During President Barack Obama’s May 16 news conference, reporter Jeff Mason asked as part of his question: “And, more broadly, how do you feel about comparisons by some of your critics of this week’s scandals to those that happened under the Nixon administration?” The president responded, “I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons, and you can go ahead and read the history, I think, and draw your own conclusions.”
Actually, reading the history of President Richard Nixon and Watergate might not make much difference for a couple of reasons. Even those familiar with that history are still misusing it, but more important, it’s certainly not the only history relevant to presidential scandals.
Start with those playing the Nixon card who understand this history, yet don’t seem to care that the situations aren’t truly analogous.
For instance, the Washington Post’s most celebrated Watergate reporter, Bob Woodward, knows better. On Nov. 18, 2012, Woodward appeared on “Fox News Sunday” to talk about “the Libyan scandal.” At that time he dismissed the thought that a Watergate-style investigation was necessary. The only real question was “what did Susan Rice know and when did she know it,” he said, referring to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who delivered the misleading statements about the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi,Libya. Woodward didn’t think the answer to that question ranked very high on the scale of what the public needed to know.