Jon D. Michaels

  • May 16, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on the Take Care blog.

    **This piece is part of the ACSblog Symposium: 2017 ACS National Convention. The symposium will consider topics featured at the three day convention, scheduled for June 8-10, 2017. Learn more about the Convention here

    by Frederic M. Bloom, Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School and Jon D. Michaels, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

    We have all heard the saying: those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. History seemed to repeat itself earlier this week with Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey. Some have tried to cast Comey’s dismissal as unremarkable—just a president exercising his authority to fire an executive official he no longer trusts. But make no mistake: Comey's dismissal is exceptional. Indeed, it is so exceptional that it forces us to recall Richard Nixon’s craven directive to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, right as Cox was hot on the Watergate trail.

    Like most analogies, this one is imperfect, and all of the contrasts and differences prove unkind to the incumbent Administration. Start with Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre: Impressive as they come, Archibald Cox had been brought in from Cambridge, where he served with distinction as a Harvard Law professor, a position easily admired but also readily lampooned. (Recall William F. Buckley’s famous quip that he would “sooner be governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand members of the faculty of Harvard.”) Cox’s credentials were pristine, but there was little doubt of his partisan bona fides. He ran in Democratic circles—not Nixon’s—advising John Kennedy during his time in the Senate, as part of JFK’s presidential campaign, and ultimately as the young president’s solicitor general. Through profession and perhaps party affiliation, then, one could spin a story (however far-fetched) that discounted or discredited Cox’s new gig as a special prosecutor.