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Tilting at Windmills

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July 3, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

NIXON vs. BUSH....Matt Yglesias, riffing off a David Broder column, wonders why the public demanded Richard Nixon's resignation three decades ago but hasn't risen up with the same fury to demand George Bush's:

I wasn't alive in 1973-74. I have a vague sense that at that time America's elites operated with some sense of conscience and dignity, and it was taken for granted even among Republican leaders that one couldn't just break the law. These days, a misleading deposition taken in the course of a frivolous lawsuit aimed at avoiding the revelation of an affair is a grave national crisis, but it's taken for granted that only a lunatic would believe that Bush or any of his henchmen should be held accountable in any way for repeated violations of the law. I don't really know what changed, or why David Broder and other gatekeepers of elite consensus can't see that something's gone wrong here, but I'm not happy about it.

I agree that the David Broders of the world have been far too sanguine about the abuses of the Bush administration. At the same time, the difference here really is pretty obvious. Nixon broke the law repeatedly for purely political purposes: to help his friends, punish his enemies, and keep tabs on domestic groups he happened to personally dislike. There was no ideological dispute about the value of what Nixon did: once it became clear that he had actually done the stuff he was accused of, liberals and conservatives alike agreed that he had to go.

Obviously that's not the case this time around. So far, anyway, there's no evidence that George Bush has done anything wrong for purely venal purposes. He approved torture of prisoners and violated FISA because he genuinely thought it was necessary for national security reasons after 9/11 — and unfortunately, lots of people agreed with him at the time and continue to agree with him today. I too wish there were a broader consensus that Bush has acted illegally and ought to be held accountable, but the fact that he hasn't met Nixon's fate doesn't really say all that much about how tolerant we are of executive lawbreaking. Ideological disputes are simply a different kettle of fish than personal vendettas.

UPDATE: Apologies for the sloppy writing. Matt was writing about torture and FISA, and that's what I was responding to when I said Bush hadn't done anything wrong for venal purposes. I only meant to be referring to the lawbreaking surrounding those two issues, not literally everything Bush has done. The U.S. Attorney scandal, among others, quite plainly has a fair amount of venality associated with it.

Kevin Drum 12:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (123)

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There was no ideological dispute about the value of what Nixon did: once it became clear that he had actually done the stuff he was accused of, liberals and conservatives alike agreed that he had to go.

—Kevin Drum

Not today's conservatives.

Posted by: Econobuzz on July 3, 2008 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

This has got to be the crappiest Drum column of all time. How can you just forget 90 percent of the Bush crimes? Remember Karl Rove? Remember the Plame case? On and on and on. Very shallow analysis, Drum.

Posted by: Marylander on July 3, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

This pretty much says it all for Yglesais, that and he's never held a real job.

I wasn't alive in 1973-74.

The most important thing is that we still had a semblance of a free and adversarial press in those days. The once great Washington Post essentially told the Nixon administration to go fuck itself with the Watergate stories. Walter Cronkite said the Vietnam War was a loser while in Vietnam. We had nightly body counts. I remember vividly seeing dead VC and NVA soldiers as well as U.S. wounded on the evening news. And, the NBC Evening News ran part of the street execution of a suspected VC operative by Lt. Colonel Nguyen Ngoc Loan, later seen in its entirety in the brilliant Canadian produced film about our Vietnam War, Hearts and Minds

http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0410/faas.html

The Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War and then the Watergate break-in and cover-up added up to as much or more than the crimes of the Bush administration. But, again, the important element missing today is responsible print and television news.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 3, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

What do you call the U.S. Attorney's scandal Kevin?

Posted by: Joel W on July 3, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

EB beat me to it. If there had been Fox News back then, Nixon wouldn't have resigned. We were at war! (I finally got Nixonland from the library)

Posted by: John McCain: More of the Same on July 3, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

"So far, anyway, there's no evidence the George Bush has done anything wrong for purely venal purposes."

Kevin, did you really think before you wrote this? Without accepting the rest of your argument (which I don't), can you really say that there are not massive scandals bubbling out there concerning Bush Administration lawbreaking for venal purposes? How about the politicization of government, which likely broke multiple laws, including the Hatch Act, which was coordinated by Rove. Aside from the general advancement of the political fortunes of the Republican Party (venal, no?), this included awarding contracts to political allies and withholding them from political foes. Of course the politicization of the DOJ and the US attorney scandal was all about selective prosecution, including attempts to slow or block investigations into Republican financial wrongdoing. And let's throw in the massive sinkhole of Iraq, where billions are unaccounted for, administration connected firms profted obscenely, and investigations by the executive and Congress are being vigorously stonewalled. That's just off the top of my head. Want to reconsider this post?

Posted by: Marlowe on July 3, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

But obama has capitulated to the chimpy crowd and the nixon doctrine that "if the President says it is legal, it is legal."

Why are some willing to give obama a "free pass" but want to complain about nixon and bush.

There is no reason to give in to the most unpopular president in US history - vote for nader, vote green, vote ANYBODY but obama or mccain!

The netroots will not take kindly to being used for cash and then having the 4th ammendment sold out by a punk that proclaims to be a constitutional scholar.

Posted by: on July 3, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You're an @#$.

You have so bought into the Republican meme of "well he is doing for the right reasons, so we must forgive him for it".

You don’t think he tortured prisoners for venal reasons. TORTURE DOES NOT WORK. The only reason to use it is for venal reasons (revenge and the pleasure derived from being a sadist).

I could go on but that one statement has put me over the edge.

Bush is a criminal, worse than Nixon. While Nixon did his criminal acts to get elected, at least once he got into office most of the time he tried to act for the benefit of the country. Bush on the other hand, once he got into office acted solely for his and his cronies benefit, no matter what the cost to the country.

Posted by: Loviatar on July 3, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

These things are purely tribal anymore. A Republican president caught dead to rights breaking the law will find defenders, not for any substantive reason, but simply because the accusers are "on the other side."

Actually, Nixon had a few diehard defenders too. These days, they wouldn't have been a small number of lonely voices; they'd be part of a huge baying chorus on Fox, AM radio and the right wing blogosphere.

Posted by: jimBOB on July 3, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

The public believed that presidents told the truth. We also believed that predident's did not use the strings of power to destory their opponents.

Today most americans believe that ALL president's are obsessed with power and will do whatever they have to to keep it. Therefor they are not surprised by abuses of power.

This includes, lying, using the fbi, cia, federal judiciary, etc

Posted by: bluesmoke on July 3, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

The violations of FISA have not helped our national security any more than invading Iraq did. Both were heinous self serving neocon dreams that did nothing of the sort that you allege. And both are far worse than Watergate. With due respect, I disagree strongly with your statements here.

Posted by: on July 3, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, why do you think most garbage collectors lose their sense of smell? If you're around this sh*t all the time, you get desensitized to it. Wake up and smell the coffee, man. There are crimes that have occurred under Bush's watch and through his efforts.

Posted by: moe99 on July 3, 2008 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty sure he was violating FISA before 9/11.

Posted by: Kedzie on July 3, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I wasn't there, like Yglesias, but on paper, the Bush administration is far worse than Nixon ever was. I mean, Nixon didn't start the Vietnam War.

I think you exposed the problem when you explained that the "elites" in the press and government basically agreed that Nixon had to go. As far as I'm concerned, the problem isn't that the elites have changed, it's that the American people haven't. Home of the Brave my ass.

Posted by: enozinho on July 3, 2008 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Why are some willing to give obama a "free pass" but want to complain about nixon and bush. Posted by:

It could be, chicken shit anonymous poster, because Barack Obama hasn't actually been elected president yet. You can't give a "free pass" to someone who's not even in office. Then there is the fact that both Nixon and Bush could be legitimately prosecuted for war crimes. So, yes we can complain about people who should have been or should now be in jail versus the hypothetical of what someone just running for president might do.

