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Tilting at Windmills

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October 21, 2009

DEFINING NIXON DOWN.... Republicans and a few too many political reporters seem to have decided on a new attack meme for the week: President Obama reminds them of Nixon.

ABC News' "The Note" is pushing the line today. Fox News pushed it yesterday. The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus is on board, too.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) gave a speech on the floor questioning whether Obama is "Nixon-fying" the White House, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who actually worked for Nixon, delivered his own speech on this earlier today.

"Based upon that experience and my 40 years since then in and out of public life, I want to make what I hope will be taken as a friendly suggestion to President Obama and his White House: Don't create an enemies list," Alexander said.

Describing the actions of Vice President Spiro Agnew and Nixon operative Chuck Colson, Alexander said he sees "symptoms of this same kind of animus developing in the Obama administration."

Alexander read off a list of examples he says support his contention, including: a reported effort by the White House to marginalize the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a supposed effort by the Health and Human Services Department to put a "gag order" on the insurer Humana, the White House move to take on Fox News, Obama's repeated criticisms of banks and investment houses, his alleged "taking names" of "bondholders who resisted the GM and Chrysler bailouts," and the president's move to make insurers the bogeyman of the health care debate.

While I don't doubt this will make for weeks of breathless speculation on Fox News, and give a wide variety of pundits endless entertainment, that doesn't make it any less ridiculous.

The most obvious problem here is that Republicans are defining Nixonian tactics down. In effect, Alexander argued this morning that the White House's opponents and detractors will go after the president and his team, but if they respond in any way, they're necessarily acting in ways similar to the disgraced 37th president.

Look at Alexander's list. Is the White House pushing back against the Chamber of Commerce's efforts to derail the administration's agenda? Sure, what's wrong with that? Did the White House impose a "gag order" on Humana? Of course not, that's absurd. Is the White House pointing out that Fox News is an arm of the Republican Party? Yep, as well it should. Has the president criticized financial institutions that brought the global economy to the brink of a depression? Yes, but I'm not sure what's wrong with that. Has the White House criticized an insurance industry that screwed over its customers and continues to fight against sensible reform efforts? You bet, but again, that's a good thing.

Alexander, Gregg, and assorted political reporters make it seem as if the White House should be a non-partisan, non-political, take-punches-but-don't-respond entity. In other words, Obama and his team are expected to just lose every fight, and take every criticism. To do anything else leads to Nixon comparisons.

It's possible the political world has a very short memory, but it's worth remembering, as Eric Boehlert does, that Nixon's White House "declared war on his enemies (including news outlets), and used the full power of the federal government to exact his bouts of revenge."

When Nixon didn't like a news outlet, he directed federal prosecutors to investigate journalists, including going through their taxes. Nixon assembled actual enemies lists, and used the power of his office to target and try to destroy his adversaries.

That any serious person would compare these tactics to routine political efforts at the White House is insane.

Steve Benen 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (56)

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Comments

you know who else is like nixon? hitler.

Posted by: alex on October 21, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

You know who else obama is like? The Balloon Boy's dad. And ummmm....hitler. And George W Bush.

Posted by: glutz78 on October 21, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Insane=GOP

Posted by: Terry on October 21, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

And Halle Berry.

Posted by: Dave on October 21, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

It's the "throw everything at the wall to see that it sticks" "strategy" that the GOP has been doing since last Nov. Truth is, they're running out of things to throw.

Posted by: Former Dan on October 21, 2009 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

I knew Dick Nixon. Dick Nixon was a friend of mine. And you, Mr. Obama, are no Dick Nixon.

Posted by: Rev. Right on October 21, 2009 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

When Nixon didn't like a news outlet, he directed federal prosecutors to investigate journalists, including going through their taxes. Nixon assembled actual enemies lists, and used the power of his office to target and try to destroy his adversaries.

