Friday, June 03, 2005

Bush II: Return of the Nixonites

With all the Watergate deja vu washing over us this week, it's important to recognize the continuum from the Nixon administration to the current Bush II White House. In many, many ways, the current Bush administration is a direct continuation of the Nixon White House, if not in terms of agenda, certainly in terms of method. As we remember how secretive, truth-bending, power-hungry, and downright paranoid the Nixonites were, there's no denying that the Bushies are employing very similar methods for extending their power. And for good reason: many current Bush administration officials got their start with President Nixon. Let's go down the list:

Donald Rumsfeld: The Donald began his political career as a congressman from Illinois, but in 1969 resigned from Congress to take a job as Nixon's Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and Assistant to the President. From 1971 to 1972, he was Counselor to the President and Director of the Economic Stabilization Program; in 1973, he served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO. After Nixon's resignation, Rumsfeld served first as President Ford's Chief of Staff and then as Ford's Secretary of Defense. (See, he has a history in the job.) He was one of the "young guns" in the Nixon administration, and close pals with protege Dick Cheney.

Dick Cheney: This particular Dick began his career in "public service" in 1969, when he joined the Nixon Administration as a special assistant to the director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. In 1971 he became a White House staff assistant, and soon moved on to become Assistant Director of the Cost of Living Council, where he stayed until 1973. After a year in private business, he returned to the White House to become deputy assistant to President Gerald Ford and then White House Chief of Staff.

Paul Wolfowitz: In 1972, went to work for the Pentagon in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He had strong connections to Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, who himself had strong ties to President Nixon. Believe it or not, his work mainly concerned the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and nuclear nonproliferation.

Karl Rove: The brains behind the Bush, King Karl was a Young Republican on the college campuses of the early 1970s. (He later dropped out of college to become executive director of the College Republicans.) While working as a Young Republican in Nixon's 1972 campaign, Rove learned and practiced a fair number of minor league dirty tricks, including identity theft, petty larceny, and perhaps (depending on who you talk to) some degree of campaign fraud. The 22-year-old apprentice actually had a very small role in the Watergate saga itself, as documented in an August 10, 1973 article in the Washington Post titled "[Republican party] Probes Official as Teacher of Tricks." The article described how Rove and a colleague had been touring the country giving Young Republicans political combat training, in which they recalled their feats of back alley derring-do in earlier Republican campaigns. The publicity forced the intervention of the Republican National Committee and its chairman, a former Texas congressman named George Herbert Walker Bush; this was the beginning of Rove's long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship with the Bush family. BTW, I particularly like the piece on the Nixon Center website from a January 2002 New York Times article where Turd Blossom is quoted as saying that he was "not aware" of the current administration having learned any lessons from Richard Nixon's presidency. I beg to differ; I think it's quite obvious that Rove learned a lot about dirty tricks from his former boss.

And that's just a list of the major connections; as you can see, there's quite a bit of Nixon in the Bush II administration -- which explains a lot about how and even why the Bushies keep doing what they're doing. Obviously, Cheney and Rumsfeld in particular learned a lot from serving Nixon in their youth, and it's not too wild a speculation to assume that they may even carry a bit of a grudge towards Democrats, liberals, and the media for what happened to their ex-boss. Having learned a few lessons along the way, it certainly makes sense for them to set things up so that presidential power is consolidated, secrets are kept and not leaked, and the press and other critics are sufficiently muzzled.

This similarity in approach between the two administrations leads to the question that if Nixon's dirty tricks were so impeachable, then why isn't anyone talking about impeaching President Bush? The fallout from his tricks dwarfs anything Nixon was doing, after all, and the Downing Street memo certainly implies a series of crimes and misdemeanors of an impeachable level. But that's an issue for another day; for now we'll have to content ourselves with marveling how long old grudges are held -- and wondering just when some of these old farts will ever drop dead!

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

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