And who are these mythical "netroots" you speak of? Are they the people who helped elect Gore and Kerry? Do their numbers comprise tens of millions or merely a few hundred thousand? Please point us all to this new and, apparently, powerful force to reckon with in national politics.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 3, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Oh Boo Hoo. KSM was waterboarded for a minute and gave it up.
Call it what you want. History will show it saved American lives.
Thank god, we didn't have that twinkie Gore making decisions.
GWB will leave office with his head high. He'll probably give you that little smile too, just to really piss you all off.

Posted by: DF on July 3, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Oh Boo Hoo. KSM was waterboarded for a minute and gave it up.
Call it what you want. History will show it saved American lives.
Thank god, we didn't have that twinkie Gore making decisions.
GWB will leave office with his head high. He'll probably give you that little smile too, just to really piss you all off.

Posted by: DF on July 3, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "So far, anyway, there's no evidence the George Bush has done anything wrong for purely venal purposes."

With all due respect, that's screamingly false and perhaps the most lazy and clueless comment you have ever written here.

There is abundant evidence that the Bush administration's long-planned war of unprovoked aggression against Iraq was for entirely "venal" purposes -- i.e. for the private financial gain of CheneyBush financial backers and cronies in the western oil corporations.

And the politicization of the Justice Department, including the illegal screening of applicants based on partisan political criteria and the firing of US attorneys who refused to conduct fraudulent "investigations" of Democratic politicians, or who refused to drop legitimate investigations of corrupt Republican politicians, is most certainly "venal" and archetypically Nixonian.

And essentially ALL of the Bush administration's regulatory actions have been in the interest of enriching specific industries and corporations who are financial backers of CheneyBush and the Republican Party, and contrary to the public interest.

One distinct difference between the Nixon presidency and the Bush presidency, of course, is that whatever anyone thought of Nixon in the late sixties and early seventies, no one ever suggested that Nixon was merely a figurehead and that Spiro Agnew was actually in charge.

And I would go so far as to say that Nixon, in spite of the evil that he did, probably conducted foreign policy in a less "venal" way, out of his genuine beliefs about what was best for the country rather than in the interests of enriching his ultra-rich financial backers. Whereas the CheneyBush regime is quite clearly willing to wreck and ruin America, both domestically and with regard to actual US interests internationally, if it will enrich their cronies and financial backers to do so. They are war profiteers through and through. I don't think that can be said of Nixon.

And I was alive in 1973-74 -- in fact I cast my first vote in the presidential election of 1972, for George McGovern, who unlike today's weak-kneed Democrats had the guts to go on national TV and say outright that Nixon was a liar.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

I think you're ascribing overly simple motives to Nixon's crimes. Sure, he was a venal and partisan pol, but his motive in establishing the "Plumbers" unit -- the core of the Watergate scandal -- was to plug leaks in the wake of the Pentagon Papers. Nixon wanted to plug those leaks in order to safeguard his pursuit of secret policy -- namely, bombing the hell out of and invading neutral countries in Indochina. (And, to give the devil his due, to maintain secret diplomatic channels with China.)

To assert Nixon's crimes were purely political whereas Bush's were over-zealous applications of legitimate policy is inaccurate and naive.

You're onto something, though, to suggest that it was the embarrassingly venal political aspects of Nixon's scandal that led to his resignation. The fact that Bush is still in office after torture/Gonzalez/Plame/Halliburton, etc., says more about our current political and media institutions than the relative crimes of Nixon and Bush.

You could say that Nixon lost the battle but won the war.

Posted by: Tom on July 3, 2008 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Since your update referenced torture again. And as you seen to be excusing Bush again for his use of torture all because "he was doing it for the right reasons". I have to ask you a couple of questions.

- Do you think torture works?

- Do you think Bush thinks torture works?

If you answered yes to either one of those questions you might as well put aside your faux moderate views and join the right wing "patriots" who make up todays Republican party. If you answered no to both questions then how could you not believe that Bush totured for the most venal of reasons; sadism.


If you know torture doesn't work yet you insist on torturing anyway, you are a sadist. If you enjoy causing pain in others, it is called sadism.

Posted by: Loviatar on July 3, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

You never cease to amaze me at the depth you can go to match Archie Bunker. There are indications that the illegal spying on Americans began in the first month of Bush taking office, well before 9-11. So your invocation of 9-11 is bogus on that bare point alone. That also ignores the fact that the entire Iraq war had zilch to do with 9-11. But then I guess it's easy for someone like you to forget that slight aspect of bringing a nation to war based on lies with the result being thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed. That ignores the cost, which even at this point will probably be well over a trillion dollars. Tell me again that the Iraq war was to protect America because of what 9-11 meant. Strange how that concern never seems to apply to a country like Pakistan with real nukes, real missile capability, a history of spreading nuclear technology and a virulent Islamist faction in an unstable country that now protects the 9-11 "evil doers." Couldn't be about the oil. Absolutely not! It was purely to protect Americans after 9-11. The tens of billions of dollars of cash alone that has gone missing with no possibility of accounting - also to protect America after 9-11. Valerie Plame? That was OK because of hand wave de-classification. The possible dead intelligence workers involved with Plame in the real defense of America against real weapons of mass destruction? Not a big deal because of 9-11 - according to you.

There's just so much you've ignored and given the benefit of altruistic motives where there's zero reason for that benefit. Geez, look at the massive corruption in the Department of "Justice" where wrongful prosecutions were repeatedly pushed and innocent people jailed and guilty people never charged.

Bush and his cohorts have run the full spectrum of war crimes, high crimes and misdemeanors and petty crimes and you invoke 9-11. Do you think about the crap you post? How did anyone let you have a podium like the Washington Monthly?

Posted by: Amos Anan on July 3, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

If you read what Kevin actually wrote, you'd see that he is correct.

"So far, anyway, there's no evidence the George Bush has done anything wrong for purely venal purposes."

The evil genius of George Bush's illegal policies is that there was always something in there for a lot of people to like. The Iraq war was a titillating idea to a lot of different people, for a lot of different reasons. Same with torture, wiretaps, rendition. This shit sells itself, unfortunately.

Posted by: enozinho on July 3, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Another important difference is that while Nixon was doing what he was doing, very little of which is defensible, below the Cabinet level the domestic government continued to function more or less competently. While Nixon ran as an "anti-liberal," competent professionals in government implemented "liberal" policies that had been passed into law during the Johnson administration.

Under the Bush II regime, almost everything about government has been more or less buggered, maybe beyond repair.

Posted by: thersites on July 3, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree with your conclusion.

Bush has committed his crimes and misdemeanors in large part to retain one-party power over the government, including all three branches. Everything he has done has been done with this calculation in mind.

Posted by: Dave G on July 3, 2008 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

The Nixonian era congress would never have let Bush's signing statements go unchallenged. Never. For a president of any party to take upon himself the right to pick and choose what laws or pieces of laws will be enforced by the executive branch would have led to a showdown very early in his administration. And if he didn't back down, he would have been successfully impeached.

Posted by: MarkedMan on July 3, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I was around for the NIxon abuses and the subsequent blowback.

It's true that there were principles involved and Republicans including -- and most influentially -- the conservative sage Barry Goldwater put them above politics. ...well, not initially -- because they still supported NIxon for re-election when the evidence of the Watergate crimes was already available. But, eventually, when it was clear, they told him his support was gone and it was time for him to resign.

The very BIG difference then was the press. It was independent. It saw its job as informing citizens and protecting democracy. And they weren't all in the symbiotic pool with politicians.

