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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bush's Deep Nixonian Roots

Counterfactual of the day: How would the world be different if Nixon had lost the 1968 election to Humphrey?:

In Nixon’s Tricks, Rove’s Roots and a Blueprint for Bush, by David Greenberg, Campaigning for History, NY Times: If you’re a political junkie ... looking for cheap laughs ..., go to YouTube and ... a 1972 CBS Nightly News segment on Richard M. Nixon’s reelection campaign. At the four-minute mark — not long after a passing mention of “an electric paper-shredding machine, to destroy secret campaign documents,” located “just out of sight” at Nixon headquarters — we meet the soft-cheeked, thick-sideburned 21-year-old Rove. Already the director of the College Republicans, Rove speaks with evident polish, touting the campaign’s youth outreach effort.

However amusing the interview with Rove..., the operative’s role in Nixon’s 1972 organization — the one that brought us Watergate — is more than a curiosity. ... The reminder of his roots in Nixon’s anything-to-win political machine is telling.

When George W. Bush became president, the smart money pegged him as Ronald Reagan redux. ... In other ways, however — Bush’s political style, his attitudes toward executive power, and his contempt for democratic procedures — it has been clear for many years now that his real role model is Nixon. ...

Both Bush and Nixon, resentful of the supposed cultural dominance of liberals, perfected a conservative populism that vilifies academics, journalists, bureaucrats and other professionals as out-of-touch elites. Both men, hostile to the news media, rigidly prescribed the messages that their staffers could take to the press. Both vaunted secrecy, restricted access to information, and politicized areas of the government once deemed the province of non-partisan experts.

Iraq has generated even more echoes of the Nixon years. ... Regardless of whether you agree that Iraq resembles Vietnam, Bush has certainly used the pretext of being a “war president” to justify curtailing civil liberties, expanding presidential power, and demonizing dissenters — as Nixon had. Claiming national security threats..., both men also illegally wiretapped Americans. ...

Rove’s dirty tricks matter ... because they establish a direct lineage between the anything-goes mentality of the Nixon White House and the hardball of the Bush administration.

It’s been widely reported, for example, that Rove’s mentors in the College Republicans during the Nixon years included dirty-tricks maestros Lee Atwater and Donald Segretti. Newspapers have also reported that in 1970 Rove sneaked into the campaign headquarters of a Democratic candidate for state office in Illinois, filched campaign letterhead, and sent out fake fliers aiming to discredit the Democrat. In my own research on Nixon, I discovered that during Watergate itself, Rove used a phony grassroots organization to try to rally Americans to the president’s defense against what he called “the lynch-mob atmosphere created” by “the Nixon-hating media.” And according to Nixon’s former counsel John Dean, the Watergate prosecutor’s office took an interest in Rove’s underhanded activities before deciding “they had bigger fish to fry.”

Rove, moreover, is hardly the only link in the chain. ... A whole generation of conservative activists came of age in the 1970s either working for Nixon or, more commonly, voluntarily defending him on campuses and in political circles. His shame was their outrage.

These young conservative activists essentially endorsed the line that Nixon put out during Watergate— that “everybody does it.” They agreed that the president had to resign only because a double standard prevailed in the media and in Washington. Nixon’s dirty tricks, his efforts to politicize the civil service and discredit the media, and his willingness to use executive power for personal and political gain were really no cause for indignation. They were politics as usual. ... In ... interviews with [David] Frost, Nixon’s most memorable line came when he said: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” ...

On one aspect of this, who are the "elites," see Economic royalists - and the rest of us. by Rick Perlstein.

    Posted by on Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 10:24 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (1)  Comments (34)

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    If you’re a political junkie ... looking for cheap laughs ..., go to YouTube and ... a 1972 CBS Nightly News segment on Richard M. Nixon’s reelection campaign. At the four-minute mark...we meet the soft-cheeked, thick-sideburned 21-year-old Rove. Alrea... [Read More]

    Tracked on Thursday, May 03, 2007 at 04:27 AM


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