Slick Willie Or Tricky Dick -- What's The Difference?
By Emil Franzi
I VOTED FOR Richard Nixon for president three times. In another life, as president of the California Young Republicans, I helped beat the conservative troops in line after the Taiwan sell-out and the imposition of wage price-controls. I even contributed to the Spiro T. Agnew Defense Fund. I was a GOP hack.
As the late Jesse Unruh, long-time Democratic speaker of the California Assembly, once said, " I don't learn quick, but I learn good." By 1974 I'd had it with the moral bankruptcy exhibited by Nixon and the whole White House gang (with the possible exception of G. Gordon Liddy.) There are Republicans in town to this day who won't forgive me for calling for Nixon's resignation and supporting his impeachment.
Today, America is, unfortunately, in the same position with President Bill Clinton as it was 25 years ago with Tricky Dick.
There are some differences: I can't find anybody in Clinton's camp with as much guts as Liddy. And no one had Nixon under oath in a six-hour deposition. Nixon's real criminal acts came under the heading "obstruction of justice." Alleged perjury is an additional problem unique to Clinton.
It's amazing to hear from Clinton types exactly what I heard 25 years ago from my fellow Republicans about Nixon: So what, everybody else did it too. They're just out to get him. The press made most of it up. Innocent until proven guilty. And the most debatable of all: But he's done a good job.
That was crap then and it's crap now, particularly coming from those who yelled for Nixon's scalp. Everybody doesn't do it! Teddy Roosevelt never screwed around on Edith; Harry Truman never screwed around on Bess. Maybe it isn't just coincidence that we score them as two of our greatest presidents in this century. Jack Kennedy couldn't keep it in his pants either, but he never bumped a civil servant from a promotion to provide a job for one of his bimbos, like Clinton did in Arkansas. Gee, where was AFSCME on that one?
There's always a "They" trying to shitcan every president. "They" are only successful when they're given ammunition and genuine charges. There were many "Theys" trying to bag Clarence Thomas, too. Many, including 48 United States senators, found the testimony of one woman sufficient evidence to keep Thomas from the U.S. Supreme Court. How about multiple allegations of several women that, when summarized, plainly outline the behavior of a sexual predator whose actions are not only self-destructive, but border on the sociopathic? If you believe Thomas is unfit to serve on the highest court, how can you believe Clinton is fit to serve in the highest office?
The role of the media is different these days. They were much tougher on Nixon, whom they generally hated. Clinton has been allowed to skate partly due to the inherent liberal bias of most reporters, but mainly due to the degeneration of the media over the past 25 years. If this president leaves office, the Washington Post will have no Woodwards or Bernsteins to claim it.
And nobody ever proved Nixon guilty of anything in a court of law, although he did have that handy pardon just in case. But the presidency has higher standards than "beyond a reasonable doubt."
As to how well either Nixon or Clinton performed--politically speaking, of course--I would urge Democratic activists to cast off their party hack mentality and look closely at Slick Willie's record:
He dumped on core Democratic issues, from NAFTA and GATT to welfare reform and taxation, in the same way Nixon screwed over core conservative GOP issues. Both have been touted as great "moderates" when both were basically duplicitous sell-outs. We admire guys like Teddy and Harry today for more than just keeping it in their pants and not stealing--we admire them for their rock-hard adherence to fundamental principles.
President Clinton ought to resign, or be impeached, for the same reasons we shitcanned Nixon: Both disgraced the office, and the trauma of removal is ultimately less damaging to the country than allowing a proven jerk to continue to debase it.
AND ANOTHER THING... It's been a standing joke for many years in political circles that if the folks running Tucson's two daily fish-wrappers were in charge of the Washington press back in '73-'74, not only would Nixon have finished his second term, but his successor would've been Spiro Agnew.
Having read the columns of two of those papers' leading thinkers over the last few days, it's no longer funny.
The Arizona Daily Star's Tom Beal is a decent man. But he clearly has low standards for public officials, and those standards reflect the attitude shown by those who set standards for political reporting in Tucson.
In a column headlined "We expect and demand deceit," Beal explains that the electorate wants to be hoodwinked, that voters expect snow jobs from politicians, and that they generally don't take kindly to pols who tell us the truth.
Beal left something out of the discourse: The role of the media--people like him and us--in exposing those lying politicians. That's a role he and too many others seem to have abdicated.
In classifying deceit as business as usual, Beal condones it. In failing to condemn it, he endorses it. In ignoring it when it occurs, he abandons his responsibility as a reporter and as a political columnist.
It apparently does not greatly disturb him when a school board blatantly lies and stonewalls regarding a sleazy land deal, as Amphitheater has done. Or when the Marana Town Council promises homeowners they will hold back an annexation, only to turn around and surreptiously implement it. Or when the Mayor of Tucson blatantly lies to the voters to pass a bond election.
We know these--and similar actions by other public officials--don't bother Beal very much, or else he'd write about them, or maybe even condemn them. Now he's told us why he doesn't. It's all no big deal; it's what we wanted all along.
Wrong, Tom. We don't want it any more than we wanted the lying of Fife Symington and Ed Moore--two guys who finally went far enough even for you. How far is enough?
If Beal--the Star's most prominent, able, and well-read columnist and editorial writer--would show a little indignation about all this deceit he finds normal, maybe it would help diminish it. Politicians who are brutally frank--Barry Goldwater and Harry Truman come to mind--are ultimately popular. The truth should be nurtured and liars condemned. The role of the media, particularly those lucky enough to be vested with the freedom of columnists, is to expose lying SOBs whenever and wherever they appear. And the indignation should begin with the first lie, not the last one.
Politicians, here and elsewhere, get away with deceit simply because too many media types let them. Their lies are not acceptable to most people when they find out about them. But citizens can't get pissed off when the lies go unreported, undiscussed, unmentioned and are considered unimportant. Beal's lack of concern for that element of political reporting contributes to democracy's undoing.
But Beal's lack of concern is trumped by the Citizen's Joe Garcia, whose rambling columns vanished from the Citizen a few months back. On Monday he returned and finally expressed an opinion on an issue, in a rambling discourse bemoaning the President's lack of a private life. Garcia said he really didn't care about adultery or the President's sex life.
This isn't about private actions or adultery. If a police chief or a school principal, or any other lesser civil servant in a management position, hit on his underlings on the job and at the workplace, we would can his ass, because those actions are obviously unacceptable in a public servant. This does involve public policy; it is not a private matter--something even the slower learners should have picked up in the Clarence Thomas hearings. And as any EEO lawyer will explain, consensual response to the boss' passes are not a mitigating factor in harassment cases.
Presidents and other officials lose most of their privacy rights in proportion to the power they acquire. As the line in The Godfather went, "This is the business they have chosen." If any high-ranking official is a lush or a doper or a compulsive gambler or has any other destructive addiction, it is our business. How about a congressman who's in hock to a mob bookie, a judge who snorts cocaine or a senator who's in the bag every day by noon? Does the name Bob Packwood ring a bell? Was his sex life none of our business?
In presenting their low standards to us, both Beal and Garcia ignore a simple requirement of public service. As George Will so ably points out, most contracts and civil service codes contain a moral turpitude clause. Those who broach it, after the appropriate due process, are on the street.
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