Today "news" is ratings driven and sensitive to aligning with the power. Meanwhile, all the institutions that democratized society -- the draft, public schools, local independent businesses -- have been systematically eroded so that the power class and the press are easily able to dismiss their needs and a democracy's responsibility to citizens.

Posted by: rainey on July 3, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I was around for the NIxon abuses and the subsequent blowback.

It's true that there were principles involved and Republicans including -- and most influentially -- the conservative sage Barry Goldwater put them above politics. ...well, not initially -- because they still supported NIxon for re-election when the evidence of the Watergate crimes was already available. But, eventually, when it was clear, they told him his support was gone and it was time for him to resign.

The very BIG difference then was the press. It was independent. It saw its job as informing citizens and protecting democracy. And they weren't all in the symbiotic pool with politicians.

Today "news" is ratings driven and sensitive to aligning with the power. Meanwhile, all the institutions that democratized society -- the draft, public schools, local independent businesses -- have been systematically eroded so that the power class and the press are easily able to dismiss their needs and a democracy's responsibility to citizens.

Posted by: rainey on July 3, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

um, signing statements predate Dubya. and they're not illegal or unconstitutional. the President has the First Amendment right to say whatever he wants. you have to actually catch him/her violating the law...not just saying that they think the law should be interpreted in a certain way.

signing statements are a red herring.

Posted by: um on July 3, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Call Pelosi @1-202-225-0100 DEMAND IMPEACHMENT. I just called, NOW its YOUR turn.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 3, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I'm going to give you a mulligan on this post because, by & large, this is a good site - one that I visit daily on my lunch break.

But still, asserting that, for instance, Bush & Co. pushing FISA for nat'l security reasons is just off-the-charts crazy. Did the Mrs. put something in your coffee this morning?

Posted by: scott on July 3, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

but it's taken for granted that only a lunatic would believe that Bush or any of his henchmen should be held accountable in any way for repeated violations of the law.

The GOP's point in pursuing the Lewinsky impeachment was to destroy the process of impeachment, by making it a joke, and a transparently partisan joke. The desultory efforts of the Republican Senators in actually trying the impeachment is the tip-off.

Actually getting Clinton would have been lagniappe. Impeachment was the target,

After all, it was used against Nixon - Watergate -- and threatened against Reagan and Bush -- Iran-Contra.

The GOP knew it would be employed again the moment they got the White House back, which would have restricted their freedom of action, so it had to be rendered harmless.

The Clinton impeachment guaranteed that impeachment wouldn't be used again.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 3, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

IMO, Bush *has* been held accountable politically by the American people by their action in ejecting his party from control of Congress. If the "punishment" did not completely fit the "crime", it still was not too far off.

Posted by: Nate Levin on July 3, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think FISA and torture should be considered necessary to fight terrorism, because they're too broad powers. I think people should be saying, "Hey, there's is not reason Bush could have meant this to fight Al Qaeda- because we don't need it. What they wanted it for was to intimidate liberals against criticizing conservatives (to make liberals think that the Republicans in this country were so crazy now, that you risked getting locked up or tortured if the political stuff you said was too close to what some know-nothing idiot considered was the line that couldn't be crossed) and collect data on liberals as they tried to consolidate political control openly with every borderline-legitimate means, rationalized around the tacit excuse of 9/11. We don't know that this is what Bush was being told to do by his corporate masters, but where there's smoke, there's fire." But the discussion of that is not being allowed to make its way into the mainstream media.

Therefore, I think Kevin's characterization of this is inappropriate.

Matt wrote:

I don't really know what changed, or why David Broder and other gatekeepers of elite consensus can't see that something's gone wrong here, but I'm not happy about it.

They probably just got tired of losing, and see 9/11 as their opportunity to win. Probably there used to be some more Republicans who believed in the rule of law, but now everybody's adopting this fascist, government-of-men-not-of-laws, white-supremacist ideology, or being scammed by those who have adopted it. Greater participation of low-lifes (jock, racist, women-hating goons, and irrational religious fanatics- no matter how they're able to moderate their appearance to attract supporters) in conservative politics makes a difference, too.

Posted by: Swan on July 3, 2008 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe over the decades the Republicans have figured out how stupid the liberals really are. They've realized that many left-liberals at almost all costs don't want to believe that a sufficiently polite person could basically be thinking "What this is all about now is us versus the raghead camel-jockeys, and every other consideration is now secondary to that."

You can't count on some conservative guy who just wants to get elected to point out to these conservatives that there were plenty of Muslims in America-- none of whom were blowing us up or shooting at us-- prior to 9/11, and that just as much as some Muslim guy leaving a box somewhere could have just planted a bomb, if he was white it could just as much be a bomb.

Posted by: Swan on July 3, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, there's is not reason Bush could have meant this to fight Al Qaeda- because we don't need it.

Should be, "Hey, there is no reason Bush could have meant this to fight Al Qaeda- because we don't need it."

Posted by: Swan on July 3, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

What I think happened is that the culture was successfully persuaded to the idea that extremism in the pursuit of liberty was no vice and moderation no virtue. Then, when 9/11 struck, a large proportion of the American population, and of the Republican base in particular, took it for granted that Bush was only doing what our society has lionized: breaking the rules to save the world.

Additionally, we have to consider the effect that the Watergate Scandal had on the movement conservatives among the Republicans, the way political morality got politicized. The idea became that the only think Nixon did wrong was get caught. When those Republicans took over, what chance was there that they would call Bush out on his illegal behavior.

Finally, that majority lasted through six years of Bush's administration, which had the effect of both habituating people to Bush's malfeasance, making it less compelling, and playing out the clock until people felt it was just easier to wait out the rest of the term.

But let's not be morose, folks! Bush's decisions and behavior will remain controversial and unpopular for some time to come. The Republicans traded the open wound of a President in trouble with the Law for the cancer of a political leader who embodies a corruption they were unwilling to cut out.

In my opinion, what we have to do is just have a nice primal scream aft this guy is out, and then work to prevent a disaster like him from ever happening again. It won't be the most politically courageous thing we do ever, but the alternative, of having Bush's history repeat, is even more unacceptable.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty on July 3, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, apart from the question of "venal" motives for illegal conduct, Richard Nixon was a fracking genius compared to George W. Bush, or Dick Cheney for that matter.

I heard a speech that Nixon gave following the collapse of the USSR, in which he outlined his views of how the USA should pursue relations with post-USSR Russia. It was a brilliant, visionary speech -- much closer to what I would expect to hear from someone like Al Gore than from a smirking, back-slapping, fake, phony, empty-suit, ignorant cretin like Bush.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Swan:Maybe over the decades the Republicans have figured out how stupid the liberals really are.

Maybe they got that idea reading Swan.
Swan, I was a liberal before you were fucking born. You don't speak for me. It's idiots like you that give liberalism a bad name.

If I can't respond to you more right now, it's because I'm busy polishing the buttons on my SS uniform.

Posted by: thersites the whack-end democrat on July 3, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, is it your neurotic desire to be seen as a "reasonable, friendly-toward-conservatives liberal" what causes you to be so damn willfully obtuse towards the truth of the many crimes of Bush's administration?

Posted by: on July 3, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

A message for Mr. Swan from An Immoral Republican's Cat.

Posted by: mirin on July 3, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Swan, I was a liberal before you were fucking born.

And (judging by how your comments to me are usually filled with insults instead of responses to what my comments say) you clearly haven't figured out how to do it right yet. If you're really a liberal, you should be licking envelopes, not writing Internet comments.

