Why the Jan. 6 committee’s PR predicament is opposite the Watergate investigation

Unlike Watergate, full of twists and turns, the simplistic and crude Trump Big Lie scheme is self-evident and easy to comprehend.


The first unmasked covert, criminal conspiracies; the second confirms known, indisputable scams

Were I giving outreach advice to the Jan. 6 Committee, I’d stress that, short of a new, shocking revelation (yet to come?), the Committee faces a very different dilemma from the Watergate Committee. Decades separating these scandals mark huge atmospheric changes, though revealing, equally-damning parallels remain. Trump and Nixon are one and two in the presidential lawlessness stakes, and their intentional betrayals have jeopardized the integrity of functional, open elections. For me, Nixon’s appalling crimes – to obliterate Democratic opposition and (successfully) waltz into his second term – anticipated Trump’s conspiracy to nullify, then overturn a certified election with one corrupt aim: strongman domination. Had Trump successfully strong-armed the election, a worse reign of terror loomed. Most unlikely now, IMO.

What each calculated crime spree demonstrates is the merger of power-madness and delusions of grandeur driven by merciless determination. Nixon was smarter but more limited in scope. The blundering Trump plot, lacking even paltry evidence and driven by an unsustainable lie, did work for a while. Nixon was proactive, scheming in advance to rig re-election while Trump’s worst crimes were reactive, waiting to lose before dishing out his opening ploy, then fabricating the full-throated con needed for the Big Lie.

In retrospect, what may strike grandchildren as remarkable is that slow-moving prosecutors needed such a complete, formal proof, let alone why it’s taking so god-awful long to confirm conspicuous law-breaking. What’s even more remarkable is the void of any defense (even a bad one) that refute the flood of incontestable evidence. With notorious pandemic lies, medical complications made interpretations necessary. Hardly needed now. Is there any doubt that Trump’s Big Lie stands, unrivaled, as America’s clumsiest, worst whopper? Stand aside Joe McCarthy (communist infiltration), Dick Cheney (Iraqi WMDs), even LBJ (a phony attack). What independent pundit or historian doesn’t ridicule Trump’s singularly unpersuasive con job? Nixon (even Clinton) were lying geniuses compared to sleazy montebank from Queens.

The dilemma of persuasion

Further, what argument now challenges the transparent Jan. 6 Committee narrative, that Trump alone intentionally, nefariously refused the truth and conspired to enact his own election? Extensive, in-depth media reports, diverse unchallenged, tell-all books, plus unrefuted testimony far and wide, have exposed the fraudulent scam. AWOL is even the shallow fare every lawyer invents to defend a defenseless client. Trump is a naked bird, whining and seething while lackeys are cornered and talking to avoid more liability.

How opposite the relative ignorance when John Dean’s dramatic exposure of the Nixon White House unmasked the tenacity of that covert Republican fakery. His presentation was one new revelation after another, unlike the Jan. 6 inquiry so far. What substance has changed an overwhelming case for guilt? Yes, the Jan. 6 Committee is effectively “showing” (vs. “telling”) its proof, going into high gear this week. In contrast, no one knew the entire Nixon plot until Dean coalesced its unified, multi-prong machinations, from the Watergate break-in to money laundering to dirty campaign tricks and Nixon’s “enemy list.” Tricky Dick deserved his nickname, an icon of unbounded, ruthless ambition.

No doubt Nixon (as attorney, congressman and ex-VP) knew far more about the political and legal landscape than Trump, but being a pathological criminal in denial is no excuse for malevolence. Nixon’s crooked scheming answered to realistic threats (being greatly distrusted), though he never used his lies to con his base out of $250 million smackers, much then pocketed. And no one but Trump the malignant narcissist would openly demand, despite serial disgraces, that he be handed the presidency – insisting no doubt on apologies for his pain and suffering.

Further, what separates these scandals is that Dean’s exposure revealed a series of inter-related schemes, typical of Nixon’s unflagging, devious mind. Despite its greater danger to democratic institutions, the Trump infamy was in concept fairly simple-minded, reflecting his own rank myopia. Whereas Nixon was a complex conspirator, Trump’s was one-dimensional, thus now easy to comprehend for logical, reality-bound centrists. Trump’s tantrum of “Just say no” to losing convinced enough suckers so that terrified Trumpers up for re-election held their tongues while the naked emperor kept on stomping. The great joke, enjoyed best after the last Trump gasp, is that his self-absorbed derangement produced the world’s unrivaled whiner. The great irony (if not poetic justice): Trump’s “victimization” will go down as wholly his own doing, proving he was/is his own worst enemy.

In fact, erasing a certified election after the fact is far more daunting than impugning your potential opponents. The shameless Trump was not only less likely to succeed than Nixon (and didn’t) but had no clue what the project demanded. While more will surface, the electorate knows more than enough to convict Trump (and enablers) in the court of public opinion: the outline, cast of evil-doers, and every critical stage. The Georgia blackmail tape cannot be refuted or wished away. We know about fake, corrupt state delegates in waiting, were they ever to represent Georgia. Way more than enough.

Will Trump suckers ever have enough?

Everyone concedes that even irrefutable evidence will not sway deplorables hypnotized by the Trump con. Rigid authoritarians before the election, they’re now so defensive and so irrational they will never admit to being hoodwinked, nor that reality trumps their delusions. They ain’t fundamentalist on religion or guns or abortions because they have flexible, well-trained brain power – or enough self-esteem to concede blunders. My mid-term hope is that enough centrists absorb the overwhelmingly persuasive Jan. 6 narrative.

Unlike Watergate, full of twists and turns, the crude Trump Big Lie scheme is self-evident and easy to comprend: refusing to accept losing, Trump impugns the outcome, misuses the courts to distract attention, and sustains his fraud on the extreme chance of getting the House to decide. The innate absurdity should have sunk the scam. But thanks to the degradation of Republican officials, and a base yearning for non-existent golden ages, Trump sidestepped Nixon’s fate: certain conviction in the Senate. History may well put aside the Nixon criminality for the greater Trump wickedness – plus cowardly GOP senators who let him walk free, open to run again.

Bad as he was, Tricky Dick understood when he had lost, refusing to undercut the essential to democracy: peaceful transfer of power. Blinded by ego, dismal, dishonest, dopey Donald walks his own plank – oblivious both to his narrowing path and the decreasing steps before falling into a self-made morass. Not knowing when to fold will cost Trump all of his reputation and much of his treasure, perhaps personal liberty. His life, and I predict a physical breakdown from stress when the walls close in on an unstable psychopath, could become self-imprisonment, a marginally just end to his own viciousness. How much safer would be this resolution than the Trumpified civil war he was and is trying to foment. Get thee hence, Satan!


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.