During a special two-hour edition of The Lead Friday titled “The White House in Crisis,” host Jake Tapper and the panel repeatedly compared President Trump to former President Richard Nixon as they focused on the impeachment drama that has engulfed Washington and the media.
While they spent most of the segment making Trump-Nixon comparisons, the panel also noted a few differences in the situations faced by the current and former President. For instance, Tapper complained that unlike Nixon, President Trump has Fox News and conservative political websites to carry his water for him.
Eventually, Tapper asked the panel to weigh in on “the Republican reaction to this.” He singled out Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz as a member of “the Kool-Aid drinkers, the ones who will just defend President Trump no matter what.” Tapper proceeded to ask CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash if the Republicans she talked to understood that it “looks really, really bad” when they defend President Trump.
After Bash finished explaining the Republicans’ calculations on how to respond to the impeachment push, Tapper argued that while “Nixon had a much better legal apparatus to defend him, and Bill Clinton did as well, during their impeachments than President Trump has,” President Trump “has something that Nixon did not have. He has Fox News. He has an army of trolls. He has sites, web sites that will defend anything he says or does.”
While it’s true that Nixon did not have Fox News or “web sites that will defend anything he says or does,” he also did not have two left-wing cable channels whose business models rely on trashing “anything he says or does” 24/7...or websites that will attack anything he says or does, some of which call themselves "news" organizations.
When Tapper finished reminiscing about the good old days before the existence of Fox News, CNN Political Analyst Sabrina Siddiqui accused President Trump and his allies of “pushing conspiracy theories and trying to refocus the attention on Joe Biden.” Siddiqui also recycled the talking point that “there is no evidence to suggest wrongdoing on behalf of former Vice President Biden,” indicating that CNN has taken on the role of defending anything Joe Biden “says or does.”
The Nixon comparisons that loomed large over this CNN segment should not have come as that much of a surprise, since two octogenarian has-been journalists appeared on the network the night before accusing President Trump of “out-Nixoning Nixon.” While the rhetoric on The Lead was a little more tame, the message remains the same: President Trump is just like Richard Nixon and he must be impeached.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s edition of The Lead is below. Click “expand” to read more.
The Lead With Jake Tapper
TAPPER: And let’s talk about the Republican reaction to this, because I know you have the Kool-Aid drinkers, the ones who will just defend President Trump no matter what.
DANA BASH: Very big vat of Kool- Aid.
TAPPER: But, you know, like the Matt Gaetzes of the world, who will just say anything. But what about the…the body of the Republican caucus? I know that they support President Trump, but do the Republicans you talk to, do they understand that this looks really, really bad?
BASH: Yes. For the most part, yes. There are some who just, as you said, they just…they have their blinders on and they don’t care because their constituents are so much in Trump’s corner, that…that…that Trump can do no wrong. But the thing that we need to look at, particularly now on a Friday going into most members of Congress being home for two weeks with their constituents, are those front-liners; people like Jason Crow, who you talked to on this program yesterday, who turned a Republican district Democratic, who was one of the first people among those veterans to come out with an op-ed; changing the tide of this story, making it so that Nancy Pelosi could do this impeachment inquiry.
They are already getting hammered in an unofficial way by Republicans. It is going to change very quickly to an official way. Look for TV ads. Look for other paid political strategies to…to get at them. And so that’s on the one hand. And then the flip side are the Republicans, getting back to what you’re asking, who are in purple states, who need their base…on the Senate side in particular, who need their base to vote for them, so they can beat the Democrat in 2020. But they also need some Democrats to come over to…to vote for them. So, they are in the…the…the biggest pickle of all of them. And they are the ones who are running from reporters; frankly understandably, until they get more information. I’m talking about, to name names, the…Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cory Gardner of Colorado, people for whom their winning and losing will determine whether Republicans keep majority of the Senate in 2020.
TAPPER: And it’s largely dependent on how independent voters come to think of all this
TAPPER: …by November of next year, which is an unknown. Nobody knows how this will happen. It’s been pointed out, Sabrina, that Nixon had a much better legal apparatus to defend him, and Bill Clinton did as well, during their impeachments than President Trump has. But President Trump has something that…that Nixon did not have. He has Fox News. He has an army of trolls. He has sites that will, web sites that will defend anything he says or does. And that could very well come into play. They are already coming to his defense.
SIDDIQUI: And you already see the President and his allies taking a page from the Russia playbook, where they’re trying to frame this as a…another witch-hunt. You see some of them pushing conspiracy theories and trying to refocus the attention on Joe Biden, even though there is no evidence to suggest wrongdoing on the part of former Vice President Biden. I think that that’s the key here for the President, is whether or not he’s able to once again try and frame this in sharply partisan terms. And it’ll be very important for Democrats in their messaging to not focus so much on impeachment, but I think to continue and put this under this umbrella of corruption; which is the way that they’ve tried to frame their message on the campaign trail. I had a Democratic strategist tell me that Democrats shouldn’t be celebrating impeachment. They should make the case to the public that it’s actually a tragedy to impeach an American President, but this is the responsibility that they hold as the oversight branch of the U.S. government.
BASH: Can I just add one thing to the…there are many differences politically between then and now, Nixon and now? President Trump is in the middle of a reelection campaign right now. Even for Bill Clinton, he’d already won a second term. His political apparatus had been winding down. President Trump’s is winding up and they have been quietly building a massive war chest, along with the RNC, in order to get him to win reelection. There is no better way to spend that money, from their perspective now, to get him to win reelection than to use that money to hit back as it…at his opponents on impeachment.