Let’s say we had a president who did the following: Redistributed wealth by taxing the rich and giving to the poor. Boosted entitlements. Signed a law to strengthen workplace safety. Poured money into cleaning up the environment. Even helped finance National Public Radio. Liberals would be pleased, right?
We did have such a president. His name was Richard Nixon.
Of course, all this is largely forgotten today, overshadowed by Nixon’s involvement in Watergate — the scandal that drove him from office in 1974, as impeachment and possibly even Senate conviction were nipping at his heels.
Because of this mixed legacy, Nixon ranks as the 28th best president (or the 16th worst, depending on how you look at it) in a 2017 C-SPAN survey of historians. In 10 categories, he scores near the middle for most, though 10th for “International Relations.” But in terms of “Moral Authority” he’s near the bottom, ranked 42nd. Lying to the American people and covering up a Constitution-shredding crime will do that to a guy.
How will historians rate Trump?
President Donald Trump will be included in the next survey, which is taken every time we have a new president. Where do you think he'll rank? For starters, let's compare his actions with all the Nixon accomplishments mentioned above. Trump is the anti-Nixon. After lying through his teeth in 2017 about how “the rich will not be gaining at all with this plan," he gave them (and himself) a huge tax break.
Entitlements? He has reportedly told Senate Republicans that cutting Social Security and Medicare could be a second-term project. We got a preview of his plans to do just that in his 2020 budget blueprint in which he proposed cuts. Funny, Trump likes to run his mouth on Twitter and at his rallies, but this is something he hasn’t blabbed to his wide-eyed, believe-whatever-he-says base.
Strengthen workplace safety? “We want to protect our workers,” Trump said in 2017. But that was another lie. His administration has rolled back worker protections, making already dangerous jobs like coal mining, working on oil rigs and in meat processing plants even more so. Overall, "they've done more things to hurt workers than they have to help them. And that's unfortunate," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said last month on Fox News Sunday.
Trump vs. Nixon is no contest
And cleaning up the environment? Nixon proposed a new Environmental Protection Agency in July 1970, and it began operations five months later. Trump has gutted it, and when he brags about all the regulations he has cut — to the wild applause of his base — what he’s not telling them is that he is endangering the air they breathe and the water they drink. They applaud and then go home, apparently oblivious to the 85 (and counting) rules he has rolled back. Air pollution, water pollution, toxic substances, on and on and on.
There's more, but you get the point: Trump is worse than Nixon. And I haven't even gotten to the scandals. What Trump has done is far more damaging to our country. To me, it can be summed up from just one event: his infamous meeting in the Oval Office in May 2017 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
It was bad enough that Trump revealed highly classified information that, according to two unnamed officials cited in The New York Times, exposed an intelligence source in the Middle East. But we’ve since learned — based on three sources obtained by The Washington Post — that Trump told his Kremlin guests he didn't care that the Russians had interfered in our 2016 election.
Aid and comfort equals treason
An enemy attacks us and our commander in chief doesn’t care? If this is true then I will use, for the first time, a word that distresses me deeply: treason. This isn’t just my view. Article 3, Section 3 of our beloved Constitution says: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”
The Russians attacked us.If the commander in chief who swore to defend us said it didn’t bother him, this is “giving them aid and comfort.” The Russians are surely gearing up for more mayhem in 2020, and what does Trump care? Treason.
Now we learn that Trump has leaned on foreign governments like Ukraine and Australia to dig up dirt that would help him politically. For all his dirty tricks, Richard Nixon would never have dreamed of doing that.
Trump is a man with no ethical compass or shred of decency. Worse than Nixon? Worse in every way. And worse than all the rest.
Paul Brandus, founder and White House bureau chief of West Wing Reports, is the author of "Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency" and is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @WestWingReport
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump likely to rank last among presidents, makes Nixon look good