Enough with the foolish Obama/Nixon comparisons

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Lots of media Villagers are suggesting that the White House's public push back against Fox news, which consists entirely of publicly criticizing the cable channel's brand of faux journalism, is just like when Richard Nixon was president, declared war on his enemies (including news outlets), and used the full power of the federal government to exact his bouts of revenge.

That any semi-serious journalist would so casually compare Obama to Nixon because the Democratic doesn't like the openly partisan programming on Fox News is just embarrassing. (Did I mention Nixon illegally used the federal government to target his media foes?)

But Beltway pundits don't care. They think Obama is just like Nixon because Obama's aides have an opinion about wildly dishonest coverage from Fox News.

-"White House war on Fox: Echoes of Nixon-Agnew" [Baltimore Sun]

-"The White House's effort to target a news organization like Fox is vaguely Nixonian." [Commentary]

-"It makes the White House look childish and petty at best, and it has a distinct Nixonian -- Agnewesque? -- aroma at worst." [Washington Post]

-"Two-and-a-half years into the Nixon presidency, White House Special Counsel Chuck Colson compiled a twenty person "enemies list"...It looks like the Obama administration is off to a head start." [Foxnews.com]

For a real taste of what a twisted character Nixon was, and specifically how he really did declare war on news outlets he didn't like, the recent documentary Inventing LA: The Chandler Family and Their Times is a good place to start. The film, which recently aired on PBS, takes a look at the Chandler family and how they transformed both the Los Angeles Times and the city of Los Angeles throughout the 21st Century.

One of the most interesting nuggets contained in the documentary, as it detailed the newspaper's often contentious relationship with California native Richard Nixon, was a tape recording of a telephone call between Attorney General George Mitchell and Nixon, who was giving out orders to target members of the left-leaning Chandler family, whom Nixon despised [emphasis added]:

Nixon: I want you to direct the most trusted person you have in the immigration service, that they are to look at all of the activities of the Los Angeles Times. All, underlined, to see if they are violating the wetback thing. let me explain because as a Californian I know.

Everyday in California hires them ["wetbacks"]. There's no law against it because they are there. Because for menial things and so forth. [Times publisher] Otis Chandler, I want him checked with regards to his gardener. I understand he's a wetback.

We are going to go after the Chandlers. Every one. Individually, collectively. Their income taxes. They're starting this week. Everyone of those sons of bitches, is that clear?

Mitchell: Yes, sir.

Nixon: Do it. Give me a report.

Mitchell. Very well, sir.

Yes, that was the U.S. Attorney General being told by the President of the United States, to sic federal agents on private citizens because Nixon wanted to settle some scores with prominent journalists.

That's how a real enemies list works. By contrast, having senior members of the Obama White House publicly air their critiques of a cable channel doesn't even compare. That is self-evident. But lots of media elites like the sound of the Nixon/Obama comparison, so expect more chatter about it, regardless of how idiotic the rhetoric is.

UPDATED: Right on cue, Republicans today push the Nixon "enemies list" meme. We'll see if anyone in the press bothers to fact check the historically false comparison.

UPDATED: Politico, covering Sen. Lamar Alexander's "enemies list" speech today, passes on providing any historical context. But good news! Politico did reprint Alexander's speech, in its entirety (all 37 paragraphs), under the auspice that it's "news."

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