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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Trump, Nixon, and Impulse

President Donald Trump's heated rush to launch what he said would be a "major investigation" into voter fraud has cooled, leaving White House staff uncertain when it will come to pass or what shape it will take.

An executive action commissioning the probe is still planned but could be several weeks away, two senior administration officials said Friday. Although Trump instructed staff to jump on the project last week, he has not discussed the issue in recent days, according to two other people in close touch with the president. All demanded anonymity to discuss private conservations.
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The episode is a striking example of the new president's mercurial streak and his willingness to impulsively seize on ideas with little planning and sometimes later reverse course when encountering obstacles or criticism.
Nixon also gave impulsive orders. But he usually did so in private.


I was going into a long thing on how I--orders I didn't carry out and orders that I did, and you started to say something. It was--and I think the last thing I said was something about the orders I didn't carry out
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Again, it's the therapy thing. When you're under--see, he had to control himself. He was--and that was what damaged some of his public image--he was not naturally cheerful, pleasant and all, the way Ronald Reagan is. Ronald Reagan is, when he comes on and says, "Golly, gee whiz," that's pure Ronald Reagan. He hasn't studied that; that's just him. That's the way he is. And he's nice and pleasant to everybody. He also gets very mad, but he gets mad in front of people, too. Nixon didn't, except when he felt he should. He controlled getting mad in front of people. There were times when he did, but it was conscious, it was programmed. And all of his public appearance basically was programmed. I mean, which he did was thought through, because he realized that it needed to be. The reverse side of that was that he needed the luxury of having time when he didn't have to think things through. And that was going through some of these things [the "circling"] and also with issuing orders. I mean, it was venting spleen. He'd say, "I want every single member of the State Department, from top to bottom, put through a lie detector. I don't care who they are or where they are in the world. Every single one of them." Well, you know, that's clearly an absurd request; there's no way you can do that. And he knew it and I knew it, and that was one you didn't have to worry about. I used that as an example in that San Diego seminar, because, you know, it's absurd. But he was serious on some of them, and there were things where he'd say, you know, "Fire Ambassador So-and-so, and I want it done immediately. I want it on my desk at seven o'clock tomorrow morning [that] he's gone." Well, you'd delay on that, run the risk of the wrath, because he may be serious and he may be right, but those are the kinds of things you can't pull back if you do them. So you delay doing them to be sure that he's both serious and right. And if he's wrong, you try to argue out of it until you get to the point where he makes the decision it's to be done. Then you do it.