Hillary Milhous Clinton

Hillary Milhous Clinton

The political shorthand to describe Hillary Clinton’s resentful, suspicious attitude toward the press is to say that she brings to mind Richard Nixon. Like Nixon, she sees enemies everywhere (and, like Nixon did, she does have a lot of enemies). Like Nixon, she is guarded and secretive. Nixon was, by his own description, an introvert in an extrovert’s business. Hillary is not painfully shy like Nixon, but she hardly comes across as a politician who loves people. Reporters who have long covered the Clintons note that while her gregarious husband Bill likes to be out working the crowd, Hillary prefers to stay holed up in the waiting room for as long as possible.

But the parallels between Mrs. Clinton and Nixon go well beyond antipathy for the media and awkwardness as campaigners. The differences between the two are also instructive.

Mrs. Clinton is not, as Nixon was not, a fresh face on the political scene. Voters had some vivid glimpses of Nixon’s basic personality long before they voted to elect him president. Nixon gave his mawkish but effective Checkers speech (to what was at the time the largest ever radio and TV audience, more than 60 million people) in 1952, 16 years before he was elected president. He bitterly told the press, “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around any more” in 1962, after losing the governor’s race in California. Although Nixon ran as the “New Nixon” in 1968, most people hadn’t forgotten the old Nixon.

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