I’ve been saying for some time that we get the government we pay for. For some reason, it seems, that the candidate who can spend the most money and put out the spiffiest campaign ads (and the most volume) gets the nod from American voters. We are a grand lot in that respect, an attention span clocked with an egg timer and the inclination to believe the most recent thing said, perhaps also in the loudest voice. Anyhow, we get what we pay for, so let’s see what we got.
This blog gets maybe a B- for originality. I don’t daily pile into my Toyota and beat up the pavement to chase original sources. I read the news online and catch a lot of other stuff streaming on the Internet. In all this, one source I avoided previously was MSNBC and Rachel Maddow in particular. Her program is not strictly news. It’s commentary, tending to be front-loaded, and not always impartial. However, since I committed to going the Full Monty on President Donald Trump I’m finding Maddow’s reports to be a rich source. And that’s what this is all about. I’m summarizing a presentation from last week. I will recap for those who don’t have the inclination to watch the video on YouTube, and I’m going to string the summarization with a hoard of screen shots from the show. This one might be titled Use the available federal machinery, because that’s the prominent take-away.
Maddow first reaches back nearly 50 years when Richard Nixon took office as President of the United States. One of the things the new President did was appoint Randolph Thrower to head up the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Things apparently went swimmingly for Mr. Thrower for nearly two years. Then he requested an audience with President Nixon to alert him that people on the White House staff were instructing him to audit named individuals.
The list of those needing an IRS audit was impressive. It included antiwar leaders, civil rights figures, journalists, members of Congress.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POarWqNJS18Also every Democratic senator up for re-election in 1970. This last bit gives some insight into the internals. The request for dirt on senators up for re-election in 1970 must have come many months prior to Mr. Thrower’s request for a meeting.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POarWqNJS18At this point Mr. Thrower exhibited a bit of naiveté not often exhibited in the halls of government. He was certain the President did not know about these machinations, and he was sure the President would take swift action.
Was he ever wrong! Mr. Thrower did not get his audience. Mr. Nixon fired him. Mr. Thrower was not the right man Mr. Nixon wanted for the job after all.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POarWqNJS18Needing somebody willing to do his bidding and needing somebody to replace Mr. Thrower, President Nixon next considered John Nolan, who was in charge of IRS tax policy and who would be a logical replacement. Well… no.
The conversation was recorded on audio tape in the Oval Office, and it went much like this:
President Nixon: I want to be sure he’s a ruthless son of a bitch. That he will do what he’s told, that every income tax return I want to see I see. That he’ll go after our enemies and not go after our friends. It’s as simple as that. If he isn’t, he doesn’t get the job. We’ve got to have somebody like that for a change in this place.
Nixon Aide: Well that is the basis of which I inquired about Nolan. And I am assured that Nolan will not play that game.
The hunt needed to go on.
Anyhow, John Nolan was out, so the President had to look for another patsy. Attorney General John Mitchell recommended Johnnie Walters, who was then working for the Justice Department.
And that was that. On 11 September 1972 John Dean, who was counsel for the President, handed Mr. Walters the famous “enemies list.” The list had hundreds of names of people the President wanted the IRS to investigate.
Included were “staff members and leading contributors to the flagging presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern.”
There were “about 200 prominent Democrats.”
Mr. Walters “put the list in a sealed envelope and kept it in a safe.” Apparently he never used the list. My thinking is that something like this is a cudgel you want to keep close by while you wait for the opportunity to use it.
He put the list in a sealed envelope and kept it in a safe until the following year, when he turned it over to congressional investigators.
In 1973, as the investigation into the Watergate burglary and associated malfeasance, kicked into gear, John Dean disavowed his elegance to President Nixon, and he testified before the senate committee on the existence of the list and on the intent. He made available a copy of President Nixon’s plan to use the force of the United States Government to go after his political enemies. A portion of text from that plan is illustrative:
Stated a bit more bluntly.. how can we use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.
