This week’s firing of FBI director James Comey reminded a lot of people of the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” that eventually led to the downfall of Richard Nixon.
The ongoing Russia scandal embroiling the Trump administration has drawn plenty of comparisons to Watergate — but The Atlantic‘s James Fallows, who covered that historic event 40 years ago, said the current drama is worse in five key ways.
Fallows believes the underlying offense — possible collusion with Russia to interfere in the U.S. election as part of a worldwide conspiracy — is far worse than the Watergate break-in, and he said the Comey firing was an event more blatant act of interference than Nixon ordering the dismissal of a special prosecutor.
He also warned that a “thuggishly menacing” Trump appeared to be out of control, even when compared to Nixon, and Fallows said he doesn’t fully trust democratic institutions to hold against the current president’s assaults.
“Based simply on what is known so far, this scandal looks worse than Watergate,” Fallows wrote. “Worse for and about the president. Worse for the overall national interest. Worse in what it suggests about the American democratic system’s ability to defend itself.”
But what concerns Fallows the most is that today’s Republicans have shown no sign they’re willing to stand up against their party’s president.
“On the merits, this era’s Republican president has done far more to justify investigation than Richard Nixon did,” Fallows wrote. “Yet this era’s Republican senators and congressmen have, cravenly, done far less. A few have grumbled about ‘concerns’ and so on, but they have stuck with Trump where it counts, in votes, and since Comey’s firing they have been stunning in their silence.”
Fallows was a 24-year-old journalist when he wrote an Esquire profile, after Nixon’s resignation, that showed how staunchly conservative Rep. Charles Wiggins had changed his mind and finally decided to stand for principle instead of party.
“Today’s party lineup in the Senate is of course 52-48, in favor of the Republicans,” Fallows wrote. “Thus a total of three Republican senators have it within their power to change history, by insisting on an honest, independent investigation of what the Russians have been up do and how the mechanics of American democracy can best defend themselves.”