Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Marc Jampole: The Treason of the Republican Presidents

The GOP has a history of striking deals with foreign governments to help it win presidential elections while out of power. Nixon and Reagan did it… and possibly Trump.

If the past serves as any predictor, the Senate will not impeach Trump for the large number of contacts his factotums had with Russian intelligence officials before the election, even if we discover that Trump struck a deal to have Russian hackers help him win the election.

No matter that such a deal would be treasonous. No matter that such a deal would offend our sense of fair play. No matter that such a deal would go against the best interests of the United States.

It’s par for the course for Republican candidates to ask foreign powers to intervene in American presidential elections. It’s what Nixon did in 1968, when he persuaded the South Vietnamese government not to come to the negotiating table in Paris until after the election. In one of the closest elections in history, it’s clear that Nixon’s Democratic opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, would have won if his boss, Lyndon Johnson, had been able to declare that peace talks had begun. Nixon promised the South Vietnamese government that if it refused to negotiate until after the election he would get it a better deal. What he gave us instead was seven more years of war, illegal bombing and the ultimate abandonment of his South Vietnamese partners. There are lots of references in news media morgues and history books, but I’ll refer you to Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland for a general discussion on how Nixon scuttled the Paris peace negotiations until after election day.

Asking a foreign power to fix an election is also what Ronald Reagan did in 1980. There is a lot of evidence that Reagan representatives and the Iranian government struck a deal to postpone release of the American hostages that Iranian radicals took a year earlier. If the Iranians had released the hostages in October, there is no doubt that the surge of positive feeling among the electorate would have turned the election in President Carter’s favor. But Reagan offered the Iranian government something it desperately wanted: guns to battle Iraq. So Reagan made an illegal bargain to sell weapons to a country that at the time was officially an enemy. And what did Reagan do with the money? He used it to support the Contras, a rightwing ragtag guerrilla force trying to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua. Like Nixon, Reagan piled illegality on top of illegality by helping the Contras despite the fact that Congress had voted specifically to ban the U.S. military to aid them. While mainstream media continue to deny the hostage deal aspect of the Iran-Contra scandal, discounting many of the sources, Kevin Phillips in American Dynasty and others believe the remaining evidence is sufficient to conclude Reagan’s people were talking in secret to the Iranian government before the election.

During both the Nixon and the Reagan Administrations, plenty of people inside and outside of government knew about these treacheries. There were hearings on what became known as Iran-Contra, but Reagan got a pass, as everything was blamed on subordinates and the Washington establishment pretended that Reagan knew nothing about supplying the Contras. Nixon was and remains untouched by his treasonous negotiations that went against what the American government was trying to do and what the American people wanted it to do. In retrospect, undermining the negotiations and policy of the sitting American government seems like a worse offense than the third-rate Watergate burglary, especially since both involved cover-up operations.

Thus it would be a major break in precedence for a Republican Congress to attempt to dismiss Trump from office for committing treason while a candidate. There may be a Congressional investigation or two about Trump’s pre-election dealings with the Russian government. Other, lesser heads may roll. But while treason is a cause for impeachment, treason while a candidate evidently is not.


Copyright 2017 Marc Jampole


President-elect Richard M. Nixon, right, and President Lyndon B. Johnson stand in front of a battery of microphones after meeting in the White House, Washington, Nov. 11, 1968. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)

2 comments on “Marc Jampole: The Treason of the Republican Presidents

  1. daniel r. cobb
    February 21, 2017

    Only when enough American patriots are finally outraged will this Republican congress act. It is a sign of a dying democracy when what was clear treachery for a previous generation is ignored in apathy today. True that Nixon, Reagan, and now apparently Trump engaged in treason, but in this instance it is so glaring. Russian interference and Flynn’s work to lift sanctions right out of the gate. And Trump’s violation of the Emoluments clause is continuous, but Republicans ignore it and most Americans shrug. I believe the apathy is the result of news and fake news overload. We are saturated with so many falsehoods that many of us begin to give up trying to wade through it all. But if 10,000 people, a small number actually, hounded Mitch McConnell everywhere he went, his office, his home, his proctologist, his mistress, I think he might get the idea. We need a kind of political guerrilla warfare.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. michaelgregoryaz
    February 17, 2017

    Surprised to see no reference here to one of the most definitive (ie, well-documented statements on Reagan-Bush Iran-Contra doings, Robert Parry’s “Secrecy and Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.”

    Liked by 3 people

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