I don’t watch a lot of MSNBC anymore. (And apparently neither do most folks.) But I did happen to catch, in my channel-hopping this week, a segment done by Chris Hayes on his evening show, All In. The gist of the piece was this: conservatives/Republicans are overreaching when they throw around words like “Nixonian” to describe the current scandals afflicting the White House.
I won’t do a play-by-play analysis of Hayes’s piece. You can find it here. But as Hayes played clip after clip of Nixon decrying his enemies, talking about going after them, the segment triggered a question in my mind—could I imagine President Obama saying those things, doing those things?
Well…yeah. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Mr. Hayes.
The president does seem to be rather thin-skinned and overly sensitive to criticism. There was a time during one campaign you would have thought his opponent in the race was conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, or maybe Rush Limbaugh. And the administration has made no secret of its dislike of Fox News.
So, in a strange way, Chris Hayes’s segment attempting to prove that the current scandals don’t rise to the level of Nixonian paranoia and dirty deeds actually had the opposite effect. It helped this viewer visualize more clearly the parallels. It might have had the same effect for others.
Sure, we don’t know yet know if President Obama was directly involved in any of the scandals to date. But Watergate started at the beginning of Nixon’s second term and didn’t reach its climax until he resigned in ’74. We’re still at the beginning of the investigations surrounding IRS abuses, the Benghazi debacle, and the criminalizing of reporters to find leakers. We know that each scandal in some way touches on a very Nixonian approach: the abuse of government power to stay in power. We don’t know yet what will be ultimately connected to whom.
What we do know doesn’t bode well for the Hayes theory. Every time we turn around, we seem to learn that, oh, yes, so-and-so close to the president did get news about (fill in the blank with appropriate scandal) earlier than the White House previously indicated. In other words, the stories keep changing as more bad things are revealed. And the unknowns hold peril for the president and his White House–from here on out, if it’s revealed that the president did know something or was involved more than previously declared, he looks as though he’s been involved in a cover-up. That’s not a good sign, Chris.
After watching the Hayes segment, I decided that perhaps one story and one story alone might demonstrate to Mr. Hayes how this White House could absolutely be described as Nixonian. That’s the incident involving naming Fox News reporter James Rosen as a criminal “co-conspirator” in a subpoena to catch a leaker. But to make it easier for Mr. Hayes to understand, I will engage in a hypothetical:
Imagine, Chris, that we’re in the second term of a, say, Romney presidency. And for the past five years, MSNBC has filled their programming with criticisms of him (for reference, just think of the very real campaign that ended in November). And this got under President Romney’s skin so much that he regularly railed against your network, even singling out specific hosts for condemnation or ridicule. And his White House even attempted to get your reporters blocked from press events, saying that you’re not a real news outlet. Then imagine news surfaces that a President Romney’s justice department had named, say, you, as a “co-conspirator” on a subpoena to get info about one of your news sources.
Just what word would pop in your mind to describe such an action, Mr. Hayes? Hint: four syllables, sounds like…