Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Bush Legacy: Nixon

As a matter of perspective, the quest for relevance is a natural inclination for any public figure. When the historians and cherry-picking pundits mention your name five years on, what words will they follow it with? Leader? Visionary? Patriot? Politicized Department of Justice? Politicized Military? False Pretense for Invasion? General Douche-Baggery?

Secrecy, and a free, democratic government don't mix - Harry S. Truman
Revisionists have painted the ideal for Republicans into a dichotomy of ideology; Reagan, good, Nixon, bad. It isn't a bad policy for party reform, if you are of the conservative persuasion, and ignore the failure of Gipper Economics, Reagan Foreign Policy, Reagan's Tax Policy, and Reagan's "Ketchup Is A Vegetable" Children's Health Policy, but it begs a question they will not answer. In their continued support for George Bush and his administration -- expressed by congressional votes, campaigns, and policy backing -- despite the obvious similarities, it remains unclear whether Nixon becomes the pariah because of his behavior, or simply because he got caught.

For the past 30 years, have Republicans avoided comparison with Nixon because he betrayed the nation's trust, or because he was didn't get away with it? Assuming that our GOP reps Cannon, Hatch, and Bennett (and unfortunately the occasional Matheson vote) are representing their conscience, and the voice of their constituency, are we ignoring the similarities of the Bush and Nixon administrations? Or have we forgiven the secrecy and dishonesty of the Nixon years in light of threats to national security? What of Bush's stonewalling of open government policies and refusal to head the wishes of the people prior to the 2001 terrorist attacks? If 9/11 changed everything, was it also retro-active to the first weeks of his administration?

Executive privilege was nearly a political taboo post Nixon, and admittedly it's use by Clinton against investigations of special prosecutors is a blemish on the Democratic Party, but Bush has fashioned the privilege into a perverse art-form. Many had never heard of a "signing statement" prior to this administration. But does continued conservative support for the President imply a support for advising the contempt of congressional oversight (arguably the most prominent provision of our constitution for the protection of balanced power)? Is Nixon's legacy a dirty word because of his trespasses against the nature of democracy, or do Republicans shun him simply because he was so unpopular? Do they reject Nixon upon principle, and just not see the correlation between his White House and this one because of loyalty to party? Or do they embrace this White House still because "the tapes" have yet to be discovered?

It isn't just a question for progressive voters to answer. Such introspection may be the last hope of the Republican Party my father (and maybe your father?) so revered, but now abandons in search of more representative body. And it's not just that generation, it's effecting younger Republicans like a virus.

To further illustrate, I'll leave you with just a handful of examples. Taken en total, it paints a strange picture of the governing principles of this administration, those who lay claim to it, and who we are as a nation:

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