Woodward and Bernstein: Nixon, Trump defined two of the most damaging, troubling eras in American history

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Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal a half-century ago, wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday that former President Trump and the host of loyalists who falsely claimed his election defeat was fraudulent were a deception that “exceeded even Nixon’s imagination.”

“As reporters, we had studied Nixon and written about him for nearly half a century, during which we believed with great conviction that never again would America have a president who would trample the national interest and undermine democracy through the audacious pursuit of personal and political self-interest,” Woodward and Bernstein wrote.

“And then along came Trump,” they wrote.

The veteran reporters analyzed similarities between the two former presidents including the fact that they were both outsiders who harbored deep insecurities, felt beset by enemies and maintained a fear of losing.

“Both Nixon and Trump created a conspiratorial world in which the U.S. Constitution, laws and fragile democratic traditions were to be manipulated or ignored, political opponents and the media were ‘enemies,’ and there were few or no restraints on the powers entrusted to presidents,” Woodward and Bernstein wrote.

They also outlined differences between the former commander-in-chief’s.

Nixon’s subversion efforts to derail the candidacy of his most formidable challenger to the presidency, Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Maine), was done largely under the radar. The journalists detailed the covert operation, citing examples like the planting of a Nixon campaign operative as Muskie’s chauffeur to steal strategy documents.

That was a big contrast from Trump, who took his grievances over his election loss to every public platform possible.

“Unlike Nixon, Trump accomplished his subversion largely in public,” Woodward and Bernstein wrote. “He pursued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election process from campaign rally podiums, the White House and his popular Twitter feed.”

Citing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, the journalists, like much of the world, said they watched in “utter dismay utter dismay as Trump persistently claimed that he was really the winner.”

They also noted the vastly differing political climates when it comes to fallouts faced by both men.

The Senate voted 77-0 in 1973 to set up a bipartisan investigative committee on Watergate. But just two members of Trump’s party, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), joined Democrats in establishing the House select committee to investigate the Capitol riot in a 222-190 vote, the journalists noted.

The Republican National Committee formally censured the two GOP lawmakers in February, characterizing January 6 as “legitimate political discourse.”

Woodward serves as an associate editor at The Washington Post and regularly writes books detailing the inner-workings of presidential administrations, including about Trump’s, while Bernstein serves as an on-air political analyst at CNN and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

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