It’s been a long time (never) since anybody called me a lawyer, but I can see that such actions are in violation of several laws. These are the kinds of things that can get a president impeached and thrown out of office.
The White House audio recordings now became public knowledge, and excerpts are revealing of the length to which the President was willing to go to skewer political opponents and also those who challenged him:
President Nixon: I want to direct the most trusted person you have in the immigration service that they are to look over all the activities of the Los Angeles Times—all, underlined to see whether they are violating the wetback thing… Otis Chandler—I want him checked with regard to his gardener.
President Nixon: I understand he’s a wetback. We’re going after the Chandlers, every one, individually, collectively, their income tax. They’re starting this week. Every one of those sons of bitches. Is that clear?
A.G. John Mitchell: Yes sir.
President Nixon: Understand? Do it. Give me a report.
A.G. John Mitchell: Very well, sir.
And that kind of misuse of government power is what can get you removed from office and sent to jail. From the articles of impeachment.
Obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry.
Delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation … cover up, conceal and protect those responsible … making false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers … withholding relevant and material evidence … surreptitious payment of substantial sums of money for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses … making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements.
Using the powers of the office of the President of the United States …
endeavored to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service … confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed [sic] not authorized by law
He misused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service … for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office.
In all of this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.
Wherefore Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.
The upshot was that President Nixon was not impeached. He resigned, and the presidency passed to Gerald Ford, who had been appointed Vice President on the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew following revelation of his own criminal activities. President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon and was rewarded by voters in 1976, who elected Jimmy Carter as President. John Dean went to jail. John Ehrlichman went to jail. John Mitchell went to jail
Anyhow, that stuff was 44 years ago. It’s good that we have put those days behind us, and we now stand in a brighter venue, possessed of higher expectations.
Not so fast.
One of the richest people in the world, actually the richest person in the world, is Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon and also owner of The Washington Post. It’s that last part that’s getting attention these days. Historically, Washington Post writing by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein was instrumental in bringing down President Nixon. It was a circumstance that got the Post on President Nixon’s list at the time. From all appearances, The Washington Post has not learned from the past, and this venerable institution is again on a President’s shit list.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POarWqNJS18You get the idea. The Washington Post is not currently Bezos’s cash cow. That would be Amazon, the largest on-line retailer in the world. What is a 21st century president to do now but go after the sacred cow.
In the past week, the president has turned what were sporadic and often private criticisms into a sustained volley of tweets against the company, often causing stock market fluctuations.
Fueling Mr. Trump’s ire is not so much Amazon, the online giant that is revamping the retail industry, but the company’s Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, people close to the White House say.
Mr. Trump sees Mr. Bezos’s hand in newspaper coverage he dislikes and is lashing out at Amazon as a proxy, these people said.
The president’s most recent flurry of tweets targeting Amazon has coincided with publication of Washington Post stories he dislikes.
What’s not clear is whether Mr. Trump will take actions that would harm Amazon’s business interests.
… his new freedom is used to focus ever more closely on his perceived enemies and obsessions. Amazon, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post, is currently the main target.
Now, according to four sources close to the White House, Trump is discussing ways to escalate his Twitter attacks on Amazon to further damage the company.
“He’s off the hook on this. It’s war,” one source told me. “He gets obsessed with something, and now he’s obsessed with Bezos,” said another source. “Trump is like, how can I f[uck] with him?”
According to sources, Trump wants the Post Office to increase Amazon’s shipping costs.
President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com…
Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission…
Brennan and Trump have met at the White House about the matter several times, beginning 2017…
The meetings have never appeared on Trump’s public schedule.
…according to three people familiar with their conversations…
Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms
Megan Brennan, the ghost of Randolph Thrower is trying to channel you. Update your resume. Mr. Trump, you need to check for messages from Richard Nixon’s ghost.
The fun is just getting started, and we are finally getting the government we paid for.