Legendary conservative columnist and author Pat Buchanan discussed the firing of FBI Director James Comey with SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily.
Kassam humorously observed that the current media firestorm over the ostensibly “Nixonian” firing of FBI Director James Comey was excellent publicity for Buchanan’s new book, Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.
“Did we witness a redux of the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ the other day? Is this Watergate 2017?” he asked.
“Not quite,” Buchanan replied with a laugh.
“I was in the Oval Office with the President of the United States back in October 1973,” he recalled. “He and I talked about it, and I had urged him to fire Elliot Richardson because he had to do it. Richardson had agreed to go along and promote a compromise for some tapes that Nixon was supposed to turn over to the special prosecutor. Richardson was with us, and then he suddenly balked.”
“At the same time we were in a crisis in the Middle East with the Yom Kippur War. Nixon had no choice,” said Buchanan. “He couldn’t have Brezhnev see a Cabinet officer defying him when Brezhnev was studying Nixon to see what he would do if Russia intervened in the Middle East. So I told the president he had no choice but to fire Elliot Richardson, which he did.”
“That was a major event, and it was deep into Watergate. He fired Richardson and Bill Ruckelshaus, and also the independent counsel, and then we shut down the independent counsel’s office, the special prosecutor’s office,” he said. “We were so deep into Watergate, I told friends that night at dinner that there will be resolutions of impeachment in the House the next Tuesday. That is a very serious, grave matter.”
“What President Trump did is simply fire a subordinate here who he was fed up with, and getting more and more exasperated with, which he had every right to do,” Buchanan argued. “People are treating it as though Truman had fired MacArthur.”
He saw the media’s comparison between Comey’s firing and Watergate as a combination of historical ignorance and dishonesty.
“I do believe it’s intentional,” he declared. “I do believe there’s great ignorance about what went on back in the 1970s. But let me say this, there are these similarities: Richard Nixon won a 49-state landslide in 1972, as Reagan did in ‘84, and the Deep State – the alliance, if you will, of a hostile media, hostile politics, hostile bureaucracy – went after both presidents.”
“And the presidents made mistakes, Nixon in Watergate, Reagan in Iran-Contra,” he continued. “But the real objective is undeniable. They seized upon these mistakes, but the real objective was to reverse the democratic decision at the polls, and to overthrow a President of the United States they could not defeat in a democratic contest. With Nixon, because of his mistakes and failings, they succeeded. With Reagan, they came close but they failed.”
“These same elements, same forces in our time right now, they’re weeping and wailing over what happened to poor Comey, but the objective here is to bring down and break the President of the United States. They’re not going to let a single issue go without this semi-hysteria, as though we’re in some kind of constitutional crisis because an FBI director who got too big for his britches got fired,” said Buchanan.
“Are they going to succeed?” asked Kassam.
Buchanan responded by recalling an interview from the previous day in which he noted “we are basically four months, or one-third of one year, of a four-year term. We’re probably at six or seven percent of Mr. Trump’s first term.”
He said that despite the youth of the administration, we are already “pretty far along” in a major battle between Trump and “the Deep State and the incumbent forces of media culture are really determined to bring him down.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in coming months and coming weeks, but it’s hard to see this level of intensity continuing in terms of the struggle in Washington, D.C. for very much longer without some kind of collision or collusion that I can’t right now foresee,” Buchanan ventured.
He said he personally would not have fired Director Comey, based on the evidence he has seen so far – at least, not without a superb replacement candidate ready to go.
“I think what Mr. Trump concluded was that what we’ve got is, we’ve got a loose cannon rolling around the vessel, rolling around the deck of a wooden ship here,” he said. “Comey is very much taken with himself. He was very important in terms of the election of 2016. Candidly, I would have thought after the election, very soon afterward, I would probably have decided we would probably need a change over there, but I would have the individual in mind.”
“Get someone who has real, visible integrity and everybody understands him to be a law and order man, and who almost is above politics,” advised Buchanan, drawing on his experience as a communications director for Ronald Reagan. “The day you had Comey resign or had him removed, bring that individual in and do it at the same time, and have people look forward to the new director. I think in that sense it would have been handled much better than the way it’s been handled. I do believe, Mr. Trump decided that Comey had to go, and then asked the Justice Department to write up the bill of particulars in the indictment.”
Kassam asked Buchanan for his considered opinion of the Trump White House communications strategy.
Buchanan looked back to his years with the “extraordinarily disciplined” communications team for the Nixon White House, which was clearly “very effective when someone who is uncharismatic, like Nixon, can turn 43 percent into a huge landslide, 49 states.”
“With Reagan, I’ve often said being director of communications for the Great Communicator is like being a jockey on Secretariat,” he continued, referring to the legendary racehorse. “If you don’t fall off in the Derby, you’re going to win the Derby and the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.”
With Trump, he suggested one of the problems is “the President of the United States gets up in the morning and tweets, and his staff doesn’t know what he’s going to be saying, or what they’re going to have to be defending, until they get to work.”
“I’m sure they have a much rougher time than I had, either in the Nixon or Reagan White Houses, because it was a very orderly procedure,” Buchanan said. “Chief of Staff Haldeman and Don Regan over there. And so it’s a very, very difficult job for them.”
“Quite frankly, it’s hard to give extremely high grades for the communications, but I’m not sure it’s the fault of the staff over there,” he added. “You have an individual like Donald Trump who has been, himself, an extraordinarily successful communicator, and believes he’s the best communicator in the West Wing, and he’s probably right. But he has not run something basically like a large newspaper, or something like that, where you get everybody in their proper slots to get the job done.”
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Listen to the audio of the full interview above.