Executive privilege … dirty tricks … secret dossiers … enemies’ lists. …
Does all this sound familiar? It should. Many pundits — on the left and on the right — are now making the obvious comparisons between the Clinton administration and the Nixon White House. What most are missing, however, is that Slick Willie’s trespasses against the Constitution and the office of the presidency are far worse than those of Tricky Dick. In fact, Nixon was something of a piker compared to Clinton.
Don’t believe me, take it from Jack Newfield, the left-wing columnist and a true Nixon hater now with the New York Post.
“Several sources have told me,” he wrote in Monday’s paper, “that the White House is already compiling dossiers on the private lives of the congressmen on the House Judiciary Committee who might have to vote on impeachment.”
Even Nixon was never accused of doing that.
Newfield ties that little factoid in with George Stephanopoulos’ observation that the Clinton team is working on a doomsday blackmail strategy of “mutually assured destruction,” should his presidency be threatened by impeachment.
Nixon never went that far.
The trouble is, Clinton has gotten away with so much in the last five years he fully expects to weather any storm. Through ineptitude, self-interest, fear and collaboration, the Congress, the Office of Independent Counsel and the press have allowed him to accumulate so much raw presidential power that he is now a threat, not just to a handful of congressmen, but to the free republic itself.
Given the choice between his personal ambitions and the nation, Nixon stepped aside. Clinton has already said emphatically he will “never” resign. This time, I believe him. Short of being dragged in chains, I can’t see Clinton leaving the Oval Office and all the “perks” that go with it.
Clinton is ruthless in hounding his enemies. He’ll use the power of the FBI, the IRS or any other federal agency to do it. His White House counsel’s office prepares enemies lists on the public’s time and at the taxpayer’s expense. The Washington Times reported yesterday that this practice began back in 1992, not after the 1994 congressional elections, as many had previously thought. John Fund of the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on Fox News that the White House has reissued copies of the Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce – the 331-page report explaining away all Clinton administration scandals as inventions of yours truly and a handful of other co-conspirators. Dozens and dozens of organizations, radio talk-show hosts, individual taxpayers and religious organizations unfriendly to Clinton have been victimized by audits during his administration.
Nixon ordered his IRS chief to go after enemies and he refused. Not one person on Nixon’s political enemies’ list was ever audited. People weren’t afraid to say no to Dick Nixon. There weren’t nearly as many mysterious deaths associated with Watergate — in fact, I can’t think of a single one — as there are with this administration.
Clinton invokes executive privilege and it’s not even on the front page of most newspapers across the country. The day Nixon did it, he was political toast. The press explained what it meant. It was clear to the country that this was the presidential equivalent of taking the Fifth Amendment.
Not since Joe McCarthy has anyone so effectively used “guilt by association.” The intricate conspiracy theories that Hillary and her husband have woven are enough to embarrass Oliver Stone.
Can you imagine Nixon blaming a left-wing conspiracy for trying to take down his presidency? Interestingly enough, he would have had a better case for it that Clinton does.
Clinton actually faces very little political opposition. The Republicans are apparently afraid to speak out and condemn his actions and his tactics — scared of what’s in those secret files, perhaps. And the Democrats are simply standing by their man.
Nixon not only faced opposition from virtually every Democrat from the moment his scandals started to break, but key Republicans — people with integrity, who believed right is right and wrong is wrong — also lined up courageously against the president.
“It’s time for some national Democrats to start speaking up about these tactics, and about which way the facts are starting to point,” writes Newfield. “So far, only Sens. (Daniel Patrick) Moynihan and (Joseph) Lieberman seem to be willing to say what they actually think, and put principle ahead of partisanship.”
I like that. Let’s face it. No one believes Bill Clinton anymore. The only defense he has left is, “Nothing has been proven yet. These are only allegations. He’s innocent until proven guilty.”
Again, I like what Newfield has to say about that: “The presumption of innocence doesn’t require the suspension of common sense.”