The only precedent in American history for the mess we will be in if Secretary Hillary Clinton wins on November 8 is the election, investigation, and resignation of President Richard Nixon.
The Nixon Library has undergone a remarkable renovation. Touring it is a powerful educational experience. Since my first congressional race was in 1974 as Nixon was forced from office, the Library brought back many memories. (I lost that year in a Republican collapse over the scandal.)
The process of investigating Watergate and within 21 months of his reelection forcing President Nixon to resign (August 9, 1974) is the only precedent for the problem we will face if Secretary Clinton wins.
Will Americans really vote to send a criminal family to the White House?
In some ways this is an unfair comparison.
Unlike Clinton, Nixon had a great foreign policy record. Working with Henry Kissinger as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, President Nixon opened up our relationship with China and balanced our relationship with the Soviet Union. His diplomacy with Beijing was an astonishing and totally unexpected breakthrough.
Nixon entered office with millions of Americans bitterly opposed to President Lyndon Johnson’s handling of the Vietnam War. Nixon and Kissinger developed a policy to free South Vietnam and establish peace in the region. They ensured the return of several American prisoners of war including John McCain.
Domestically, President Nixon worked hard to achieve a sweeping reelection victory in 1972. He learned from 1960, when he lost so narrowly that only vote theft in Illinois and Texas enabled Kennedy to win. Nixon won very narrowly eight years later in 1968, in a three way race with Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Governor George Wallace.
In 1972, Nixon carried 49 states. That number has only been equaled in modern times by President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection. What most Americans don’t realize is that President Nixon actually won reelection by a greater margin than Reagan (60.7 percent for Nixon compared to 58.8 percent for Reagan).
After the massive victory in 1972, Nixon might have expected a very successful conclusion to his then 26-year career in public life as a Congressman, Senator, Vice President and President.
Yet the overwhelming victory was not enough to protect him from the mistakes of his team and himself.
Looking back, the Watergate scandal was about a burglary of the Democratic Party headquarters located in the Watergate Building. This was one of the most self-destructive acts in American history. Nixon was going to win by a landslide. There was no point in breaking into the Democratic headquarters.
Nixon should have repudiated the burglary. If he had allowed the burglars and their immediate bosses to pay for their enthusiastic stupidity everything would have ended. Nixon would have served out his four years and history would have been very different.
However, Nixon’s loyalty to his team and his deep paranoia about his political enemies, including the news media, led him to obstruct justice.
America is a hard country in which to sustain dishonesty and corruption because there are simply too many people with consciences that compel them to report illegality and the betrayal of the rule of law. By lying to government officials and plotting to hide the truth, Nixon placed himself at the center of much bigger scandal than the original break in.
Nixon found himself drawn deeper and deeper into a cover up. It was discovered that he had maintained an audio taping system in the Oval Office. Then it was discovered that 18 and a half minutes had been deleted. The tapes are available today at the National Archives (they are public property just like Clinton’s emails).
For 18 months the American government was increasingly paralyzed by what Nixon’s own former White House counsel, John Dean, called “a cancer on the Presidency.” It was clear that Nixon would be impeached and he chose to resign rather than face a bitter fight for survival.
Ironically Hillary Clinton knows this history well because as a young lawyer she served on the House Judiciary Committee as it established the groundwork for impeaching President Nixon.
Why did she ignore it? Why has she ignored it for virtually her entire public career going back to Arkansas over 30 years ago?
Lord Acton warned nearly 200 years ago that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
More than two thousand years ago the Greeks warned that hubris preceded Nemesis. Greeks believed hubris occurred when someone was too proud and that the goddess Nemesis would punish them for their arrogance.
From Whitewater to 33,000 deleted emails to the corruption of the Clinton Foundation to all the problems exposed by Wikileaks, the Clintons personify the Greek model of hubris and Lord Acton’s warning that power corrupts.
Now Nemesis may be intervening in Hillary Clinton’s career.
We now know that the FBI has stumbled on to some 650,000 emails on the Abedin-Weiner computer.
This must be something like the intervention of a Greek goddess. Who else could imagine that former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s sexting a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina would lead the FBI to a computer that may have over 650,000 emails from Hillary’s closest aide, Huma Abedin (Weiner’s wife).
As a novelist, I wouldn’t have the nerve to suggest such a wild plot.
Now the FBI has reopened the email case.
The FBI also has five field offices looking into the corruption of the Clinton Foundation. The memo by Bill Clinton’s closest aide, Doug Band (written to convince Chelsea he was making money for her parents), has been described as the Rosetta Stone of the Clinton criminal operation.
Andy McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor who tried the 1993 World Trade Center bombing case, has suggested the Clinton system is a classic RICO crime case. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, himself a very successful federal prosecutor before becoming mayor, has outlined count after count in a variety of federal statutes which he believes would prove criminal behavior by the Clintons.
President Obama sent a clear signal when Josh Earnest, his spokesman, said the President retained great confidence in FBI Director Jim Comey. This endorsement of Comey directly undercut the Clinton campaign’s effort to undermine and delegitimize him. It may be the first sign that continuing disclosures about the Clintons are forcing Obama to distance himself from a very flawed candidate.
The Nixon precedent is very sobering and relevant.
If carrying 49 states and getting 60.7 percent of the vote couldn’t protect Nixon from an 18-month ordeal leading to his resignation, what defense would a narrowly elected Hillary Clinton have?
Compare Nixon’s 18 and a half minute tape gap with 33,000 deleted emails.
Remember that for Nixon there were no charges of personal corruption, personal enrichment, or conspiracy to exploit public office for financial gain.
On every level, the Clintons have greater vulnerabilities, greater exposure to investigation, and greater legal liabilities than Nixon.
Will Americans really vote to send a criminal family to the White House?
Will Americans vote to have a presidency drowning in investigations and crippled with constant legal assaults?
How could a President Clinton ever achieve anything with her time and energy focused on legal survival?
Why would the Congress cooperate with someone it thought was a liar and a crook?
Why would the anti-Clinton half of America ever cooperate with a president they believed should be in jail and not in the White House?
These are very serious concerns and this is why voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton is a vote for four years of corruption, investigation, and gridlock.
Newt Gingrich, a Republican, was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. He is the author of the new novel “Treason” (Center Street, October 11) and co-author, with his wife Callista Gingrich, of “Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History and Future” (Center Street, May 17, 2016).