As mainstream media outlets (such as New York Magazine) prove to be determined, nay, eager, to link Donald J Trump to Richard M Nixon and his firing of FBI Director James Comey to "the greatest political scandal in modern American history," we should all pause to wonder whether what happened in 1974 should truly be described as the media bringing down a president of the United States.
Proving that in America, thanks to the media guardians, even at the highest level, crimes and misdemeanors are punished. (Thanks to Instapundit for the link.)
It turns out that that description is false. That is not what happened.
What happened, and what future history books will have to get right, is that various media leaning towards one party, the opposition party, brought down a member — the highest-ranking member in the government, to be sure — of the governing party.
The truest description of what occurred in 1974 is not that the independent media brought down a president of the United States.
What occurred was that the left-leaning MSM brought down a Republican.
Well, right there we have something that Nixon and Trump have in common: they are both Republicans. Just like George W Bush, Sarah Palin, and Ronald Reagan are or were, they are/were villains who also "deserved" to be countered by the mainstream media and by every honest citizen.
Oh — and don't forget the very first Republican elected to the White House, duly countered in the 1860s by members of the Democratic Party and their allies.
Many of the shenanigans between 2009 and 2017 have been described over the years as at least just as bad as the Watergate affair, and yet neither the Washington Post nor any other outlet of the mainstream media ever made much about any wrongdoings affecting Barack Obama's "amazingly scandal-free administration."
As Benny Huang put it a couple of years ago, the media's
journalistic good old days peaked in 1974 when the legendary Woodward and Bernstein duo took down a president named Richard Nixon. I don’t blame the two Washington Post reporters because they uncovered true malfeasance which precipitated a coverup, which in turn precipitated abuses of presidential power. They did their job in keeping politicians honest.Moreover, a certain testimony from four years ago ought to be remembered. In I knew Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon was a friend of mine, and you, Barack are no Richard Nixon (thanks to Instapundit), Bill Kristol writes that
Yet it should not be ignored that previous presidents—FDR, JFK, and LBJ—pulled similar shenanigans. Why couldn’t the Washington Post be bothered to investigate those presidents? Because they were liberal Democrats, of course. They got a pass. The fact that Carl Bernstein was the son of card-carrying communist parents, and that he sought to weaken a president who was trying to salvage a war that Bernstein didn’t want America to win explains a lot too.
Forty years later there’s at least one network that will cover similar abuses by a leftist president. I’m speaking of FOX News, of course.
… The media in this country [are] still absurdly biased to the Left, making no pretenses of covering issues such as same-sex marriage, illegal immigration, abortion, or global warming with any degree of even-handedness.
I protest. Will no one stand up for Richard Nixon? Richard Nixon was a combat veteran, a staunch and brave anti-Communist, a man who took on the liberal establishment and at times his own party's as well, a leader who often thought for himself and had the courage of his convictions, a president who assembled a first-rate Cabinet and one who—while flawed both in character and in policy judgment—usually tried to confront the real problems and deal with challenges of his times. Richard Nixon led neither the country nor his own administration from behind.
To bring the media's obsession with "Tricky Dick" and Watergate full circle, let us end this post with an excerpt from a five-year-old post (Evidence of Fraud in 2008 Election? A Surprising Number of Parallels with JFK's 1960 Campaign):I worked for Richard Nixon (well, I worked for two months in the Nixon White House in 1970 as a summer intern). I voted for Richard Nixon (in 1972, my first vote, against George McGovern—and one about which I have no regrets). I knew Richard Nixon (very slightly—I met him on a few occasions in groups in the late 1970s and the 1980s, and then a couple of times when I worked for Vice President Quayle). And so I feel obliged to rise to Richard Nixon's defense, and to say, with all due respect, to our current president: Barack Obama, you're no Richard Nixon.
Just as interesting is the passage preceding the story of the 1960 election, which explains the downplaying of the Republican candidate while the extolling of the Democrat's alleged virtues. As you read the following passage [from Paul Johnson's A History of the American People], think also of all the ways that Rupert Murdoch has been demonized over the years, as has his Fox News network.
We come now to an important structural change in America. America had always been, from the earliest time, a democratic society, in that men (and indeed women) paid little attention to formal rank, even where it existed. Every man felt he had the right to shake hands with every other man, even the President … But this democratic spirit was balanced by the tribute of respect to those who, for one reason or another — experience, learning, position, wealth, office, or personality — had earned the title of 'boss.' The balance struck between egalitarianism and deference was one of the most remarkable characteristics of America, and one of its great strengths.
The Sixties brought a change. In the space of a decade, the word 'boss' passed almost out of the language, certainly out of universal usage. Deference itself deferred to a new spirit of hostility to authority. It became the fashion to challenge long-established hierarchies, to revolt against them or to ignore them. Nowhere was this spirit more manifest than in the media …
The gradual but cumulatively almost complete transfer of opinion-forming power from the owners and commercial managers of TV stations to the program-makers and presenters was one of the great new facts of life, unheard of before the 1950s, axiomatic by the end of the 1960s. And it was gradually paralleled by a similar shift in the newspaper world, especially on the great dailies and magazines of the East Coast, where political power, with few exceptions, passed from proprietors and major stockholders to editors and writers. Owners like Hearst and McCormick (of the Chicago Tribune), Pulitzer and Henry Luce (of Time-Life), who had once decided the political line of their publications in considerable detail, moved out of the picture and their places were taken by the working journalists. Since the latter tended to be overwhelmingly liberal in their views, this was not just a political but a cultural change of considerable importance. Indeed it is likely that nothing did more to cut America loose from its traditional moorings.
… The change could be seen in 1960, in the way the East Coast media (the New York Times and Washington Post, Time and Newsweek), handled the contest between Nixon and Kennedy.