Kevin Kruse wrote about the history of presidents releasing their taxes:
On November 17, 1973, the president sought to reestablish his credibility in the fantasy-friendly confines of Disney World. In a televised Q&A session with 400 newspaper editors, he hoped to convince the nation of his honesty and integrity. He only made things worse.
Nixon grew increasingly angry and agitated at the podium when the Orlando press conference turned to questions about his finances. Reporters had been hounding him for weeks, asking how he could afford two separate private homes on his relatively meager presidential salary and whether he’d benefitted personally from administration dealings. There had even been rumors that the President of the United States was being bankrolled in some way by the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.
To prove that he wasn’t a crook – or at least not the particular kind of crook detailed in those allegations – Nixon reluctantly released his tax returns a week later.
The paperwork dispelled most of the larger suspicions about him, but also showed that Nixon had taken advantage of every possible deduction he could have used. (In 1970, for instance, he and his wife paid only $792.81 in taxes on more than $200,000 in income.) More damning, the president had claimed a deduction he shouldn’t have used, backdating the donation of his vice presidential papers. As a result, Nixon owed a considerable sum in back taxes. He paid up and the press moved on to the other “White House horrors.” Nine months later, Nixon was gone.
In the wake of Watergate, the United States embraced a wide array of reforms to make sure that nothing like that would rock the nation again. As part of this trend, it became standard practice for presidential candidates to release details of their tax returns. For a while, anyway.
I believe that every politician seeking national office1 should be required to release multiple years of full tax returns. If that means that people like Howard Schultz, Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump decide not to be politicians because they don’t want people to know how much the wealthy can avoid paying taxes, well, so be it. We as a country will recover from the loss.
Mitt Romney released a partial year return for 2010 and 2011, but in my estimation, that wasn’t detailed enough. Three years, full returns, no exceptions. If you are a thin-skinned plutocrat with political ambitions, take a few years off of your normal tax avoidance schemes and have a cleaner return that you can release.
An excerpt from an interview/conversation between Thomas Frank and Rick Perlstein, which contains this illuminating exchange about the death of Democratic Party populism; how the working class Democrat morphed into Reagan Democrats, who now listen to Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and so on…
Rick Perlstein: And, just to kind of rewind, I was very fascinated to read a book of Mike Royko columns. You know, Mike Royko is this great liberal hero, a real champion of the little guy and the kind of columnist we don’t see anymore. This white working-class populist kind of guy.
Thomas Frank: Although they didn’t use that term populist back then. They would have just said “liberal” right?
RP–No. They would have probably called him a populist, I think. But I was struck by how many of his columns.… One of his genres was how cruel they’re being to the little guy. One of his genres was the lives of colorful Chicago characters. But a lot of his columns were about how incompetent government was, and he would write about how hard it is to get a refund when the bus token machine doesn’t work, or the lines at the DMV. And, by the same token, when you read the toughest political journalism of the day by someone like Garry Wills, who was writing amazing stuff for Esquire Magazine, it’s so iconoclastic.
TF: How do you mean?
RP: He was so good at knocking politicians off their pedestals and showing them up to be phonies. One of Garry Wills’ favorite rhetorical strategies was to find out what a politician’s favorite book was, according to his campaign rhetoric, and then ask him about the book and prove that, you know, he had no idea what was in there.
So the point is, there was just all kinds of suspicion of government circulating in the culture. It was in the air. I mean, why wouldn’t there be after Vietnam? After Watergate? After the failure of Keynesianism? And one of the sort of diabolical, cunning accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and the Reaganites was to take that free-floating rage, rage about the failures of government and turn it to the advantage of the Masters of the Universe.
TF:Yeah. That’s the story of our time in some ways.
Sadly, this rings true. The GOP has long been the party of oil barons, media moguls, defense contractors, yet the rank and file of the Tea Party ranks are filled with working class and middle class voters, who consistently vote against their own economic interest. How does tax breaks for General Electric and ExxonMobil help a dude working at a muffler repair shop? It doesn’t, and yet…
POW/MIA Flag, Circuit Court of Cook County
The interview morphs into a discussion about the creation of the POW/MIA myth as a cynical Nixon ploy –
They were quite heroic and the story holds up on its own terms. Unfortunately, the Pentagon distorted it — for example, made up things that weren’t true about prisoners being hung by their wrists and having their arms permanently broken. Well, that was easily checked once they came back, and their arms weren’t permanently broken. But I have the smoking gun, which is Nixon’s Secretary of State, William Rogers, saying the POWs are serving their purpose to basically —you can get the quote from the book — putting the military on a new footing, where they should be—to kind of redeem American militarism.
Illinois still has a POW-MIA remembrance day. So the cynicism is that, generally speaking, when a pilot would get shot down over dense jungle and they didn’t recover the body, they were classified as “body not recovered.”
