Speed Reads

'the smoother criminal'

The author of Nixonland isn't buying the Trump comparisons: 'Nixon was just so shrewd, so strategic'

Nixonland author Rick Perlstein thinks comparisons between President Trump and former President Richard Nixon somewhat overestimate Trump's capabilities. In an interview with The New Yorker's David Remnick, Perlstein explained why — despite the fact that both Trump and Nixon fired federal officials leading an investigation into them — the presidents aren't really all that similar:

"I actually think the comparisons at this point obscure more than they reveal. Nixon was just so shrewd, so strategic: It's simply inconceivable he would get caught with his pants down implicating himself on the record, like Trump now does almost daily," Rick Perlstein, the author of Nixonland, told [Remnick]. "My favorite Nixon maxim was 'Never get mad unless it's on purpose.' But the words 'on purpose' and 'Donald Trump' now feel like matter and antimatter; with him, it's all impulse. Nixon was so obsessed with preparation he used to memorize answers to likely press conference questions, questions he'd delegate to staffers like Pat Buchanan to dream up. Can you imagine!? And, look, when Nixon fired Archibald Cox, he was truly backed into a corner, his king in check: That was the only move he had before the world discovered, via the tapes, that everything he'd been saying about the scandal since June, 1972, was a lie. But, even then, he managed to keep moving pieces around the board for ten more months!" [The New Yorker]

Perlstein conceded that both men are the "authors of their own predicaments" — it's just that Nixon was "so much the smoother criminal."

Read Remnick's full examination of Trump's deteriorating situation at The New Yorker.