Including wiretapping them, breaking into their psychiatrists' offices to try to steal medical files, siccing the IRS on them, and creating a whole dirty-tricks unit to spy on and disrupt his political opponents' campaigns and conventions. And I haven't even gotten to June 17, 1972.

The Nixon WH was both vicious and sophomoric. Obama's is neither.

Posted by: shortstop on October 21, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I bet Chip Reid of CORPORATE BROADCASTING COMPANY is leading the way on this media created bullshit.

Posted by: stormskies on October 21, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

"That any serious person would compare these tactics to routine political efforts at the White House is insane."

Well that takes care of it, which of the people pushing this story is a serious person? Certainly not Lamar Alexander who used to appear at rallies in a well pressed flannel shirt when he tried to run for president in 1996.

Posted by: Long Memory Man on October 21, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

The Nixon WH was both vicious and sophomoric.

And paranoid, but not a single Republican president has been as competent as Nixon since then. Maybe the GOP just has a bizarre way of complimenting Obama on his accomplishments.

Posted by: freelunch on October 21, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Criticizing the opposition party? IOKIYAR.
Criticizing media contradicting your PR? IOKIYAR.
Extramarital affairs? IOKIYAR. Extra special if you are a "Family Values" Republican.

Posted by: OwnedByTwoCats on October 21, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

The republicans are just concerned that Obama can actually count. They just have an "enemy" list. It isn't much of a list, but it is easy to keep in order.

Posted by: tomj on October 21, 2009 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

The criticisms of Obama and the comparisons of him to Nixon are completely justified.

Everyone knows that anyone in the democrat party should never react to charges leveled against them. Everyone knows that anyone in the democrat party should follow their tried and true practices of being wimps and not fighting back.

Everyone knows that democrats have no backbones and are the party of apology. Everyone knows that Obama should apologize for offending Fox News. Everyone knows that Obama should stop offending everyone and apologize.

Obama's apologies will be accepted, so long as he tenders his resignation with them. Well, sort of accepted. Maybe about 200 years after he resigns.

It is understandable that our politicians and our corporate media have reacted to Obama's negativity. What does he think he is, a white person? It is regretable that The Chosen One has proven to be such an uppity black person. It just shows that his heart must be as black as his skin color. More proof that we should never elect anyone other than a white male to the presidency.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on October 21, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Tricky dick's enemies list was secret and he went after them...

Obama is just calling assholes assholes...
..and it's not surprising that the assholes don't like being called assholes so they squeal that it's an enemies list.

oh.
Pull-eezze...you want an enemies list?
when, oh, when, oh, when are we gonna git whitey?

Posted by: neill on October 21, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

That would not be the same Nixon at GOP.com in the accomplishment section, would it ?

Reagan would shoot each and every one of them numb skulls for trying to defile a democrat with republican presidential comparisons.

Or are we to assume these clowns are going to push, like they did with Bush, that Nixon wasn't a 'real' conservative ?

One last thing, where were these ass hats when Bush was tossing people from political events, firing political enemies (democrats) at every level in government ?

Posted by: ScottW on October 21, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

I smell Karl Rove

Posted by: MissMudd on October 21, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm. If the Republicans want to get people thinking about Obama and Nixon together, maybe that's not such a bad thing. I'm guessing that for the 80% of Americans whose minds haven't been poisoned by right-wing propaganda, what would stand out wouldn't be any similarities between the two but the glaring contrast--Obama's charisma and confidence vs. Nixon's barely repressed hostility, and so on.

The thing is that you just have to work really hard to see Barack Obama as the embodiment of all evil. Since all you get in return is a continuation of the same right-wing policies that have wrecked this nation, most people don't think it's worth the effort.

Posted by: Stephen Stralka on October 21, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what the republicans are worried about - isn't Obama using "just words"???

HAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAAA

it's so nice to hear them screeching - what a bunch of WATBs

Posted by: fourlegsgood on October 21, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Lets see, Republicans started out calling Obama the anti-Christ. Then he was a secret Muslim supporter of Osama Bin Laden. Then alternately they labeled him Hitler and Stalin. Often at the same time. I even heard one clown call him the new Pol Pot. By Republican standards comparing the President to Nixon is pretty small bear.

Maybe next week they will compare him to Snidely Wipelash complete with a picture of him tying Liz Cheney to a railroad track.

You got to admit Republicans are getting silly.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 21, 2009 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

"beer" not "bear." Interesting image though.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 21, 2009 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

President Obama needs to be more like Theodore Roosevelt and have a right hand man like James Garfield...now those guys did some serious ass kicking.

Posted by: antiquelt on October 21, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Nixon had an enemies list. Obama has an "ignore infantile ignoramuses" list. There's a difference.

Posted by: exlibra on October 21, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Charles Colson is now a highly regarded man of God -- I believe he has some connection to the Christian sex cult that Sen. Ensign belonged to. People shouldn't drag his name through the mud just because in his youth he did his Godly work in a technically illegal way.

Posted by: John Emerson on October 21, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

The more they try the more Obama detractors make themselves look petty and pathetic. Not one mention of policy just made up tactics.

Anyone watching Obama knows he's gone out of his way to avoid divisiveness yet refuses to sit quietly watching these "economic royalists" and their supporters continue running America toward that Bush cliff.

Chamber of Commerce?? Faux News?? Should be self apparent. Just pathetic.

Posted by: bjobotts on October 21, 2009 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Wake me up when Obama directs the IRS to conduct special audits on Fox News, or has special 'plumbers' rifle through the computer files of the Chamber of Commerce spokesperson, or has the FBI conduct special surveillance on GOP presidential candidates.

Gonna have to be more than calling out lies and drawing inconvenient public attention to obvious truths if Obama aspires to Nixon-hood.

Posted by: danimal on October 21, 2009 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Nixon ? Wasn't he the one who gave us the EPA ERA balanced budgets , killed cigarette commercials, Got the Salt treaty among other things - He would have been vilified but the current collection of wingnuts. Obama will be remembered as the President who reformed health care.

Posted by: john R on October 21, 2009 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Hardball's a fun game, when you have the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, right, Mr. Rove?

Not so much, when you're out of power, your team's at 20%, and Cy Young's on the mound, throwing high heat, coming inside with his brush back pitch. . .

(For a graphic example of the above, tune in tonight, and watch the World Champs in action.)

Posted by: DAY on October 21, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

They are desperate need of another world famous villain to use for comparison.

From Stalin and Hitler to Nixon, that's damn near a compliment. From 10 million and 6 million dead to a burglary, again, damn near a compliment.

What is the real point anyway, Obama is behaving like a republican and that is bad, says the republicans. WTF planet do these people live on ??

Posted by: ScottW on October 21, 2009 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Next up: GOP says Obama acting just like Hoover with overtones of Harding and a soupcon of Coolidge.

Posted by: shortstop on October 21, 2009 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

The insanity is to compare Obama to anybody, he's his own man.

Nixon?

Wasn't he the guy who was vicious and vindictive and wanted to circumvent the US Constitution?

Last time I checked, Obama's an expert at US Constitutional law and is not an enemy of the State nor about to overstep his authority.

Nixon was smart, so on that level maybe Obama's "like" him.


Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 21, 2009 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

The most obvious problem here is that Republicans are defining Nixonian tactics down.

Redefining "Nixoninan" is a strategy the Republicans pursued when Nixon Administration veterans Cheney and Rumsfeld were in the White House (aided, of course, by former Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan in his many TV appearances).

Posted by: Gregory on October 21, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, Obama and his team are expected to just lose every fight, and take every criticism.

Of course the Villagers expect Obama and his team to just lose every fight, and take every criticism; Obama and his team are Democrats.