---

Another more prosaic or more likely reason the Republicans may have wanted things like FISA and torture were just as big publicity stunts-- they gambled that after 9/11, the people would be so scared that the best way to become poular would be to advocate strong-arm tactics, even if they weren't strictly necessary. It worked with the "War on Crime," right?

My guess is that is was both-- part show-biz, and part a way to sneak in tools that unscrupulous subordinates could use to gain an edge over liberals. This is, of course, totally criminal and amounts to a cabal and an attempted coup.

Posted by: Swan on July 3, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans use divide-and-conquer tactics on people by the way. So if you're middle-aged and wouldn't like it if you felt like I was insulting you or pushing you around, the Republicans will try to push it for all its worth.

Judge people by worthwhile, real criteria, not by surrendering to snap emotional-judgments.

This comment was not meant for Thersites, whose main preoccupation seems to be talking shit about me on this blog. It's meant for actual liberals.

Posted by: Swan on July 3, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, apart from the question of "venal" motives for illegal conduct, Richard Nixon was a fracking genius compared to George W. Bush, or Dick Cheney for that matter.

I think the word is "fucking."

I heard a speech that Nixon gave following the collapse of the USSR, in which he outlined his views of how the USA should pursue relations with post-USSR Russia. It was a brilliant, visionary speech -- much closer to what I would expect to hear from someone like Al Gore than from a smirking, back-slapping, fake, phony, empty-suit, ignorant cretin like Bush. Posted by: SecularAnimist

Nixon had a lot of personal faults. None of them was his grasp of world affairs. I didn't agree with his policies towards Third World dictators, but he understood how the post-war world worked and where America's interests lay from a realpolitik view. His only major foreign policy failure was prolonging and widening the Vietnam War. He may have been an anti-Semite, but for what that's worth it meant he wasn't in thrall to the U.S. Israel lobby the way every other president has been since then.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 3, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I'm sure put in my place.

If one is self-absorbed enough, one sees every comment as a reflection on one's own self. In reality, most of my comments at this blog don't concern you at all. You're just a target of opportunity.

Posted by: thersites on July 3, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

What buttresses your point, Kevin, is that among the two articles of impeachment that were voted down was one on the secret bombing of Cambodia, with Nixon lying about America's respect of Cambodia's neutrality. That is much closer to the kind of thing Bush is accused of, and certainly was not "venal" in the sense of the other successfully passed articles. And even more to the point, opponents of that article argued that while the bombings were secret to the world at large, many members of Congress had been briefed on them, making it that much harder to impeach Nixon on that basis.

Both the Nixon and the Bush cases show just how much scary latitude we give our Presidents in foreign policy.

Posted by: santamonicamr on July 3, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you must be kidding trying to say Bush compares favorably to Nixon. Nixon's crimes were penny-ante compared to the Bush crew's. The criminal war of agression in Iraq alone, a war that was sold to Americans by many Bush /Cheney lies, has cost many hundreds of thousands of lives--Nixon's crimes never killed anyone. Bush's crew, led by Cheney (who began his career during the Nixon Administration), demonstrates a sharp criminal mind learning one big lesson from Nixon: how not to get caught. Thus, they hired a bunch of corrupt attorneys--David Addington, John Yoo, William Haynes, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzalez, et al--to make up bogus legal justifications for their many criminal misuses of power. The Bush-Cheney model takes presidential corruption well beyond Nixon's to a new low. It is corruption to the legal core.

If there were a Democratic Congress with substantial majorities from the first day of Bush's presidency there might have been a chance that Bush would have been impeached once the depth of his criminality became clear. Or, more likely, Bush/Cheney would never have attempted as much lawbreaking as they have, knowing they would have to answer to the opposition party or face impeachment. We'll never know. Just as we will probably never know the true depth of Bush/Cheney's corruption because there has been no impeachment investigation.

To suggest that the Bush Admninistration somehow is not as corrupt as Nixon's is completely daft.

Posted by: Bob C on July 3, 2008 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II wrote: "I think the word is 'fucking.'"

So say we all.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

- it's because I'm busy polishing the buttons on my SS uniform.

Posted by: thersites the whack-end democrat on July 3, 2008

Thersites shut up! That's supposed to be our secret.

Posted by: optical weenie on July 3, 2008 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

"He approved torture of prisoners and violated FISA because he genuinely thought it was necessary for national security reasons after 9/11"

I disagree. I think he's a sadist and a psychopath. From Scientific American:

Charming but Callous
First described systematically by Medical College of Georgia psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley in 1941, psychopathy consists of a specific set of personality traits and behaviors. Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, they have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships. Psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.

If the shoe fits ...

Posted by: Needles on July 3, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

weenie: Thersites shut up!
I'm sorry, honey. (cringing) I thought only your uniform was the secret.

Posted by: thersites on July 3, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree. I think he's a sadist and a psychopath. Posted by: Needles

I've always believed he's purposely so detached from the details of his job (probably all the jobs he's ever held) that he just doesn't know and, worse, care that what he believes and acts upon is wrong and has serious consequences. He's never gotten beyond being the boy born on 3rd base but thinks he hit a triple.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 3, 2008 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

"UPDATE: Apologies for the sloppy writing."

It's not sloppy writing, it is sloppy thinking. You are accepting a ridiculous limitation on the discussion which forces you into a ridiculous conclusion. Why?

Posted by: JeffF on July 3, 2008 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Is it at all clear that Bush's violations of FISA did not involve Nixon-style spying on his political opponents?

Posted by: John on July 3, 2008 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on July 3, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

mhr, it sounds like you are preoccupied with looking forward to the three-day weekend, and your mind is not really on your work of posting inane, vapid right-wing bromides on liberal blogs. Why don't you quit early today, and get a head start on the binge drinking?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Is it at all clear that Bush's violations of FISA did not involve Nixon-style spying on his political opponents?"

Good point. No, it's not clear at all. I think there has been quite a lot of that going on. If they had the ability to do it, can anyone seriously believe they wouldn't take advantage of it? I also have long suspected that some of the Democratic cowering is because they're being blackmailed.

Posted by: Needles on July 3, 2008 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I couldn't get all the way through mhr's rant. The voice in my head screaming "Jonah Goldberg!" was far too distracting.

Posted by: enozinho on July 3, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II,

You said that Nixon's "...only major foreign policy failure was prolonging and widening the Vietnam War."

That's a very serious "failure." Nixon's prolonging of the Vietnam War caused over 20,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands (if not more) Vietnamese and Cambodians to die. In addition, Nixon's invasion of Cambodia greatly helped pave the way for the rise of the Khmer Rouge, which killed as many as 2 million more Cambodians.

Your statement is a little like saying that the only two things Hitler did wrong were to start WWII and implement the Holocaust!

Posted by: Lee on July 3, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Above all, in Nixon's day, the Democrats held the Congress and had held it long enough, solidly enough to know what to do with it.
In the 1970s, the Democrats were still the natural party of power. A Republican could only be elected when the Democrats were waging a non-winning war (Korea in 1952, Vietnam in 1968) and when the Republicans nominated someone who at least talked like a Democrat. (Goldwater didn't and lost).
In the 1990s, the Republicans were the natural party of power. I hope this is shifting back now, but I don't think the process is complete.
2) Nixon screwed with the corporate media and with large swaths of the elite itself, so complaints against his behavior were treated seriously (especially once McGovern had been defeated).
Nowadays, the newspapers in particular and old-line major network news programs are in structural retreat in the face of new technology and new competitors. They are weaker and less an autonomous part of the elite on their own and more handmaidens of other parts of the elite.

Posted by: Jessica on July 3, 2008 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

quote "um, signing statements predate Dubya. and they're not illegal or unconstitutional. the President has the First Amendment right to say whatever he wants. you have to actually catch him/her violating the law...not just saying that they think the law should be interpreted in a certain way."

