Trump should follow LBJ’s example
WASHINGTON — If, as seems likely, Donald Trump is indicted by a New York grand jury for reportedly paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and if, as also seems likely, Trump is also indicted by a Georgia grand jury for trying to force election officials to overturn that state’s vote count in the 2020 election, then Trump should follow the example of Lyndon B. Johnson.
On March 31, 1968. President Johnson spoke from the Oval Office. After trying to assure the nation he was committed to peace in Vietnam, Johnson said: “Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year.
“Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”
Granted, the circumstances surrounding Trump and President Johnson are different, but Johnson’s decision not to run for re-election in order to focus on ending the war and bringing peace to Vietnam and what ought to be Trump’s decision to withdraw from the presidential race in order to focus on his growing legal problems and especially his wife and young son seems to have similar parallels.
The prospect of a former president in handcuffs and being ushered into a courtroom by law enforcement might delight Trump’s political enemies, but what will it do for the nation that is already reeling from so many economic, foreign, and cultural challenges? Trump has already called for protests should he be indicted. This will not end well.
Maybe Trump thinks he can win another term as president and pardon himself. That’s never been done before, but the Constitution is clear about a president having unlimited pardon power. It’s pretty certain President Biden will not pardon Trump after all the critical things he has said about his predecessor. Retribution cuts both ways. Biden might be expected to pardon his son, Hunter, should he be indicted over his business dealings with China, but it is inconceivable he would pardon Trump.
A Trump withdrawal from the 2024 race would open up the field to candidates with less, or little, political and personal baggage and help voters to focus more on important issues than Trump’s caustic personality.
A Trump withdrawal might also partially reduce the bitterness and the attitude of revenge Trump has fomented to further poison the political waters and divide us in ways not seen since Vietnam and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968.
For the good of the country, Donald Trump should quit the race. Johnson did. Richard Nixon refused to challenge the election results against JFK in 1960 “for the good of the country.” Nixon would resign the presidency in 1974 over Watergate, perhaps not so much for the good of the country, though it worked out that way, but because he faced impeachment and had lost support among congressional Republicans.
Trump claims to have always put America first. Here’s his chance to prove it once and for all.
Given his behavior and personality it might take something equivalent to an act of God for him to quit the race, but sometimes miracles happen, even in politics.