Guest column: Rhymes of the times

The Daily Ardmoreite
Tony Choate

Mark Twain is often given credit for saying “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Whether Twain actually said those exact words, the phrase expresses an important truth about historical events and figures.

Even casual observers of history can see parallels in the ways constants of the human condition such as war, poverty, greed, and corruption are addressed throughout time. 

Much like different words in the lines of a poem, different players through eras of history often sound a lot alike. 

For example, it may be difficult to know which historical figure made the following remark. 

“I don't give a %@#* what happens. I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover up or anything else, if it'll save it, save this plan. That's the whole point. We're going to protect our people if we can.” 

While the quote would fit in well with current news, Richard Nixon made that statement almost 50 years ago while attempting to avoid prosecution for his crimes in the Watergate scandal. Although Nixon claimed executive privilege as a sitting president, those claims were rejected by the Supreme Court. 

A similar but more extreme strategy is being used today, as former president Trump pushes his claim of executive privilege in the investigation of the violent January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

That claim was formally rejected December 9 by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

In the ruling, Judge Patricia A. Millett wrote the following.

“On the record before us, former President Trump has provided no basis for this court to override President Biden’s judgment and the agreement and accommodations worked out between the Political Branches over these documents. Both Branches agree that there is a unique legislative need for these documents and that they are directly relevant to the Committee’s inquiry into an attack on the Legislative Branch and its constitutional role in the peaceful transfer of power.” 

That seems to rhyme with the Supreme Court ruling rejecting Nixon’s claim of executive privilege in 1974. 

“Although the courts will afford the utmost deference to Presidential acts in the performance of an Art. II function, when a claim of Presidential privilege as to materials subpoenaed for use in a criminal trial is based, as it is here, not on the ground that military or diplomatic secrets are implicated, but merely on the ground of a generalized interest in confidentiality, the President's generalized assertion of privilege must yield to the demonstrated, specific need for evidence.”

Trump is widely expected to appeal the case decided by three judges appointed by Democrats to the Supreme Court, where six of the nine justices were appointed by Republicans. 

Trump, his supporters and his attorneys have made the decision to stonewall and delay the investigation, hoping the Supreme Court or the Republican controlled Congress they anticipate may end it. Therefore, they didn’t bother to offer any reason for their claims of executive privilege. 

According to the appeals court ruling there was a “failure even to allege, let alone demonstrate, any particularized harm that would arise from disclosure, any distinct and superseding interest in confidentiality attached to these particular documents, lack of relevance, or any other reasoned justification for withholding the documents.”

Trump has exhibited no remorse for his role in promoting a violent attack on our democracy.  and continues the unethical and dishonest behavior that led to the violence on January 6. 

It is obvious even to casual observers that the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol would not have happened if Trump and his Republican followers in Congress had not repeated false claims of election fraud.

Despite spending millions of dollars and countless hours trying to find evidence for those claims, there is still no evidence of voter fraud. Nevertheless, the former president and his followers continue to promote the idea that the 2020 election was stolen and encourage attacks on democracy. 

History records Richard Nixon famously making a speech proclaiming “I am not a crook.” 

More recently, history records former president Trump expressing pride in promoting the violent attack on our democracy.

Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington recently posted the following on Twitter. “Anybody that doesn’t think there wasn’t massive Election Fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election is either very stupid, or very corrupt!” 

Of course, the use of a double negative meant the post was actually saying anyone who believes the election was stolen is “either very stupid, or very corrupt!”

Despite the grammatical error, this offers another instance of Trump publicly expressing pride in promoting the violent attack on our democratic institutions. 

Nixon proclaimed, “I am not a crook,” while Trump offers support for insurrectionists. 

We can only hope and pray we don’t hear the final line to that rhyme.