I must not have been clear, as you missed my point. Bush's signing statements are not the occasional CYA used to protect the executive from potential fallout from unclear legislation. They are a frequent and direct poke in the eye of Congress. They are a deliberate denigration of the rights and responsibilities of Congress. And the people that passed the war powers act would not sit idly by and take it. They would have fought back hard and immediately. We talk about the corruption of the current Republicans in congress, but the impact of that pales in comparison to the damage caused by their lack of spine when it comes to protecting the branch of democracy with which they were entrusted.

Posted by: MarkedMan on July 3, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

I was around for Nixon's resignation, and I always believed that what really turned the country against him were the tapes.

People like my grandparents hardly understood the crimes Nixon was committing, and probably would have approved of some of them.

But when they learned that the president of the United States swore like a sailor, that was it. They were through with him.

Posted by: nemo on July 3, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I think right wing radio, Fox News and a compliant (scared) press have created just enough doubt as to Bush's crimes.

If Nixon had this kind of media environment, he would not have resigned

Posted by: Burghman on July 3, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Burghman wrote: "... a compliant (scared) press ..."

I don't believe the "press" is "scared".

The "press" is "compliant" because to a far greater extent than was the case in the Nixon era, the "press" consists of a very small number of very large corporations, which are owned and directed by a very small number of very, very, very wealthy people, who see their interests as being best served by the policies of the CheneyBush administration. They have no desire to create any problems for an administration whose policies of huge tax cuts for the ultra-rich and deregulation of media ownership are making them ever bigger, ever more wealthy, and ever more powerful.

It's more like a "compliant (bought-and-paid-for) press".

Today's corporate press would never have published the Pentagon Papers, and would never have investigated Watergate.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

K-
You forget that some in the Nixon WH thought, and still do to this day, that Nixon did nothing wrong and should not have resigned. Nixon is, for some f*cking amazing reason, a martyred "hero" to those repugs. And therefore they are adament that no-matter what, Bush should be considered a hero as well.
Those "some" that worked for Nixon...
Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Posted by: cboss on July 3, 2008 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Your statement is a little like saying that the only two things Hitler did wrong were to start WWII and implement the Holocaust! Posted by: Lee

Hardly.

My point, apparently lost on you, is that Nixon was not an abject failure on every level as a president. Bush is, and Kevin's horrible post was trying to draw a comparison that showed otherwise.

Nixon didn't hate the environment, he maintained working relations with the Soviet Union, and re-established relations with China. He didn't make simple-minded speeches like the Axis of Evil. He wasn't utterly beholden to corporate America. He lowered the national speed limit to 55MPH, something that would do more to save fuel than parking all the full-sized SUVs and pick-up trucks yet leaving the speed limit at 70. He didn't make it a crusade to lower income taxes for the filthy rich, though they were at nearly UK levels during his presidency.

Nixon was, ultimately, a failure. But He didn't set out to completely fuck-over the country to the benefit of the very narrowest band of the population.

From what I know of the book, Nixonland is a complete overstatement of the changes the Nixon presidency had on American society. In actually, most of our problems today with the Rethugs and their demeaning of the nation date from the Reagan years.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 3, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

I also have long suspected that some of the Democratic cowering is because they're being blackmailed.

I suppose it's possible. But I don't think Democrats need much of a reason to cower. And I think something like that would come out sooner or later - at some point someone would just say "fuck you" to the blackmailers and expose the whole thing. I think it's quite likely that political opponents were being spied on, but I doubt the Bush administration alerted its targets to this.


Those "some" that worked for Nixon...
Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Cite? I'd always thought Cheney and Rumsfeld were much more Ford people, and not particularly Nixon loyalists at all. People like Buchanan and Gordon Liddy were the dead enders.

Posted by: John on July 3, 2008 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

I was alive in 1972 and well remember the events that lead to President Nixon's resignation. Can you spell "mass hysteria?" That's all it was. Why am I not surprised that Mr. Yglesias is yearning for another bout of the same?

Posted by: DVL on July 3, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

And by the way, I voted for George McGovern, I even contributed to his campaign. I'm a bit embarrassed by that today. Oh well, foolishness is the province of the young.

Posted by: DBL on July 3, 2008 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree on Kevin's analysis too.

Policies like FISA and explicit torture are promulgated by this administration to support a political and social culture of war. And this war has benefited an elite group of corporations with ties to the larger Bush family and associates. No-bid contracts, failure to perform, evaporated cash payments... that's pretty venal if you ask me.

And remember that the raw political payoff for this war worked pretty well for Bush too.

I think venal is perhaps one of the more polite adjectives we should apply to Bush et al. But it should only be a starting point.

Posted by: Bigsky in Iowa on July 3, 2008 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

No way could you bring impeachment charges today. The Replicants so poisoned that well in the 90s that Bush could stab a child to death on live TV and nobody'd bring charges.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on July 3, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

I was alive in 1972 and well remember the events that lead to President Nixon's resignation. Can you spell "mass hysteria?" That's all it was. Why am I not surprised that Mr. Yglesias is yearning for another bout of the same? Posted by: DVL on July 3, 2008 at 4:03 PM

I was alive then as well, and there was no mass hysteria. In fact, much of America didn't really turn on Nixon until the Watergate hearings were about half way through.

And by the way, I voted for George McGovern, I even contributed to his campaign. I'm a bit embarrassed by that today. Oh well, foolishness is the province of the young. Posted by: DBL

None of us believe that for a minute, and try to keep your signature straight there, troll.

Posted by: on July 3, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II wrote: "He lowered the national speed limit to 55MPH"

I believe that was Carter, not Nixon.

DVL (DBL?) wrote: "I was alive in 1972 and well remember the events that lead to President Nixon's resignation. Can you spell "mass hysteria?" That's all it was."

The events that led to Nixon's resignation constituted blatant corruption and criminality by the President. Not surprising that a Bush-bootlicker like yourself would think that's nothing to get "hysterical" about.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

It is my understanding that impeachment moved forward when congress understood that the president's lawlessness was targeted at them. (tapping, taping, dirty tricks, etc.) Prior to that time, there was a similar hue and cry about venality , but no "concern" on the part of the powers that be. Perhaps I'm mistaken.

Posted by: ralph on July 3, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II wrote: "He lowered the national speed limit to 55MPH"

I believe that was Carter, not Nixon. Posted by: SecularAnimist

Nope. Last decent thing he did.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Maximum_Speed_Law

http://www.matternetwork.com/2008/6/we-going-back-55-mph.cfm

Posted by: Jeff II on July 3, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

I've always thought W immune to impeachment if only because Cheney would then be president. Or is this supposed to be a double-impeachment? How does that work?

Posted by: NeuYawker on July 3, 2008 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

I was alive then and spent many happy hours (fortunately before the 24 hour news era) watching congressional hearings.

I think Bush's strength is his diversity. Some people are against him because of the environment, some because of torture, some for speeding the movement to "Two Americas". There are so many different reasons to be against him that it is hard to argue that there is one clear impeachable offense.

And if we did impeach him we still would not be able to convince him that future historians will not understand and adore him. He would leave smiling.

I have been having many "Nixon wasn't so bad" moments. This is very strange - my parents raised me to hate Nixon and I raised my children the same. Now I am going soft.

Posted by: Bostonian in Brooklyn on July 3, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Venality may be a sin, but it's not a crime. Nor is impeachment a punishment; it's just garbage removal. Bush, Cheney, and their henchmen and henchwomen may not have committed crimes and misdemeanors as the criminal code defines them (although Cheney is a good bet), but rather treason. Have these people not committed treason by lying to commit our valiant youth to the horrors of war ? by deliberately and repeatedly violating the Constitution? by committing international war crimes like torture and rendition? by gross negligence in destroying the honor of our nation abroad? by unleashing criminal elements like their war-profiteer cronies and blocking mechanisms for detecting and capturing them? Are these not the actions of traitors?

