May 7, 2011
The Donald's [Expletive Deleted] Desert One Experience
Maybe it's in the water out there in the desert. But when a prospective candidate for president goes to Las Vegas, it would be a good idea to avoid drinking too deeply at the local fountains of wisdom. One New York gentleman recently created news around the world, not for the profundity of his remarks, but for the profanity of them. He was widely reported to have let loose with a string of "f-bombs." Was Donald Trump perhaps auditioning to run against Joe Biden?
This gentleman apparently has a short memory. In the 1970s, Americans were grieved by a "long national nightmare." The name of the nightmare was Watergate. President Richard Nixon was accused of high crimes and misdemeanors -- impeachable offenses then and now. He had apparently committed suborned perjury and obstructed justice in his attempts to protect his campaign operatives. Those operatives were convicted and jailed for breaking and entering the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic Party.
Why Mr. Nixon's people found it necessary to engage in such tactics when his opponent -- the hapless liberal Sen. George McGovern -- was so busily engaged in defeating himself is one of the great mysteries of history. But they did. And Nixon tried to cover up their crimes.
In the year-and-a-half drama that ensued, from March, 1973, when the first breaks in the Watergate investigation were registered, until the resignation of the President on August 9, 1974, the country often felt that it, too, was "twisting slowly, slowly in the wind."
Then it was revealed that President Nixon had installed a secret taping system in the White House. Soon, the race was on to get hold of those tapes. It was suspected that they would contain evidence of impeachable offenses.
Desperate to avoid giving up the incriminating tapes, the Nixon White House first released heavily edited transcripts of those tapes. This was a major blunder. The written record of Mr. Nixon's daily conversations in the Oval Office -- even when controlled by his own legal defense team -- was devastating. Page after page of the transcripts revealed the moral squalor of our Chief Executive. Line after line contained the phrase [expletive deleted].
Millions of Americans -- especially millions of those who had just given Richard Nixon a thumping 49-state victory over the feckless George McGovern -- were heartsick at these revelations. Is that really the way our president speaks in the Oval Office? Is that really the way he thinks? And how could he have so cynically played all of us for suckers.
Nixon's approval ratings collapsed.
Now, the skyrocketing gas prices brought on by the Arab oil embargo were surely no help. Nor did it help when Mr. Nixon instituted wage and price controls, or when he made this disheartening announcement: "We're all Keynesians now." With the economy in the doldrums, a president's head never rests easy on his pillow. Still, the economy was terrible under Ford and Carter, too, and no one talked of impeachment.
I'd like to offer some advice about our would-be presidential candidate's own Desert One disaster. That phrase, of course, was associated with Jimmy Carter's failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran. Be careful what you say and how you say it.
I have a college friend who is a very successful Texas oil man. My friend -- we'll call him Andy -- came to Washington a decade or so ago to lobby various U.S. Senators. When one of those senators assured Andy's group that all would be well when he was elected president, Andy stood up to confront him: "We don't know if you're gonna be president. But you're a U.S. Senator now and we need help!"
After that stormy meeting, Andy regaled me over lunch with the story of his bruising encounter. He closed with this gem: "Another thing I didn't like about that senator: He was always using the f-word." Gently, I probed to learn why my friend -- whose own vocabulary was "salty" -- was so offended.
"Look, I'm a big, loud oil man. I can talk any way I want. But I expect something different from someone who wants to be the leader of the whole [expletive deleted] country!"
Hey, Mr. Desert One, take note. And watch your language.