Trump's bad Nixon imitation
Nixon sought help from a foreign government. Trump is trying the same thing.
Whatever Donald Trump does, Richard Nixon usually did it first and better.
Nixon got a foreign government’s help to win a presidential election over 50 years ago. Trump’s imitation of the master has proven far from perfect, and that may cost him the presidency.
Trump’s first mistake was soliciting foreign interference personally. As a result, he cannot deny that he urged Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden. The proof is in his own White House’s record of their telephone call.
Nixon was a more cautious international conspirator, as I detailed in “Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate.”
When Nixon solicited foreign interference on behalf of his presidential campaign, he was careful to use a cutout, a go-between whose clandestine activities could, if exposed, be plausibly denied. Anna Chennault, a conservative activist and Republican fundraiser, acted as Nixon’s secret back channel to the government of South Vietnam.
Playing politics with war
The Vietnam War was the biggest issue of the 1968 presidential campaign.
Nixon’s great hope was to hang Vietnam like an albatross on Democratic presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey, the sitting vice president. Nixon’s great fear was that President Lyndon Johnson would start peace talks before Election Day, boosting Humphrey’s campaign along with hopes for an end to the war.
Nixon’s fear was realized when Johnson announced peace talks in the campaign’s final week. Nixon watched his lead over Humphrey dwindle to nothingness.
So he turned to Chennault. She conveyed a secret message from Nixon to South Vietnam, urging it to boycott the peace talks. The South did just that only three days before the election, thereby destroying any hope for an imminent peace.