Posted by: keith on July 3, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II,

"My point, apparently lost on you, is that Nixon was not an abject failure on every level as a president. Bush is, and Kevin's horrible post was trying to draw a comparison that showed otherwise."

I agree with what you've said here. What I took issue with was when you called Nixon's Vietnam policy the only bad thing he did in foreign affairs. I think when someone does something that is very, very bad (or very, very good) it's misleading to call it the "only" bad (or good) thing they've done. Using the word "only" minimizes the event, and acts like it's obviously less important than other things.

It's like when LBJ haters say that Johnson's civil rights legislation is the only good part of his legacy. Even if one accepts this idea (which I do not--Johnson did many other good things as well), the statement is unfair. Civil rights was extremely important, and segregation was a huge blot on the United States. It was crucial to America's well-being that Jim Crow be abolished. Therefore, to say that civil rights was the "only" good thing LBJ did, even if true, would be unacceptably misleading.

Posted by: Lee on July 3, 2008 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Bostonian in Brooklyn wrote: "There are so many different reasons to be against him that it is hard to argue that there is one clear impeachable offense."

That's why the articles of impeachment recently introduced before the House by Rep. Dennis Kucinich include 35 distinct impeachable offenses.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Brad DeLong goes back to Broder in 1974 and surprise! finds that the Broder of today is merely an older version of Broder yesterday.

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2008/07/washington-po-2.html

Posted by: moe99 on July 3, 2008 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

What a shitty post by Kevin Drum. Nixon was a choir boy next to the criminal now in the White House. Although I was glad to see him go (I come from the native Californian "hate Nixon" party), one of the major reasons the press and the establishment turned against Nixon was that they just didn't like the man. Nixon was not a back-slapping, jockstrap sniffing, hail fellow-well-met pathetic jokester like the Shrub; he was rather a brilliant loner whom few liked at all. And he returned the favor, not really liking anyone. Plus he sweat profusely, wore a coat and tie with wingtips on the beach, and was an all-around clumsy dude.

Something else about Nixon. Neither he nor his national security people would have slept through the warnings about 9/11. He definitely would have gone into Afghanistan, but one doubts if he would have dithered about whether to pursue bad guys into Pakistan. Musharaf wouldn't have dared fuck with Nixon; he would have been handed his head. Nixon would not have invaded Iraq. He just wasn't that stupid. And Israel wouldn't feel nearly so free to talk about bomb-bomb-bomb Iran with a guy like Nixon in the WH.

Of course Nixon was venal. That's no revelation at all. But Bush not venal? Now that's funny. Maybe Kevin is going for something in stand-up comedy.

Posted by: Nixon Did It on July 3, 2008 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Nixon was not a back-slapping, jockstrap sniffing, hail fellow-well-met pathetic jokester like the Shrub; he was rather a brilliant loner whom few liked at all. And he returned the favor, not really liking anyone. Plus he sweat profusely, wore a coat and tie with wingtips on the beach, and was an all-around clumsy dude.

I'm re-reading Mortimer's Rapstone Chronicles. The character Leslie Titmuss had to have been, in part, based on Nixon. Nixon's anomaly being raised a Quaker yet extending and widening a disastrous war.

Nixon would not have invaded Iraq. He just wasn't that stupid. Posted by: Nixon Did It

He would, he did. Expanding the war into Cambodia was just as stupid as invading Iraq. Though the most fitting analogy is probably Japan's expanding its occupation in China paving the way for the communists.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 3, 2008 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

It's easy to understand why Bush was never impeached: Because Clinton was impeached. The utterly wrong-headed activities of the Congress in the late 1990s scared the crap out of everyone and effectively innoculated any president who doesn't get caught outright raping Baptist nuns while singing the Internationale on the steps of the Capitol.

Posted by: Spitzen on July 3, 2008 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

the "elites" in the press and government basically agreed that Nixon had to go

Now it is time for us to agree that it is time for the elites in the press and the government and finance to go.

Posted by: Brojo on July 3, 2008 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

I remember celebrating Nixon's ouster as a junior news reporter. Posters are right: the press has changed 180 degrees. But Nixon's case was more like Clinton's than Bush's. Clinton's impeachment was over nothing, but it got some momentum because he was caught red handed in a lie under oath. Nixon taped himself saying the opposite of his public statements, and until that came out, I think he would have survived the impeachment process. But once it did, two years of denials simply caught up with him.

Kevin makes a valid point. You can say every negative thing there is about Bush's crimes, and his presidency, but all his sins (except stealing elections, which isn't yet fully proven) are policy decisions he's arguably entitled to make, not petty provable crimes.

Different forms of heinousness.

Posted by: wilky on July 3, 2008 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

I remember celebrating Nixon's ouster as a junior news reporter. Posters are right: the press has changed 180 degrees. But Nixon's case was more like Clinton's than Bush's. Clinton's impeachment was over nothing, but it got some momentum because he was caught red handed in a lie under oath. Nixon taped himself saying the opposite of his public statements, and until that came out, I think he would have survived the impeachment process. But once it did, two years of denials simply caught up with him.

Kevin makes a valid point. You can say every negative thing there is about Bush's crimes, and his presidency, but all his sins (except stealing elections, which isn't yet fully proven) are policy decisions he's arguably entitled to make, not petty provable crimes.

Different forms of heinousness.

Posted by: wilky on July 3, 2008 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

. . . but all his sins (except stealing elections, which isn't yet fully proven) are policy decisions he's arguably entitled to make, not petty provable crimes. Different forms of heinousness.
Posted by: wilky

Hardly. The unprovoked war on Iraq was pre-meditated and then justified by lies and mis-information. This is well-documented. This is an impeachable offense. Lying about a blow job is not.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 3, 2008 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

"He would, he did. Expanding the war into Cambodia was just as stupid as invading Iraq."

Jeff II, that's just a totally inapt parallel. Maybe going into Cambodia was stupid, but it was also viewed as a logical extension of an ongoing war in the neighborhood (I was there), and it didn't involve a new massive commitment of U.S. forces. It was an incursion, and it was small. Plus it didn't involved taking on a major military. Plus it wasn't preceded by warnings from the U.S. intelligence community about massive resistance, etc. and warnings from senior military officers about the resources needed to occupy a nation such as Iraq. Iraq is not Cambodia. There was no real downside for the U.S. in Cambodia. No tarbaby for us there.

I'll give you the best historical parallel to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the most stupendous blunder in our history, the one we committed after a fairly successful punitive expedition into Afghanistan. Try Hitler opening up the second front in Russia, after Western Europe had been conquered in short order. Think about Normandy as it happened. Think about Normandy without half the German Army in Russia. Think about not having any Eisenhower coins.

As I said, Nixon wasn't stupid. First, he would have actually listened to his intelligence and military people, which means he would have known Saddam Hussein wasn't a threat. Further, with his grasp of geopolitics, he would have instinctively shied from fooling with Iraq. This differentiates him from the current president who likely can't spell "geopolitics."

Posted by: Nixon Did It on July 3, 2008 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

I think in that era there was still a sense of commonality, of shared interest and a belief in the American system. Today it seems as if the Right and the corporate media doesn't care about the Constitution and the rule of law. It's all "gotcha journalism" and almost a sense of a sports metaphor - our side vs. their side. Thus there is no way that many fundamentalists and rightwingers can be convinced to support the impeachment of Bush because they are "team Bush" and Bush is their man.

