A New Watergate? Trump, Nixon, Leaks and the Media


Calls for a special prosecutor to investigate contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials have evoked comparisons to the Nixon era and Watergate. Strikingly, both the media and the Trump administration officials have drawn these parallels—clearly with different things in mind. Yet little such discussion has incorporated either historical perspective on Richard Nixon’s presidency or objective comparison with modern-day events. On March 16, the Center for the National Interest assembled an impressive panel of speakers to assess similarities and differences in the actions of the two presidents and their campaigns and administrations as well as the actions of their critics and opponents in the media, the Congress, and the government bureaucracy.

Speakers included:

– Aram Bakshian, a former speechwriter for Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, including as Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Presidential Speechwriting Office in the Reagan Administration, who has written widely on U.S. politics; and,

– Robert Merry, Editor of The American Conservative, a former President and Editor-in-Chief at Congressional Quarterly and political reporter at the Wall Street Journal, author of numerous books on U.S. presidents and foreign policy, and a former Editor of The National Interest.

Ambassador Richard Burt, Managing Director at McLarty Associates and a member of the Center for the National Interest’s board of directors, moderated. With experience in both government, as a U.S. Ambassador to Germany, and in journalism, as a New York Times national security correspondent, Ambassador Burt was highly qualified to direct this discussion on the relationship between government and the press.