In the year 1974, it took seven months for the dam to break and flood the presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon.

In January 1974, many Republican senators and representatives became well aware of the mounting evidence of abuse of office and the disintegrating stonewall that Nixon and his minions had erected around the 37th president.

As evidence of Nixon’s lying, cover-up and abuse of the country’s institutions were being uncovered by the Washington Post and other news outlets, a conservative Republican congressman from New York, Barber Conable, wrote in his diary that “it’s hard to think of (Nixon) without revulsion, not because I consider him loathsome, but because I consider him incredibly stupid as a leader.”

Despite that spreading view of Nixon, it took seven more months, upstanding courage from seven Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee and release of the Watergate tapes before three Republican leaders summoned the courage to go to the White House, and tell Nixon: “GO.”

That was 46 years ago this week. On August 7, 1974, Sen. Barry Goldwater, a GOP icon from Arizona and two colleagues visited the White House a few weeks after release of the explosive “smoking gun” tape in which Nixon and top aide H. R. Haldeman agreed on a plan to tell the FBI to stop the investigation (of the break-in at Democratic headquarters).

Nixon resigned 36 hours after the visit from Goldwater and his colleagues, effective at noon, Aug. 9, 1974.

There are many parallels and many differences between the political conditions then and today. But there is no doubt that the presidency of Donald John Trump is in dire straits in 2020 after three and a half years of little accomplishment, repeated trampling on the rule of law, attempts to shred U.S. alliances and now five months of the most disastrous failure of leadership in modern American history.

Richard Nixon faced three counts of impeachment, including obstruction of justice and abuse of power. Trump survived impeachment due to the complete absence today of the bipartisanship and conscience of the 1970s Republicans – who placed national interest above party.

That’s the major difference. Like their predecessors, Republican lawmakers today are Jello-like nervous behind the scenes about Trump’s reckless behavior and abysmal leadership. But they are shaking in their boots about how to deal with that reality.

The predicament of the country today is far worse than it was in 1974. For all his faults, Nixon did pursue pragmatic policies abroad, including the opening to China, détente with the Soviet Union, historic nuclear weapons treaties and, at home, establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump has accomplished virtually nothing, except two Supreme Court justices, hardly a feat with GOP Senate control, and a tax cut that did nothing but enrich the 1 percent and skyrocket the deficit.

Now, after nearly a full term, the United States is suffering from a grave pandemic that Trump and his administration first ignored, calling it a Democratic “hoax,” then pursued self-centered policies aimed only at his reelection. Meanwhile, as many other developed countries reduced the threat from Covid-19 by tough action and smart prevention, 150,000 Americans have died – 25 per cent of the world total when the U.S. has less than five per cent of its population.

Yet after cutting science and health programs, Trump is now openly insulting the nation’s leading health experts, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, suing to overturn the Affordable (Health) Care Act and is even raising doubt that he would leave the White House if defeated in November.

Barry Goldwater and friends, where are you? Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and leaders like Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham are afraid of their shadow, like all Republicans except Mitt Romney. And there is a smoking gun: the deaths of 150,000 Americans who have died because of Trump’s failure to uphold his oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

As the Trump presidency spirals downward, as he tells Republican governors to “reopen” only to find staggering surges in COVID-19, as he seeks desperately to repress voting, as he dispatches secret government police to pose as Mr. “law and order,” the looming question of the day is:

Who is going to come forward in the next weeks to tell Trump to return to the world of real estate and reality television – to resign? The tricky part might be to find a way to grant a pardon for any future prosecution, both on federal and state levels.

But the overarching question remains. Who is going to say the dam is breaking, the water is reaching flood stage? Who is ready to pull the plug on a failed presidency?

Frederic B. Hill covered the Watergate scandal and served as a foreign correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, was foreign affairs director for a Republican senator, Charles McC. Mathias, Jr., of Maryland, and conducted wargaming exercises on national security issues for the Department of State. He is author of Dereliction of Duty; The Failed Presidency of Donald John Trump (Amazon Books). He lives in Arrowsic.

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