Tom Brokaw Laments: Trump Impeachment Like ‘Television Game Show’

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Appearing on NBC’s Today show on Tuesday to promote his new book, The Fall of Richard Nixon, former Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw complained that unlike the impeachment proceedings against Nixon being treated “very seriously,” the impeachment inquiry against President Trump was “like a television game show.”

Following a report on Brokaw’s book, co-host Craig Melvin wondered about the differences between the Nixon and Trump impeachments. Brokaw pointed out one obvious difference: “By the time of the fall of 1973, the President’s chief of staff, his domestic adviser, his lawyer, and other senior people in his administration were headed to jail for violating federal laws. We haven’t had that happen to Donald Trump yet.”

“At this point, it’s as much political as it is legal,” Brokaw admitted.

 

 

The former anchor went on to claim that he and his journalist colleagues covering Watergate avoided any “speculation” or biased coverage:

The difference is that we didn’t talk about it. You know, we took what happened on a daily basis as reporters, reported it, and then didn’t come to a conclusion. I didn’t have one of these [holds up smart phone]. I had a landline telephone and a typewriter, so I couldn’t go online immediately and say, “Here’s what I think.” There’s so much speculation now, it’s a much different environment.

Brokaw made a similar observation in 2018, when he warned reporters to avoid making “judgments about guilt or innocence” with regard to investigations into Trump.

On Tuesday, he continued to contrast the Nixon impeachment with the current effort to take down Trump: “I think the big lesson I took away from the book, at that time, everybody took it very seriously, it was not something that played out like a television game show, which we have a lot of that now with the President, you know, having comments about everything.”

Brokaw also whined that Republicans weren’t abandoning Trump:

And the Republicans who were on the Hill took it [Nixon’s impeachment] very seriously, and they were not afraid to speak up at the end about the fact is he’s clearly violated what’s going on. And they became part of the process. We also don’t see that now.

At no point did Brokaw blame Democrats for creating the unserious “game show” atmosphere of the Trump impeachment inquiry. At least he vaguely alluded to the media being part of the problem.

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Here is a transcript of the October 29 segment:

8:45 AM ET

(...)

CRAIG MELVIN: Tom Brokaw is with us this morning. Good to see you my friend.

TOM BROKAW: Good to be back.

MELVIN: So you know, let’s start with then and now. I mean, then you had a president under pressure, then investigation. Now you have a president under pressure and investigation, but there’s some differences in how Nixon handled the impeachment investigation and how this president’s handling it.

BROKAW: Well, there are big, big differences. By the time of the fall of 1973, the President’s chief of staff, his domestic adviser, his lawyer, and other senior people in his administration were headed to jail for violating federal laws. We haven’t had that happen to Donald Trump yet. At this point, it’s as much political as it is legal. So an impeachment proceeding really has to be well grounded. It’s the most serious thing that we have in our system of government, to remove a president from office for malfeasance. And then how you sell that to the American people as well as to Congress.

MELVIN: You had a front row seat back then. When did you realize that the end was going to be what it became ultimately for Richard Nixon?

BROKAW: Well, I think we all had an instinct about it because, as I say, all of the senior aides had violated – John Dean at one point said the President was in the room 35 times when they talked about the cover-up and what they were going to have to do. The difference is that we didn’t talk about it. You know, we took what happened on a daily basis as reporters, reported it, and then didn’t come to a conclusion. I didn’t have one of these [holds up smart phone]. I had a landline telephone and a typewriter, so I couldn’t go online immediately and say, “Here’s what I think.” There’s so much speculation now, it’s a much different environment.

MELVIN: We were just talking about the lack of technology back then. You know, in the book, you write about this visit that you took with Nixon to Xenia, Ohio, in the wake of a tornado there, to tour the damage. And in that moment, you saw the antipathy that a lot of folks had toward the president.

BROKAW: Well, there were two sides of Richard Nixon, he went out there and he was deeply moved, it was a terribly destructive tornado. And he was doing anything to try to appear to be human. And at the end of this tour, he was in a very quiet area down by city hall. It was dead still, and suddenly, a woman walked in and said, “Is that Nixon, impeach him! Impeach him!” And it rang out across the airwaves and the Secret Service started to move on her and I said she has a right to say what she wants to. Nixon hunched up and went over. He could not escape, as hard as he tried. The people were beginning to believe that he was guilty of everything that he had been charged with, and eventually he was forced to resign rather than be impeached, which he would have been.

MELVIN: What do you want folks to take away from the book?

BROKAW: I think the big lesson I took away from the book, at that time, everybody took it very seriously, it was not something that played out like a television game show, which we have a lot of that now with the President, you know, having comments about everything. Everybody has access to an opinion of one kind or another. Social media has change everything, frankly. I mean, I think it’s a great, great instrument, but you don’t know what you can believe and what you can’t believe. That’s a huge, huge difference between then and now. And the Republicans who were on the Hill took it very seriously, and they were not afraid to speak up at the end about the fact is he’s clearly violated what’s going on. And they became part of the process. We also don’t see that now.

MELVIN: One of the things in the book that I think folks might find surprising, you almost became a press secretary.

BROKAW: No, not almost. [Laughter]

MELVIN: But you were offered the job.

BROKAW: It wasn’t even close. Before Bob Haldeman went to Washington, he was a prominent ad man in Los Angeles and active in the Republican Party politics. You know, I had kind of a reputation as somebody – as a young man who could cover politics and do it pretty well. When they got to Washington, Ron Ziegler wasn’t working out for a variety of reasons, although he stayed loyal to the President to the very end. So Haldeman had somebody come and say, “We want you to come to Washington and be the press secretary,” I almost threw up, frankly, at that point. It was not in my future by any stretch of the imagination. And I kept it secret for a long, long time. And there were a couple of surprises in the book about how I found out that Richard Nixon knew about the offer and what Haldeman said to me once he got out of jail. He put his arms around me one day and said, “I’ve often looked at you and thought I could have sent him to jail.” Well, there was no chance of that happening. But it was something I kept secret for a long, long time.

MELVIN: We are glad you didn’t take the job. Thank you.

BROKAW: Yeah.

MELVIN: Thanks for coming by. By the way, the book, again it’s called, The Fall of Richard Nixon, and is written by our guy Tom Brokaw.

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