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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Nixon and Trump chasing the dragon

by digby

Rick Perlstein:
Donald Trump and Richard Nixon have at least one thing in common: They are the two most paranoid and vindictive men ever to win the presidency. Both came to power armed with enemies lists, vowing to seek revenge against those who stood in their way. Both roamed the mansions of power late at night, raving against every perceived slight. Both were caught on tape describing the ways they enjoyed bending others to their will. 
But Nixon, unlike Trump, was an introspective man. In one particularly fascinating moment of self-reflection following his resignation, he described to a former aide the habits that had enabled him to rise to the top of Washington’s greasy pole. When you’re on your way, he explained, it pays to be crazy. 
“In your own mind you have nothing to lose, so you take plenty of chances,” Nixon said. “It is then you understand, for the first time, that you have the advantage—because your competitors can’t risk what they have already.” That’s an insight that Trump put to good use during the Republican primaries, when he was willing to place high-stakes bets that his more experienced rivals were unwilling or unable to match.
But then you win, and your problems begin. “It’s a piece of cake until you get to the top,” Nixon confessed. “You find you can’t stop playing the game the way you’ve always played it, because it is a part of you and you need it as much as an arm and a leg. You continue to walk on the edge of the precipice, because over the years you have become fascinated by how close to the edge you can walk without losing your balance.” 
What Nixon was describing sounds like nothing so much as a seasoned heroin addict chasing the next high: It takes bigger and bigger doses to get there, until too much is not nearly enough. And a little thing like being elected the leader of the free world isn’t nearly enough to jolt a man like Nixon or Trump into rehab. 
The ways Richard Nixon chased that high are now a matter of voluminous historical record. None is more harrowing than his exploitation of the vast powers of his office to spy on those he perceived as threats to his power, and then seek to use the results of that surveillance to neutralize or destroy them. 
The first phone tap on one of his own officials came in the fourth month of his presidency. That same year, federal agents snared a gay, closeted antiwar organizer named David Mixner in a “honey trap,” and threatened to release photographs of his assignation unless he ratted out his comrades. By the second year, an entire unit of the Internal Revenue Service was chartered in a locked, soundproof room to harass a blacklist of antiwar activists. Nixon personally approved a plan to break into the offices of his opponents, even though the young White House staffer who devised the scheme described it as “clearly illegal.” The following year, Nixon ordered aides to come up with a plan to break into a safe in the Brookings Institution, which he imagined as a Kennedy government in exile. His enforcer, Chuck Colson, drew up “enemies lists” that included such fearsome figures as actress Carol Channing and Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton. The IRS was deployed to audit their taxes or take away the nonprofit status of their organizations. “What we cannot do in a courtroom via criminal prosecutions to curtail the activities of some of these groups,” a White House memo explained, “IRS could do by administrative action.”
All that, mind you, came before the simultaneous operations to bug George McGovern’s campaign headquarters and the Democratic National Committee’s suite at the Watergate hotel. 
Donald Trump assembles enemies lists, too; his organs of cognition appear to be structured around the idea of revenge. There are Republicans who voted against him, like Senator Lindsey Graham. (“It’s so great our enemies are making themselves clear,” Trump surrogate Omarosa Manigault exulted, “so that when we get to the White House, we know where we stand.”) There are media organizations he claims have covered him unfairly, like The Washington Post. (Just as Nixon threatened to take away the broadcast licenses of television stations owned by the Post, Trump has vowed to prosecute Post owner Jeff Bezos for antitrust violations.) And it’s not hard to imagine that Trump’s list of targets will only grow longer as his power expands. Like Nixon, he has spent his entire life chasing the narcotic rush afforded by dominating others, the better to fill the void where a functioning soul ought to be. 
But there are two key differences that set Trump apart from his predecessor in paranoia. First, his soul is sicker by miles than Nixon’s. And second, the surveillance apparatus he is about to inherit is far scarier than the one available to Nixon.

Here's video of a young Donald Trump talking about his enemies:

"I have some very very good friends and I guess I have some very good enemies. And I like it that way, somehow, and I really believe in trashing your enemies."

As with everything else, he has not changed over he years:

Trump went to Liberty University back in 2012 for the first time and gave a speech. And his advice was to "get even."

"I always say, don't let people take advantage of you. This goes for a country too, by the way. Don't let people take advantage. Get even. And you know, if nothing else, other people will see that and say 'I'm gonna let Jim Smith or Sally Malone, I'm gonna let 'em alone because they're tough customers.'

So, I always say it. But I won't say it to you. Because this is a different audience. You don't want to get even do you? ... Yeah, I think you do."

As he said, in 2011:

"Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it."

There's this one:

One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you've got to hit 'em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You've got to get even. Get even. And the reason, the reason you do, is so important…The reason you do, you have to do it, because if they do that to you, you have to leave a telltale sign that they just can't take advantage of you. It's not so much for the person, which does make you feel good, to be honest with you, I've done it many times. But other people watch and you know they say, "Well, let's leave Trump alone," or "Let's leave this one," or "Doris, let's leave her alone. They fight too hard." I say it, and it's so important. You have to, you have to hit back. You have to hit back.

Another one:

It's called "Get Even." Get even. This isn't your typical business speech. Get even. What this is a real business speech. You know in all fairness to Wharton, I love 'em, but they teach you some stuff that's a lot of bullshit. When you're in business, you get even with people that screw you. And you screw them 15 times harder. And the reason is, the reason is, the reason is, not only, not only, because of the person that you're after, but other people watch what's happening. Other people see you or see you or see and they see how you react.

And this to Erin Burnett:
"There are a lot of bad people out there. And you really have to go…If you have a problem, if you have a problem with someone, you have to go after them. And it's not necessarily to teach that person a lesson. It's to teach all of the people that are watching a lesson. That you don't take crap. And if you take crap, you're just not going to do well…But you can't take a lot of nonsense from people, you have to go after them."

Back to Perlstein:
But there are two key differences that set Trump apart from his predecessor in paranoia. First, his soul is sicker by miles than Nixon’s. And second, the surveillance apparatus he is about to inherit is far scarier than the one available to Nixon.

“Over the past two decades, we’ve witnessed the building of the greatest, most pervasive surveillance apparatus and security state that humanity has ever seen,” says Jon Stokes, co-founder of the news site Ars Technica and author of Inside the Machine. “Now we are about to hand over that entire apparatus to a paranoid, score-settling sociopath whose primary obsession seems to be with crushing his personal enemies.”

Yeah. Its not a good idea to ever make such a security state even if you think it will help catch "bad guys." Somebody like Trump will inevitably think you are a "bad guy" and try to use it for his own purposes.

He does 't yet know the power he has. But  this is one of the ways he's going to test it. And it appears he has some high placed friends at the FBI, at least, who will be happy to help him.