This is not the way all on the right think but there is a large enough pool of them to ensure gridlock anytime someone tries to pass legislation that the corporate media spins as anti-right.

Posted by: JohnK on July 3, 2008 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

No, no, no, Kevin. Contrast and compare impeachment of CLINTON, not Nixon.

BTW, I was working at the DOJ during Watergate. The difference is that there were Republicans of conscience then. Nowdays, not so much.

And how is it not venal to invade a country so your buddies can corner the oil there?

Posted by: Cal Gal on July 4, 2008 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

He approved torture of prisoners and violated FISA because he genuinely thought it was necessary for national security reasons after 9/11.

And just how do you know this? You have a direct line to Bush's brain like Bush has to God? Don't we have to investigate first before making tall claims like that?

Posted by: Arun on July 4, 2008 at 5:01 AM | PERMALINK

"sloppy writing": you finally got something right, Drum.

Posted by: coffeequeen on July 4, 2008 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

"sloppy writing": you finally got something right, Drum.

Posted by: coffeequeen on July 4, 2008 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

wilky,

You said "Clinton's impeachment was over nothing, but it got some momentum because he was caught red handed in a lie under oath."

But it's at best highly debatable whether he did lie under oath at all. Yes, the whole business of "is oral sex sex" sounds stupid in everyday terms. But in Clinton's case, Paula Jones' own lawyers had specifically defined sex as sexual intercourse. So Clinton's testimony was technically true. One can argue that he did not act in good faith by saying something that, while technically accurate, was misleading. But so what? The people asking Clinton the question in the first place weren't acting in good faith towards him! It was none of their business who he was having sex with. So Clinton didn't, from a philosophical point of view, owe them the truth about this.

And with regard to Bush, no president is "arguably entitled" to start an aggressive war against a nation which is no threat to the United States, and to manufacture and/or distort evidence to launch such a war.

Posted by: Lee on July 4, 2008 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Lee,

Good points. I'm just saying that Clinton's impeachment stuck because he was caught in a public lie ("I did not have sex with that woman"), and upon further thought, that ws probably more important than his too clever deposition in the Paula Jones case.

Of course the Iraq War was criminal in the grand sense, but in the technical sense, he did get authorization from Congress and the United Nations, however phony the premise.

Posted by: wilky on July 4, 2008 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

I've taken the trouble to read all the posts so far. I find these most illuminating, in the order of posting:

MarkedMan 12:55 (and 3:30)
rainey 12:54
BobC 2:09
SecularAnimist 3:41 (on press, role of--noted by numerous, articulated best here)
JohnK 8:36 and CalGal July 4 12:52 on role of Right

There are also a good number of comments on Nixon, the complexity of his character and administration, and his intelligence and sense in foreign affairs.

No one has yet made the point, that the Bush administration also interfered in matters of science and the NIH--e.g. the 23-year-old "administrator" who sought to muzzle scientists, "balancing" their public speeches by appearing in the company of someone representing "the other side," namely creationism.

This itself isn't impeachable, I suppose. But it is deeply, deeply disturbing: take it together with Justice Department workings (targeting Democratic Party candidates for allegations of election fraud, a 200 to 4 ratio versus Republicans), the firing of US Attorneys who refused to pursue such meritless cases; take it together with "faith-based" policies; the role of the press as noted; the role of the Right; Plame; Katrina; 9-11 itself; Iraq--and other matters. What emerges is an overarching pattern of vindictiveness toward opposition, long-standing and widespread attempts to extirpate political opposition (which has succeeded) (quite by the way, in this country vegetarians are under surveillance by FBI, whereas possessing machine guns or hand grenades seems to pass as inalienable right--but that is an imbalance in the American psyche rooted back in time), contempt for law, contempt for the good opinion of others, contempt for science, contempt for fact itself.

That IS impeachable. That HAS damaged the nation. That HAS impaired the Constitution, and altered the society.

Posted by: Radical68 on July 4, 2008 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

wilky,

It's actually hotly debated whether the U.S. did have legal authority from the United Nations for the Iraq War. See this link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_of_the_2003_invasion_of_Iraq

And as to Congress giving Bush a blank check, that's true. But I don't see how that gives the war any legitimacy from an international perspective (meaning from the point of view of international law). What if Nazi Germany had our political system, and the Reichstag gave Hitler the authority to launch WWII? It's safe to say the Allies would have given the Reichstag little credibility on the issue.

Posted by: Lee on July 4, 2008 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Nixon began his lawbreaking because of leaks about Vietnam. The next step was that Nixon saw his critics as hampering the national will to continue with the war, and he moved his illegal acts into the political realm. Illegality and immorality begin with a baby step, which justifies the next little step, and on and on. The slippery slope isn't always an appropriate worry, but when there's power and secrecy and a bubble that protects you from criticism, we have the paradigm case for the application of the slippery slope analogy.

Nixon didn't enter the White House any more of a criminal than George Bush did. Like Bush, he was merely an entirely ruthless politician, and he felt self-righteously aggrieved about war critics. Put the two together and you eventually got Watergate. The only difference between Nixon and Bush is the press.

Posted by: Raenelle on July 4, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Nixon began his lawbreaking because of leaks about Vietnam. The next step was that Nixon saw his critics as hampering the national will to continue with the war, and he moved his illegal acts into the political realm. Illegality and immorality begin with a baby step, which justifies the next little step, and on and on. The slippery slope isn't always an appropriate worry, but when there's power and secrecy and a bubble that protects you from criticism, we have the paradigm case for the application of the slippery slope analogy.

Nixon didn't enter the White House any more of a criminal than George Bush did. Like Bush, he was merely an entirely ruthless politician, and he felt self-righteously aggrieved about war critics. Put the two together and you eventually got Watergate. The only difference between Nixon and Bush is the press.

Posted by: Raenelle on July 4, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that George Jr. will be an heir to George Sr.'s share of Carlyle Group, holding company for munitions makers the world over.

Posted by: Stuart Eugene Thiel on July 4, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

One thing which has changed is the Supreme Court. They rejected Nixon's legal defense 9-0. Now, if it comes to a matter of the survival of the President the Republican justices put in office, it would very likely be 5-4 one way or the other.

Posted by: skeptonomist on July 4, 2008 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK


Kevin, you got properly reamed in the comments.

The pathetic, weak, spinelesss propaganda drivel you originally posted is the literal embodiment of the GOP spin machine's wet dream.

When the blogging community buys such BS, it's no wonder that the criminal SOB hasn't been impeached yet.

Take your hands away from the keyboard, shut down the machine, go climb a high mountain, and then come back and tell us what you think.

Posted by: mls on July 4, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

that's what I was responding to when I said Bush hadn't done anything wrong for venal purposes. I only meant to be referring to the lawbreaking surrounding those two issues, not literally everything Bush has done.

Not to pile on, Kevin, but...oh, hell, I'll pile on.

How the hell do we know that Bush's FISA lawbreaking was done solely for national security, and not domestic political, purposes? Because Bush says so? Because they haven't politicized, oh, everything else about government, up to and including not opening emails from the EPA that tell them things they don't want to hear?

The time for wishy-washy centrism in giving the Bush Administration any benefit of the doubt at all has long passed. As Mark Slackmeyer famously said regarding both the Watergate and Iran-Contra bunch:

GUILTY, guilty guilty!

Posted by: Gregory on July 4, 2008 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Bush hasn't done anything wrong for venal purposes."

Are you F***ING kidding me? Those innocent people who have been illegally renditioned to foreign countries, tortured, never given legal counsel or legal protections, never been tried -- are you saying that's "understandable" and not "ideollogical"? What the hell's wrong with your morality meter? Idiot. Grow a pair. Take these things seriously. Really, what is your problem?