It sends Villagers to their fainting couches when Democrats like Alan Grayson don't play by those rules any more, even though they gave Republicans a free pass for decades.

Posted by: Gregory on October 21, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Come now folks. Obama used to be "Hitler." Now he's "Nixon."

The trajectory is clear: next he'll be "Delay;" then "Gingrich;" and before the next election he'll be "Everett Dirksen."

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on October 21, 2009 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Add NPR's Political Junkie and Villager Apologist Ken Rudin to the list of conventional wisdom Nixon analogists.

Posted by: Blinky on October 21, 2009 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

and before the next election he'll be "Everett Dirksen."

Crying with laughter over here.

Posted by: shortstop on October 21, 2009 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

This just confirms that Karl Rove is still writing the script for the GOP, and directing its attacks from behind the scenes (even as he places himself on TV news and editorial pages as a neutral political observer).

This is just classic Rovian tactics - if you defend yourself, you are a tyrant/Nixon/Hitler/Stalin, and if you don't defend yourself you are weak/Jimmy Carter/in retreat/in crisis. So you are defining the battle in terms where your enemies lose either way that they react.

Posted by: Bokonon on October 21, 2009 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

I just find it hilarious that they're warning a Democratic President not to act like a Republican one. Bush/Cheney were about as close to Tricky Dick as anyone, with their revenge and pettiness. ftw

Posted by: trixie on October 21, 2009 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans have NIXON-LYING as part of their playbook.Again the Republicans question in others the very practice Republicans support.

Posted by: MLJohnston on October 21, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

That any serious person would compare these tactics to routine political efforts at the White House is insane.

Today's GOP is neither serious nor sane. Therefore, it's only natural that they'd see a similarity between Obama's + Nixon's tactics.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on October 21, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Today's GOP is, however, seriously insane. Therefore, the Obama=Nixon meme is perfectly natural, from their oddball POV.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on October 21, 2009 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

This is just a republican accusing a democrat of whatever republicans have been guilty of, in this case flinging mud in order to make everyone look equally guilty. Nixonian tactics in the White House, eh? Let's talk about that. Who had a Nixonian staffer as VP? Which Nixonian staffer who later became VP wrote a memo to Donald Rumsfeld that the Ford administration should use the Justice Department in ways honed under Nixon to hassle the Ford administration's enemies? And who later put those tactics to actual use in the White House? And while we are at it, which administrations did Rumsfeld work in?

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/newswar/preview/documents.html

Posted by: N.Wells on October 21, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Just for the record, I have long speculated that Dick Cheney used the assorted spy apparatuses available to him to spy on both the media, the Democrats, and on people within the administration. The last part was partially confirmed by Lawrence Wilkerson in the Vanity Fair oral history of the Bush whitehouse. Is that Nixonian enough for you? Spying on your own administration? Wouldn't it be great if the MSM worked more like a moving history, and less like a catty group of high-schoolers talking about whatever the kewl kids want to talk about?

There's no proof they spied on reporters yet. But if you're willing to spy on members of the NSC in your administration, puh-leeze. You are oh so willing to get transcripts of New York Times reporters calling your boss an asshole.

Posted by: Rathskeller on October 21, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

A pretty lame comparison indeed, Obama's PR folks Vs Nixon's Plumbers.

I don't see (yet) how NIxon's Thugs, Burglers, Murderers and Dirty Tricksters compare to anything going on now.

Posted by: cwolf on October 21, 2009 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Charles Colson is now a highly regarded man of God

So was Elmer Gantry.

Posted by: freelunch on October 21, 2009 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

let's see...the gop has gone from calling obama a facist, to a communist,[nevermind the contradiction] to a socialist to a republican..now the gloves come off!!.....i would have thought they had run out of ways to practice their projection by now...guess i continue to misunderestimate them

Posted by: dj spellchecka on October 21, 2009 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Why would the Republicans want to remind Americans of Nixon, and the Water Gate hearings with all the criminal activities they uncovered? Including his enemies list.

