A White House in disarray. The nation torn between left and right. Government agencies used for dirty tricks against political opponents. The CIA involved in domestic spying.
It’s a good thing the American media are on the scene, giving detailed reports about the White House’s abuse of power and the scary actions of President … Nixon.
Wait. What? The late President Richard M. Nixon? The one resigned 40 years ago on August 9?
That’s right. Journalists who snooze at the mere mention of Obama scandals, still want to revel in the triumphs of yesteryear. No wonder. That was when the most powerful people in America were reporters and editors because they helped take down the president of the United States.
Forty years later, Tricky Dick dominated the news in the past week. There were stories by CBS, PBS, MSNBC, The New York Times, and the founder of the feast, The Washington Post. We were told about a new Nixon documentary. Nixon’s flair for fighting the press. His art of the non-apology, apology. Even his many mistresses. (Oops, that’s JFK.)
CBS, the network that filmed the actual resignation, did several stories leading up to the anniversary. The network even interviewed its own cameraman – because there’s nothing journalists love more than interviewing other journalists telling how cool they used to be.
MSNBC almost burst through your TV screen in glee. Host after host talked Nixon – “Morning Joe” Scarborough, Chris “Tingle” Matthews, Rachel “Jeopardy” Maddow and more. (Heck, they probably are airing a “Lock Up” episode on Nixon, too.) MesSNBC’s on-air “talent” were thrilled because it let them indict the GOP for something 40 years ago and continue to hype the fiction that Republicans plan to impeach Obama.
Time magazine gave readers “9 Things You Didn’t Know About Richard Nixon,” from a 1952 cover story. Those included such exciting factoids as Nixon had worked as a carnival barker and used to live next door to people who owned “a smelly, cannibalistic brood of minks.” Perhaps that was an early press metaphor.
Sometime funnyman Stephen Colbert mock celebrated the former president. “Nixon is my all-time favorite non-Reagan president, non-Cheney vice president, and non-oats Quaker,” he told his audience.
The Post ran 14 different stories in the five days leading up to the anniversary. Nixon appeared in obits of former staffers, donor stories, and even had a strange mention in the corruption trial of former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell. Ironically, one story involved dirty trick allegations that a Post staffer plagiarized part of “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.”
And books. Lots and lots of other books about the past and very little insight about the present.
Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin noticed the connection. She mocked the Obama administration and the media via Facebook. “Remember the 18 minute gap in Nixon’s White House tapes during the Watergate scandal?” she asked. “Now Obama’s IRS top dog claims a communications gap of 1,052,000 minutes. Hmm. Wonder if the press will recognize similarities. Maybe a smidgen?” wrote Palin.
Her inquiry was largely ignored. But over every Nixon story hung an implied question: How would journalists handle a similar scandal today? The answer is easy. If another Republican president committed similar crimes, journalists would hound that president every day of the rest of his life – like they tried with George W. Bush.
But if that president were a favored Dem, then the scandal would get a bare mention and journalists would move on, ever in quest of that elusive prey – Republicans.
It’s always that way. Had Nixon been a Democrat, his liberal politics would have been more than sufficient armor against the full-court press.
That’s right, liberal Nixon. Former Nixon advisor Pat Buchanan recently reminded PBS “NewsHour” that Nixon was “enormously consequential.” He ticked off a series of Nixon’s first-term accomplishments that would please almost any leftie voting today. “He opened up China, he had negotiated arms control of the Soviet Union, he had ended the draft, he had desegregated the South, he had enacted the 18-year-old vote, built E.P.A. and OSHA, and the Cancer Institute,” Buchanan explained.
That’s why a Democrat Nixon would have been spared investigation. He would have finished both terms and retired as a popular, liberal president. Carter would likely never have happened. The same with Reagan. The entire past 40 years of American history would have been forever altered.
Even the media would have never learned their signature maxim that the way to advance in journalism is to smear Republicans. Who knows, maybe they’d even investigate an Obama scandal.