Inherent — existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute.
No, the disgraced 45th president of the United States was not the cause of the corruption that infects today’s iteration of the GOP. He was merely a cancerous symptom of a deep dive into the throws of corrupt behavior that’s been part of this party for decades now.
If we’re lucky, he’ll be the final nail in the coffin by which the party begins to moderate their views and act like they want to participate in our democracy the way our Founding Fathers expected. If not, we may be looking at an America most of us would never have thought possible — the authoritarian march to fascism. We’re not there yet, but it’s getting pretty damn close.
Again, though, it didn’t start with Trump. This once-proud party, the one that can claim Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower as one of their own, has been thumbing its nose at the Constitution for well over 50 years now. The evidence is overwhelming.
In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson became aware of Republican Presidential candidate Richard Nixon’s campaign trying to sabotage negotiations over a possible peace agreement between the North and South in Vietnam. Johnson’s team was aggressively pursuing to end that disastrous war.
Nixon knew that a peace agreement would most likely derail his chance of victory in 1968, being that it would have given his opponent, Vice-president Hubert Humphrey, a vital shot in the arm with the public. So he’d enlisted his campaign Chief of Staff at the time, H.R. Haldeman, to do what he could to throw a “monkey wrench” into the peace talks.
As the peace agreement never materialized, Nixon’s ploy worked, and he went on to win a close victory over Humphrey. LBJ was livid after finding out what shenanigans were going on and, in a phone call with his close friend Senator Everett Dirkson of Illinois, expressed his exasperation: “I’m reading their hand, Everett. I don’t want to get this in the campaign. And they oughtn’t to be doing this. This is treason.” Dirkson agreed.
LBJ never went public with it, for he thought the American people would be too shocked, especially since the election was only days away. In subsequent years, recordings and documents corroborated much of what went on in the election of 1968. Nixon was a crook then and an even bigger crook as president.
We know, of course, that not only did Nixon win in 1968, he also won re-election in 1972, only to become embroiled in Watergate — a complex scandal of corruption that ended in his disgraced resignation from the office of the presidency in 1974. In typical Republican fashion, his successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him.
In 1986, another scandal during a GOP presidency engulfed the nation. This time, it happened during Ronald Reagan’s second term. Several investigations ensued surrounding the Iran-Contra affair — a complicated scheme involving selling arms to Iran in the hopes of winning the release of American hostages in Lebanon.
A portion of the money from the sale was also used to support the contras, rebels fighting the Marxist-oriented Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Reagan administration saw the contras as worthy fighters trying to stop communism from spreading in Central America.
The scandal was seen as a significant scar against Reagan, at least as it pertains to his legacy. Many administration officials were charged and convicted with crimes, including National Security Council (NSC) staff member Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, head of the NSC John Poindexter, and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. North and Poindexter both had their convictions overturned on appeal. Weinberger and five others involved in the scandal were subsequently pardoned by President George H.W. Bush in December 1992.
Lawrence Walsh, who headed up an Independent Counsel looking into the affair, and whose report led to the prosecutions, was livid over the pardons. Bush was talked into the pardons by none other than William Barr, who was the interim Attorney General at the time and would serve in the same capacity under Trump nearly 30 years later.
In a statement issued after the pardons, Walsh minced no words in his reaction: “President Bush’s pardon of Caspar Weinberger and other Iran-Contra defendants undermines the principle that no man is above the law. It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office — deliberately abusing the public trust — without consequence.”
In retrospect, over a nearly 25 year period, we had folks in the Republican Party at the highest levels in power, circumventing the United States Constitution to pursue their own goals. We had Nixon doing everything he could to obtain power in 1968, succeeded by the whole sordid Watergate mess and resignation in disgrace; his subsequent controversial pardon from Ford, allowing him to escape accountability; and the Iran-Contra affair, which ended in even more controversial pardons.
Ironically, North, for one, has achieved hero status from many on the radical right. He’s looked to as a hero and patriot even though, as the Iran-Contra committees’ majority report stated, North and others charged in the scandal “violated the fundamental constitutional requirement that government actions be funded by monies subject to congressional oversight.” That report also found that senior officials within the Reagan administration had knowingly misled Congress.
The corruption and lying didn’t stop with Iran-Contra. President George W. Bush and his administration lied to us repeatedly during the run-up to the Iraq war. We were told Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. None existed. Yet, the lie became the prelude to invading the country, which led to the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians and United States military service-members, not to mention the thousands more who suffered life-long injuries.
We were treated back then to the usual chest-beating and flag-waving from those on the right side of the political aisle. Again, they were the real patriots. Those protesting the war were un-American commie leftists who hated the country. Remember freedom fries and the Dixie Chicks?
Many on the left were upset that the 44th President, Barrack Obama, didn’t investigate the Bush/Cheney Iraq War fiasco. Obama wanted to move the country forward and not look back. You could certainly understand his reasoning. But again, the lack of accountability from another GOP scandal merely served as a recipe for further wrongdoing.
What these incidents prove more than anything else is that the GOP only holds the Constitution in high regard when it suits their self-interest. If it means subverting the ideals and requirements of that document, so be it, as long as they achieve whatever political goal they want to achieve.
The decades of wrongdoing became encapsulated when America made one of THE worst mistakes ever in 2016. It elected the most corrupt of them all: Donald Trump. There’s no need to list the litany of offenses against the people of America by the disgraced former president. The only saving grace was that he did not get to serve another term.
Will he be charged with anything? It isn’t very likely. Oh, he may get an indictment for crimes he committed as a private businessman. But crimes as president? Don’t hold your breath. We don’t do that in this country, it seems.
If we don’t, we only have ourselves to blame for what may occur in the future. The floodgates were pried open widely by the former president. It’s the culmination of decades of corruption, lies, and a disdain for the Constitution by the GOP. They own him, and he holds them in the palm of his hand. It’s as if it were an arranged marriage. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect match.
The insurrection by a mob of Trump crazies on January 6, 2021, showed us that our democracy is in peril and can no longer be taken for granted. We now have a political party aligned with a dangerous and pathetic demagogue who encompasses all of the bad that his GOP predecessors inflicted upon our system of government — multiplied exponentially.
Nixon started the decline; Trump not only embraced it but took the banner of deceit and ran with it. Now, we’re left with a party engrossed in corruption, racism, lies, and a disdain for the one document they always like to say is sacred. The sad part about that is that the GOP had a chance, a real opportunity to end his disastrous presidency — twice. Both times, they decided their backsides were more important than convicting an impeached president.
Trying to find dirt on a presidential rival was just fine with them, thank you very much. And so was inciting an insurrection. Again, nothing seems beyond the pale anymore with this once-proud political party.
Therefore, to declare the GOP as inherently corrupt and rotten to the core is not a pipe dream or some radical left version of the truth. We’ve seen it — we’re living with it as we speak.
As a matter of fact, all one needs to do is look at the amount of indictments or convictions, dating back from Nixon through Trump, to see which party engages in criminal behavior the most. It’s not even close. Depending on which metric is used, the GOP leads the way by miles.
The only chance for redemption, the only opportunity for a political reset, is to completely and categorically reject Donald Trump as their de facto leader.
Anything less will render their existence to nothing but a rogue and dangerous party, hell-bent on wrecking our democracy and maintaining power at all costs. As the old saying goes, absolute power corrupts. Eventually, the United States Justice Department will most likely need to step up to make sure the previous president pays dearly for his crimes against America.
Here’s hoping that Attorney General Merrick Garland sees it the same way.