Posted by: Piehole on July 4, 2008 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

(Kevin, I'm posting the below here in the comments. It's a carbon of the letter I just to your editors at Washington Monthly magazine. If you care to respond to me directly as well, you can get my e-mail address from behind the scenes).

To the Editors:

Regarding Kevin's blog post -- on July 4th weekend, of all times -- asserting that Bush's crimes don't approach Nixon's in terms of seriousness:

I am appalled. Does Washington Monthly as a magazine support this errant, inaccurate, and uncaring opinion?

I daresay that those unfortunate souls who have been secretly, illegally, and unconstituionally renditioned in unmarked white CIA planes to other countries to be tortured for months -- without recourse to counsel, legal proceedings, or habeas corpus protections -- would be the first to say that Bush's crimes are worse than Bush's. And would they be wrong?

Well -- would they? I'm asking you to defend Kevin's assertion. And if you don't support it, to apologize to your readership. Whether on Kevin's behalf, or not, I don't care -- I'm talking to you. I'm making an ethics and morality check on YOU, the editors.

Yeah, I'm mad. This is how the country slides further and further down the slippery slope to authoritarianism and despotism, when the opinion leaders can't be bothered to call a war criminal a war criminal and a destroyer of the Constitution exactly what he is.

I await your response, and I expect to hear personally from one of you.

Regards,

Rob Conrad
Chicago, IL

Posted by: Rob Conrad on July 4, 2008 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Are you F***ING kidding me? Those innocent people who have been illegally renditioned to foreign countries, tortured, never given legal counsel or legal protections, never been tried -- are you saying that's "understandable" and not "ideollogical"? What the hell's wrong with your morality meter? Idiot. Grow a pair. Take these things seriously. Really, what is your problem?
Posted by: Piehole

The privileges of being an older, white male in America. It can never happen to him, so it's harder to empathize.

Posted by: Gonads on July 5, 2008 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

Another crucial difference is that Nixon schemed against his political enemies, whereas Bush co-opted them. Democrats, as in Pelosi, couldn't wait to take impeachment "off the table" once they took control of Congress because many of Bush's most significant depredations occurred with the concurrence of Congressional Democrats. A free press is nice, an opposition party would be even nicer.

Posted by: Ira Zipki on July 5, 2008 at 4:06 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans during 1998 indeed cheapened impeachment proceedings; they did not spook the ink off the pages of the Constitution. I do not favor impeachment during the last year of Doofus's term, but the expiration of the term of office should not preclude impeachment by the next Congress. Paragraph 7 of Article I, § 3 of the Constitution states:

Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.
The expiration of the current president's term does not make impeachment moot; the House can still investigate and vote articles of impeachment, with the Senate to determine disqualification from holding federal office in the future.

This is not a mere academic question. After serving as president, John Quincy Adams served in the House of Representatives and William Howard Taft served as Chief Justice of the United States. After serving as vice-president, Richard Nixon served as president and Hubert Humphrey served as a U. S. Senator. Walter Mondale served as Ambassador to Japan and was nominated to run for the Senate from Minnesota when Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash.

Here's hoping that the next Congress will pursue articles of impeachment as to whether President Bush has taken care that the laws be faithfully executed as to electronic surveillance, among other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Posted by: John in Nashville on July 6, 2008 at 5:44 AM | PERMALINK

The Iraq war was a titillating idea to a lot of different people, for a lot of different reasons. Same with torture, wiretaps, rendition. This shit sells itself, unfortunately.

Bullseye enozinho!

Posted by: lobbygow on July 6, 2008 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I was alive and kicking in the 60's and the 70's. I neither
agree nor disagree with the subject you presented. I must strongly
disagree, however, with one sentence in your post.

"I have a vague sense that at that time America's elites operated with some
sense of conscience and dignity, and(sic)that one couldn't just break the law."

Dishonest and honest politicians can be
found in every chapter of American history.

In decades past:

Candidates became President, even though they lost the popular vote.
Politicians awarded massive government contracts to friends and relatives.
Lawmakers withheld information to further their own agendas.

Sadly, their transgressions didn't surface until many years later.
Today we have blogs and Twitter.

best

bb


Posted by: betaBonnie on July 6, 2008 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Nixon's crimes were trivial; Bush's shake the foundations of our nation.

The difference is that sheeple react to how dramatically and emotionally an issue is presented, and the networks were able to hound Nixon out of office in a months'long feeding frenzy. It was a one-time Vietnam era media power play that could not be repeated again without scrutiny. At that time there was no balance in "news" reporting; most sheeple got their "news" from the three liberal TV networks.

Today a unified crusade like the networks' crusade against Nixon is not possible due to the vast variety of news sources.

Posted by: Luther on July 7, 2008 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

"He approved torture of prisoners and violated FISA because he genuinely thought it was necessary for national security reasons after 9/11"

Tell us another story made up out of whole cloth. Unbelievable! Since you have zero evidence that what you're saying has any truth whatsoever, and just comports with your daddy fantasies (Daddy beats Mommy because he loves us!!). If George "I Don't Think About Bin Laden" Bush had even a remote interest in his "pursuit of terra-ists", you'd think he might not have a hands-off policy on the people that attacked us (Osama Bin Laden and Saudi Arabian terrorists), or is that too incredibly obvious to digest?

Posted by: Luther Brixton on July 11, 2008 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Found this embarrassment via Greenwald. Now I remember why I haven't read Drum's milquetoasty, don't-rock-the-boat scribblings in years.

Posted by: spencer on July 11, 2008 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. I don't come here much 'cause I know that Kevin's judgment had him beatin' the drums for the Iraq war. Now I see he's still as brain dead as the gasbags on TV. There is plenty of reason to believe that Bush has repeatedly broken the law for reasons having nothing to do with national security. For example:

The fact that a bunch of right-wing nose- breathing conservatives in the Justice Department threatened to resign over the earlier version of the wiretapping program.

The unspoken rationale for the strong push for telecom immunity - FISA already confers immunity on telecom companies for obeying lawful government orders.

The fact that warrantless wiretapping pre-dated 9/11.

The questionable prosecution of the CEO of Qwest Communications, the only telecom who refused Bush's illegal requests.

Not to mention that the original motivating factor for breaking the law doesn't really matter here. Once the principle is established that the president can break the law at will without oversight, the executive's reasons for doing so will quickly move beyond whatever "national security" reasons the administration may have dreamed up.

Posted by: Michael S. on July 11, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, please share with us the information you have regarding which individuals and groups were targeted by the President's illegal surveillance program. Surely you must have some inside information, be wired into the whitehouse or have some security clearance we, your readers, are unaware of because last time I checked NO ONE, INCLUDING THE SENATE, KNOWS WHO WAS TARGETED, WHY, WHEN AND FOR HOW LONG.

So do tell us all about this administrations benign use of the illegal surveillance program. I feel akward even asking in light of the great effort this administration has made to both observe the constition and to remain open and honest with the citizens of the United States.

The fact is, Kevin, you have no idea what ends the illegal surviellance program was used to achieve. To imply differently is to foist Bush administration propaganda on your readers.

Frank

Posted by: Frank on July 11, 2008 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

You have trivialized the end of American democracy. We are now an authoritarian security state like the former East Germany, and our government of, by, and for the people knowingly created our own Stasi. We all know that the GOP will use these powers for partisan purposes and likely already have, and will take up where they left off in the past punishing dissenters and abusing American citizens with legitimate complaints against the government.
But you'll still have a job, maybe even free knee pads, so it will be well for you.

Posted by: Phile Graves on July 11, 2008 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Another excellent post, Kevin. Your check is in the mail.

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