On Thursday, the major activity at the White House seemed to be staff members escaping with photographs and statues that very likely were not theirs to take. Inside, many offices are described as empty, due to all those staffers who suddenly began getting concerned that continuing to associate with a twice-impeached instigator of an insurrection might not be good for their resume.
Meanwhile, somewhere inside the maze of empty offices, Donald Trump still lurks, his fingers twitching to send out tweets forever out of reach, his fevered brow unmopped by an absent Hope Hicks, his bellows of impotent rage echoing sweetly, sweetly through the corridors. And if there is one thing that’s getting Trump extra ragey in these final days before he’s escorted from the property, it is any comparison between himself and one Richard M. Nixon.
Especially because the thing that keeps coming up is the one thing that Nixon did right for the nation—resign.
As CNN reports, Trump is spending his days in a tweetless, rally-less, and apparently friendless circle of accusations, impeachment, and plunging poll numbers. As he gets ready to head out the door to the lowest ratings since there have been ratings, the one thing that Trump has made absolutely clear is that he’s not going to emulate the one thing that Nixon did that benefited both the nation and himself. That’s not to say the idea wasn’t discussed by staffers and Cabinet members. It was. However, Trump shot down any possibility that he might depart without being kicked out. So much so that now any mention of the the 37th president has been completely banned.
Trump probably doesn’t want to be reminded that not only did Nixon recognize a losing proposition and walk away before getting impeached, he also managed to keep his popularity high enough to grab a second term before his actions related to Watergate brought everything crashing down. Meanwhile, the same Pew poll shows that the major motivation for many voters in 2020 was the chance to get rid of Trump. A majority felt that Trump had bumbled the response to the coronavirus, and an even larger majority want Trump to simply go away and never be a major figure in U.S. politics again.
Right now, Trump can look out his window and see bunting and signs for “2021 Biden-Harris Inauguration” from stands that have been erected across from the White House. Inside the White House, his sources of comfort are few. Not only has Hicks departed, but Trump is on the outs with Rudy Giuliani and infinitely mad at wingman Mike Pence. It’s hard to find a single White House staffer who hasn’t earned Trump’s scorn over the past few weeks by slipping up and admitting the reality—he lost, and his time is almost up.
Aides have tried to cheer Trump up by asking him to give one last address to the nation, one in which he could list all those accomplishments like giving a massive tax break to billionaires, building 30 miles of wall through a national monument that disrupted irreplaceable cultural sites, killing off 400,000 Americans, and triggering the first invasion of the Capitol since 1814. But even this list of incredible achievements has failed to stir Trump into getting out his Sharpie and jotting down a few last-minute lies.
Instead, Trump is demanding a big sendoff. However, staff are having to work hard to collect enough warm bodies to make it appear that anyone still cares. There’s also the little fact that if Trump waits until the inauguration to depart, he’ll not only be flying on a plane that is no longer Air Force One, but will have to ask Biden’s permission to borrow his jet. Trump hates all of that.
With most of Trump’s Cabinet already departed—some due to last-minute resignations—it will surprise exactly no one if Trump decides to head for Mar-a-Lago while he still doesn’t have to ask someone else for the keys to the plane.