James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Nixon tapes again reveal Bush-league president

Posted by James McPherson on December 5, 2008

A news batch of tapes recorded in the Richard Nixon White House were released this week, reaffirming that the president was, in the words of MSNBC’s John Rutherford, “ruthless, cynical and profane.” This was the 12th release of Nixon tapes, now totalling more than 2,200 hours. None of the releases have helped Nixon’s image.

Nixon may have been our most paranoid president, though despite leaving office in disgrace, he probably was a better chief executive than George W. Bush or Jimmy Carter. Perhaps we can no longer even consider Nixon to be the most criminal president of our lifetimes, despite the protests of Fox News’ Chris Wallace. On the other hand, with increased government secrecy, a relatively gutless Democratic Congress and no independent prosecutor–and thanks in large part to the circus that the Bill Clinton impeachment became–we’ll likely never know anything close to the full extent of the Bush administration’s crimes, even if the permitted crimes decrease under a new administration.

One thing is almost certain: At a time when some already are comparing Barack Obama to FDR (a comparison already beginning to change as the shine wears off of Obama’s newness and various messes fail to be resolved quickly enough), Nixon will be the standard by which Bush is compared. Many are already lumping the two together.

Having been a reporter and a professor, the lines I found most interesting from the latest Nixon tapes were these, said to Henry Kissinger in 1972: “The press is the enemy, the press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy, the professors are the enemy. Write that on a blackboard 100 times.”

I doubt that Bush would lump the press and professors in with “the establishment,” but he might agree with Nixon about professors and the press being enemies. Frankly, I hope so. Though if the news media had been more of an “enemy”–in other words, doing their job, regardless of GOP anti-press rhetoric–Bush might have been prevented from engaging in many of the actions that now have him so readily compared to the 37th president.

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One Response to “Nixon tapes again reveal Bush-league president”

  1. […] Nixon and David Frost were both fascinating characters (and both a bit slippery as well as more than a […]

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