The man of the moment in the US presidential campaign is Richard Nixon

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 2016, 10:17am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 September, 2016, 10:19pm

The 37th US president, who resigned from office in disgrace in 1974 and died more than 20 years ago, is re-emerging in this election as the rival presidential campaigns invoke memories of the Richard Nixon era.

Tim Kaine, running mate of Democrat Hillary Clinton, said Sunday that Donald Trump’s recent encouragement of anti-US hacking by Russia echoed the Watergate break-in and cover-up. Trump’s vice presidential-candidate, Mike Pence, labeled Clinton “the most dishonest candidate for president of the United States since Richard Nixon.”

The duelling characterisations reflect the degree to which Nixon has become a watchword for political corruption in the US, and thus an insult to fling against an opponent. But even in a year of political twists, it was notable that Pence would invoke the name of Nixon, a fellow Republican, in the same way.

Speaking on ABC News’ This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Kaine compared this year’s cyber attack on the Democratic National Committee to the burglary at party offices at Washington’s Watergate complex in 1972. Nixon’s re-election campaign orchestrated that break-in, and US intelligence agencies have linked the DNC penetration to Russia.

Trump “has openly encouraged Russia to engage in cyber hacking to try to find more e-mails or materials, and we know that this cyber attack on the DNC was likely done by Russia,” Kaine said. Nixon, he said, “had to resign over an attack on the DNC during a presidential election in 1972.”

Trump said July 27 that he hoped Russian intelligence services could find thousands of missing e-mails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing,” the billionaire real estate developer said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Pence’s comment comparing Clinton to Nixon came a day after the FBI released a 58-page summary of its investigation into the Democrat’s e-mail usage during her years as the top U.S. diplomat. Clinton’s practices “disqualify her from serving as president,” Pence said Saturday in an interview for NBC’s Meet the Press.

“She either knew or should’ve known that she was placing classified information in a way that exposed it to being hacked and being made available in the public domain, even to enemies of this country,” said Pence, the Indiana governor.

Asked about the report, Kaine told ABC that the documents showed “clearly” why the FBI didn’t recommend criminal charges against Clinton. “She did make a mistake,” the Virginia senator said. “She’s apologised for that.”

“So contrast the Hillary situation, where the FBI said there’s no need for legal proceedings, with an attack that is being encouraged by Donald Trump on the DNC by Russia, similar to what led to resignation of a president 30 years ago,” Kaine said.

Trump, who was criticised for seeming to have asked a foreign government to spy on the US, said days after his remarks that he had been “sarcastic.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the DNC hack was a service to the public but that the Russian government wasn’t involved. “Does it even matter who hacked this data?” Putin said on September 1. “The important thing is the content was given to the public.”