Maybe because it draws attention away from Duhbya and his ways of destroying people who opposed him, much less his own criminal activities and other horrors.

The Republicans have tried bringing up the specter of Reagan as a comparison to Obama. But Reagan's star doesn't shine very brightly outside of their own party. So now they are desperately trying to raise the Ghost of Nixon past.

Of course they have also tried comparisons with both Roosevelts, Hitler, Stalin, Lincoln, Wilson and others, will little success outside of their own Party loyalists.

Comparison between Obama and Nixon don't hold up very well either.

Comparisons between the Republican party and Nixon hold up extremely will, however.

Posted by: Marnie on October 21, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

So ...

First Obama was a Muslim.

Then he was a Kenyan.

Then he was a socialist.

Then he was a Marxist.

Then he was a communist.

Then he was Hitler.

Then he was Mao.

Then he was Pol Pot.

But now? Well, now he's ... a ... **gasp** ... Republican?

There really is no blow too low*, is there?

(*Insert David Craig joke here.)

Posted by: Mark D on October 21, 2009 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

I'll believe Obama is a Republican when he's caught in a sex scandal after giving a speech about family values.

Posted by: danimal on October 21, 2009 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

"When Nixon didn't like a news outlet, he directed federal prosecutors to investigate journalists, including going through their taxes. Nixon assembled actual enemies lists, and used the power of his office to target and try to destroy his adversaries."

You omitted the part where Nixon ordered the firebombings.

Posted by: Joe Friday on October 21, 2009 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK
Nixon ? Wasn't he the one who gave us the EPA ERA balanced budgets , killed cigarette commercials, Got the Salt treaty among other things - He would have been vilified but the current collection of wingnuts.

Let's not forget wage and price controls. Nixon came the closest to actual Socialism of any U.S. President. Hmmm...

Posted by: idlemind on October 21, 2009 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Ruth Marcus is a right wing enabling hack whose only purpose is to take up the media space that would otherwise go to a REAL lefty.

Ruth Marcus is one of the principle touchstones revealing how far right wing the PBS NewsHour has become.

Marcus takes the place of a real lefty and then Ruth Marcus justifies and defends right wing policies.

Posted by: Not Ruth Marcus on October 21, 2009 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans claim that Obama is Nixon.
Nixon was Republican.
Therefore, Obama is a Republican.
-

Change we can NOT believe in.
--

Posted by: Jay in Oregon on October 22, 2009 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

I think you're missing Alexander's point. He's not saying that Obama is doing what Nixon did. He's saying there are alarming parallels, that Obama is standing at the top of the slippery slope. Taking the names of bondholders who didn't want to take pennies on the dollar for their investment? I'm sorry, you can't vilify everyone.

The point Alexander is making is that while these may or may not be legitimate digs at opponents, this much publicity all at once, in such heated rhetoric, is starting to look like a witch-hunt, and if their words and actions aren't considered carefully, they'll be heading down that road. Look at Congress trying to remove the antitrust protection days after the insurance companies pushed against the health care bills. You say he's not using the full force of the Federal Government, but how far away is he?

Posted by: Phil on October 23, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe you should ask Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin about being on an ememy list. Their lives were turned up side down and given an anal exam by this administation. How short are the memories of all you left minded people. Do you actually think that Obama was the first President to be compared to Hitler. Bush was called every name in the book. Several leftist actually were wishing that he and Chaney would die. The left also forget about flag@whitehouse.gov which was a website for lefties to snitch on people that didn't agee with the Obama policies. He is just as bad as Nixon, he is just covering it up with a smile.

Posted by: gene on October 23, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans are "killers!" They's rather spend trillions on killing people in foreign lands, than on saving their own people in America with a decent Health plan.

Republicans are the most unpatriotic party I've seen in my 86 years.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Posted by: Elstarko on October 23, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

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