exhaust the effort to hold him accountable. Should America “move beyond” Trump? No friggin’ way!
America must stop giving criminal Republican presidents a pass. Every GOP president since Dwight Eisenhower used treason or deception to come to office (or inherited office from one who did), and it needs to end. It’s a truly astonishing and horrifying story.
It started in 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson was desperately trying to end the Vietnam war. It had turned into both a personal and political nightmare for him, and his vice president, Hubert Humphrey, was running for President in the election that year against a “reinvented” Richard Nixon.
Johnson spent most of late 1967 and early 1968 working back-channels to North and South Vietnam, and by the summer of 1968 had a tentative agreement from both for what promised to be a lasting peace deal they’d both sign that fall.
But Richard Nixon knew that if he could block that peace deal, it would kill Humphrey’s chances of winning the 1968 election. So Nixon sent envoys from his campaign to talk to South Vietnamese leaders to encourage them not to attend an upcoming peace talks in Paris.
Nixon promised South Vietnam’s corrupt politicians that he’d give them a richer deal when he was President than LBJ could give them then.
The CIA had been wiretapping Nixon’s people and told LBJ about his effort to prolong the Vietnam War. Thus, just three days before the 1968 election, Johnson phoned the Republican Senate leader, Everett Dirksen, (you can listen to the entire conversation here):
Some of our folks, including some of the old China lobby, are going to the Vietnamese embassy and saying please notify the [South Vietnamese] president that if he’ll hold out ’til November the second they could get a better deal. Now, I’m reading their hand. I don’t want to get this in the campaign. And they oughtn’t to be doin’ this, Everett. This is treason.
Sen. Dirksen: I know.
Those tapes were only released by the LBJ library in the past decade, and that’s Richard Nixon who Lyndon Johnson was accusing of treason.
At that point, for President Johnson, it was no longer about getting Humphrey elected. By then Nixon’s plan had already worked.
Instead, Johnson was desperately trying to salvage the peace talks to stop the death and carnage as soon as possible. He literally couldn’t sleep.
But South Vietnam had taken Nixon’s deal and boycotted the peace talks, the war continued, and Nixon won the White House thanks to it.
Additional tens of thousands of American soldiers, and over an additional million Vietnamese, died because of Nixon’s 1968 treason, and he left it to Jerry Ford to end the war and evacuate the American soldiers.
And Nixon was never held to account for it, and when the LBJ library released the tapes and documentation it was barely noticed by the American press.
Gerald Ford, who succeeded Nixon, was never elected to the White House (he was appointed to replace VP Spiro Agnew, after Agnew was indicted for decades of taking bribes), and thus would never have been President had it not been for Richard Nixon’s treason. He pardoned Nixon.
Next up was Ronald Reagan.
During the Carter/Reagan election battle of 1980, then-President Carter had reached a deal with newly-elected Iranian President Abdolhassan Bani-Sadr to release the fifty-two hostages held by radical students at the American Embassy in Tehran.
Bani-Sadr was a moderate and, as he explained in an editorial for The Christian Science Monitor, successfully ran for President on the popular position of releasing the hostages:
“I openly opposed the hostage-taking throughout the election campaign…. I won the election with over 76 percent of the vote…. Other candidates also were openly against hostage-taking, and overall, 96 percent of votes in that election were given to candidates who were against it [hostage-taking].”
Carter was confident that with Bani-Sadr’s help, he could end the embarrassing hostage crisis that had been a thorn in his political side ever since it began in November of 1979.
But behind Carter’s back, the Reagan campaign worked out a deal with the leader of Iran’s radical faction — Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini — to keep the hostages in captivity until after the 1980 Presidential election. Khomeini needed spare parts for American weapons systems the Shah had purchased for Iran, and Reagan was happy to promise them.
This was the second act of treason by a Republican wanting to become president.
The Reagan campaign’s secret negotiations with Khomeini — the so-called “October Surprise” — sabotaged President Carter’s and President Bani-Sadr’s attempts to free the hostages. As Bani-Sadr told The Christian Science Monitor in March of 2013:
“After arriving in France [in 1981], I told a BBC reporter that I had left Iran to expose the symbiotic relationship between Khomeinism and Reaganism.
“Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the ‘October Surprise,’ which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.
And Reagan’s treason — just like Nixon’s treason — worked perfectly.
The Iran hostage crisis continued and torpedoed Jimmy Carter’s re-election hopes. And the same day Reagan took the oath of office — to the minute, as Reagan put his hand on the bible, by way of Iran’s acknowledging the deal — the American hostages in Iran were released.
Reagan began selling the Iranians weapons and spare parts in 1981, and continued until he was busted for it in 1986, producing the so-called “Iran Contra” scandal.
But, like Nixon, Reagan was never held to account for the criminal and treasonous actions that brought him to office.
After Reagan — Bush senior was elected — but like Jerry Ford — Bush was really only President because he served as Vice President under Reagan.
If the October Surprise hadn’t hoodwinked voters in 1980, you can bet Bush senior would never have been elected in 1988. That’s four illegitimate Republican presidents.
Which brings us to George W. Bush, the man who was given the White House by five right-wing justices on the Supreme Court.
In the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision in 2000 that stopped the Florida recount — and thus handed George W. Bush the presidency — Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his opinion:
“The counting of votes … does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner [George W. Bush], and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he [Bush] claims to be the legitimacy of his election.”
Apparently, denying the presidency to Al Gore, the guy who actually won the most votes in Florida, did not constitute “irreparable harm” to Scalia or the media.
And apparently it wasn’t important that Scalia’s son worked for the law firm that was defending George W. Bush before the high court (with no Scalia recusal).
Just like it wasn’t important to mention that Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife worked on the Bush transition team — before the Supreme Court shut down the count in Florida — and was busy accepting resumes from people who would serve in the Bush White House if her husband stopped the recount in Florida…which he did. (No Thomas recusal, either.)
More than a year after the election a consortium of newspapers including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and USA Today did their own recount of the vote in Florida — manually counting every vote in a process that took almost a year — and concluded that Al Gore did indeed win the presidency in 2000.
As the November 12th, 2001 article in The New York Times read:
“If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won.”
That little bit of info was slipped into the seventeenth paragraph of the Times story so that it would attract as little attention as possible because the 9/11 attacks had happened just weeks earlier and journalists feared that burdening Americans with the plain truth that George W. Bush actually lost the election would further hurt a nation already in crisis.
To compound the crime, Bush could only have gotten as close to Gore in the election as he did because his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, had ordered his Secretary of State, Kathrine Harris, to purge at least 57,000 mostly-Black voters from the state’s rolls just before the election.
So, for the third time in 4 decades, Republicans took the White House under illegitimate electoral circumstances. Even President Carter was shocked by the brazenness of that one. And Jeb Bush and the GOP were never held to account for that crime against democracy.
Most recently, in 2016, Kris Kobach and Republican Secretaries of State across the nation used Interstate Crosscheck to purge millions of legitimate voters — most people of color — from the voting rolls just in time for the Clinton/Trump election. Meanwhile, Russian oligarchs or the Russian state, and possibly other pro-Trump actors in the Middle East, funded a widespread program to flood social media with pro-Trump, anti-Clinton messages from accounts posing as Americans.
Donald Trump still lost the national vote by nearly 3 million votes, but came to power through an electoral college designed to keep slavery safe in colonial America.
You can only wonder how much better off America would be if 6 Republican Presidents hadn’t stolen or inherited a stolen White House.
Now, finally, there may be some accountability for another criminal Republican president. It’s about time.
Thom Hartmann: America’s #1 progressive talk show host and NY Times bestselling author