Richard Milhous Nixon was thin-skinned, felt persecuted by the opposition party, had a penchant for classifying political adversaries -- and journalists -- as “enemies,” and tried to control his image so fiercely that, ultimately, zealous aides committed illegal acts to further his re-election.
But even before that had happened -- and before Nixon himself began directing a coverup -- truth had become a casualty of his administration. This is the parallel between Richard Nixon and Barack Obama.
No evidence has been unearthed connecting Obama, or anyone under his direction, to illicit activities. But the absence of criminality isn’t the only test here. Nixon’s “enemies,” at least in his mind, also included vast swaths of the Fourth Estate. That apparently is how the current president operates, too.
Barack Obama often displays contempt for the proper role of news-gatherers and, by extension, for the value of reporting that seeks to be unbiased. Often, officials in his White House or re-election campaign seem uncomprehending of the concept of straight reporting.
In their Manichean world, there are liberal news organizations (good) and conservative outlets (bad). Some of the news business does work this way -- more than when Nixon was president, for sure -- but what Obama and his political advisers and White House press handlers have done is graft their own hyper-partisanship onto the media.
In the Obama administration, it’s not uncommon for a White House press official to scream profanely over the phone at journalists whose stories they dislike, plant questions from friendly media outlets, and deny access to briefings to reporters who ask tough questions. This administration has aggressively used the Justice Department to ferret out news leaks, declared open season on a media organization out of sync with his philosophy (Fox News), and routinely questioned the professionalism of reporters and the patriotism of the opposition political party. That disquieting sound you hear is an echo from the Nixon years.