Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the reporters who followed the money to expose President Nixon's corruption 50 years ago, compare the corruption that brought down Nixon's presidency to the corruption that should have brought down the last one:
President George Washington, in his celebrated 1796 Farewell Address, cautioned that American democracy was fragile. “Cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government,” he warned.
Two of his successors — Richard Nixon and Donald Trump — demonstrate the shocking genius of our first president’s foresight.
As reporters, we had studied Nixon and written about him for nearly half a century, during which we believed with great conviction that never again would America have a president who would trample the national interest and undermine democracy through the audacious pursuit of personal and political self-interest.
And then along came Trump.
Both Nixon and Trump have been willing prisoners of their compulsions to dominate, and to gain and hold political power through virtually any means. In leaning so heavily on these dark impulses, they defined two of the most dangerous and troubling eras in American history.
As Washington warned in his Farewell Address more than 225 years ago, unprincipled leaders could create “permanent despotism,” “the ruins of public liberty,” and “riot and insurrection.”
In case you haven't seen Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, you should read Washington's full address. Even if you had: Hamilton's words are as true today as they were in 1796.