…Presumed killed in action, basically. And one of the things Nixon did — and the Nixon Pentagon did — was reclassify them as Missing In Action, which served a very important rhetorical purpose: If they were missing in action, maybe they were alive. And if they were alive maybe the enemy had them alive. And so it created this sort of negotiating point. Nixon could accuse them of negotiating in bad faith unless they promised to return these soldiers that they were supposedly holding back. And that turned out to be the sorcerer’s apprentice, because he would always talk about the 1,700 Americans held prisoner or missing in action. And after the war ends and these 600 men come back…
TF That’s how many POWs there were?
Approximately. 592, I think, was the number. People would say “where are the other 1,100?” And their families would say, “where are the other 1,100?” And, basically, this preexisting group that Admiral [James] Stockdale’s wife had started up, the National League of Families of Prisoners of War, the White House basically turned it into their own front group and plumped [it] up into something much bigger than it had been. But then it takes this independent life of its own harassing the government for not more actively looking for their missing family members. So they played with the feelings of these absolutely traumatized families for political gain, and it eventually backfired.
The BBC has disclosed troubling history of Richard Nixon’s actions during the 1968 election, news I’ve not seen reported elsewhere. I just searched again, and for instance, The New York Times hasn’t mentioned this revelation, nor has The Washington Post, nor The Wall Street Journal. I wonder why? I’m not a conspiracy minded person, but it is a bit ironic that a British paper scooped the American press on a bit of American history.
Anyway, the BBC reports that Richard Nixon definitively sabotaged the peace talks between North and South Vietnam on the eve of the 1968 election by promising the government of Nguyen Van Thieu they would get a better deal if they waited until Nixon won the election. Foolishly, the South Vietnamese took this advice, and the Paris peace talks ended. Of course, the Vietnam War didn’t end for another 5 years, with thousands of U.S. casualties and thousands more Vietnamese casualties needlessly incurred.
There is no two ways about this: Richard Nixon deemed his own election chances more important than his country. Treasonous fuck.
The idea that Johnson might have been the candidate, and not Hubert Humphrey, is just one of the many secrets contained on the White House tapes.
They also shed light on a scandal that, if it had been known at the time, would have sunk the candidacy of Republican presidential nominee, Richard Nixon.
By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks – or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had “blood on his hands”.
It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign.
He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault (born Chen Xiangmei – Chinese: 陳香梅), a senior campaign adviser.
At a July meeting in Nixon’s New York apartment, the South Vietnamese ambassador was told Chennault represented Nixon and spoke for the campaign. If any message needed to be passed to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, it would come via Chennault.
In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.
Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.
So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out.
He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador’s phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault’s calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to “just hang on through election”.
Johnson was told by Defence Secretary Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace.
In a series of remarkable White House recordings we can hear Johnson’s reaction to the news.
In one call to Senator Richard Russell he says: “We have found that our friend, the Republican nominee, our California friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends both, he has been doing it through rather subterranean sources. Mrs Chennault is warning the South Vietnamese not to get pulled into this Johnson move.”
And yet, Johnson never went public with Nixon’s treasonous behavior. I wonder if LBJ had, and the country became understandably outraged, would Nixon have won the election? Probably not as it was so close. Also, would Regan’s team been bold enough to rig the end of the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1980? Also, probably not.
Update, at least one major news outlet has covered the story: Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. She compares Richard Nixon’s treason with the intentional misinformation in the run-up to the Operation for Iraqi Liberation, as the Iraq War was originally called before they realized the joke (O.I.L.) was a bit too obvious.
More than 35 years after he left office in disgrace, a stash of recordings has been made public confirming the popular view of Richard Nixon as a lying, venal, foul-mouthed, paranoid conspirator.
In the 198 hours of recordings and 90,000 pages of documents released by the Nixon Presidential Library, the late president discusses his 1972 election landslide, the Vietnam peace talks and “Christmas bombing” campaign. But mostly he urges staff to use all means necessary to discredit opponents.
“Never forget,” he tells national security advisers Henry Kissinger, above, and Alexander Haig in a conversation on December 14 1972, “the press is the enemy, the press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy, the professors are the enemy. Write that on a blackboard 100 times.”
and I wonder if Still-President Bush defaced the photographs of Clinton? Nixon was a lot more insecure than GWB though, despite being a much more intelligent and accomplished man.
Nixon was also obsessed with his predecessors, instructing his chief of staff Bob Haldeman in July 1971 to organise a covert raid of a Washington thinktank to uncover information it might have about John F Kennedy.
“I want a son-of-a-bitch. I want someone just as tough as I am [to carry out the raid] … I want it done. I want the Brookings Institution cleaned out and have it cleaned out in a way that has somebody else take the blame.”
Documents released alongside the recordings detail the progress made by his staff in carrying out a presidential order to remove all pictures of past presidents from the White House.
An office belonging to a junior civil servant in which he had seen two photographs of Kennedy, one bearing a personal inscription, particularly offended Nixon. “On January 14,” wrote White House staffer Alexander Butterfield in a 1970 memo, “the project was completed and all 35 offices displayed only your photograph.”