Written by Bob Steinburg
A Conservative's Viewpoint
On the floor of the U. S. Senate last week, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., an aide to former President Richard Nixon, delivered a cautionary warning to President Barrack Obama. He asked him not to follow the path of the former president by developing a White House enemies' list that ultimately led to his resigning the presidency in disgrace.
Anyone ever involved in politics has a certain degree of paranoia. With the opposition taking pot shots every day, politicians must either possess a thick skin, or be a masochist to survive. In Nixon's case, he became delusional. He thought everyone was out to get him. Revenge was one way of striking back.
In 1971, Nixon's special counsel, Charles Colson, developed an enemies' list that included the likes of the president of the United Auto Workers Union, a liberal Washington newspaper columnist; a celebrated CBS broadcast journalist and the managing editor of the Los Angeles Times.
Nixon's White House Counsel John Dean, in writing to a colleague about the enemies' list said: we need to find out how best to "... use the federal machinery to screw our enemies." Tactics included IRS tax audits, manipulating grants, controlling who received federal contracts, and pursuing litigation and prosecution when "needed." Hundreds of additional names were eventually added to Nixon's list, including many from the entertainment industry.
Three years into his presidency Nixon's detailed enemies' list began to formally evolve. Obama has only been president for 10 months, yet there are striking similarities in the economic and foreign affairs challenges facing both presidencies.
It appears there may be other similarities as well.
Nixon was trying to find a way to "win the peace" in Vietnam, fighting a war that was becoming increasingly costly and unpopular. A deficit crisis emerged as the nation's spending almost doubled as a share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). There were gas lines resulting from the Arab oil boycott and a recession ready to unfold. The economy was floundering, unemployment rising and the stock market was increasingly volatile.
Obama is facing two wars, national unemployment approaching double digits, a deficit problem of his own and faces significant organized opposition to his liberal agenda.
Like Nixon, Obama seems very thin-skinned. We learned that at the height of last year's campaign. Some of his campaign members took it upon themselves to institute a sort of "truth squad," threatening to prosecute anyone, including media outlets that printed or broadcast any information about Obama that they perceived as incorrect.
In the closing days of the campaign three large daily newspapers that endorsed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were denied access to Obama's campaign bus. Nothing much has changed. Obama continues to assault Fox News, further proving that he and his staff remain in a campaigning state of mind.
Recently the U. S. Chamber of Commerce came under fire from the White House. Obama wants to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to "ensure transparency and fair dealing" on financial products such as consumer loans. The Chamber disagrees, saying that consumers are best served and protected through existing regulations and that the proposed new agency would make credit more expensive and less accessible.
Obama was furious the Chamber ran what he called a "completely false" ad campaign claiming that small businesses will be harmed with this new agency. With this White House you agree, or risk being marginalized, in spite of Obama's campaign promise for more openness and transparency.
For an administration that appears to obsess over misinformation being spread by those opposing its initiatives, why are they so reluctant to share details of their own with the public? We're told that the Democrat's plan to reform health care will be sound, and fair to everyone. Economically it's a win-win, they say- for the consumer as well as reducing the federal deficit. Well if the plans being discussed are going to be the panacea for what ails us, why do we hear few specifics from those on the left promoting it, and a plethora of particulars from those opposed?
Many folks feel the insurance companies are opposing health care reform solely because they will end up suffering a big time loss in profits that will reduce executive bonuses. While a convenient and simplistic argument, there is much more to their opposing national health care than that. These companies are fighting for their very existence.
Believe me, I'm no fan of the insurance industry. But the industry deserves the right to protect their interests and the future viability of their participation in the market place.
The insurance lobby has launched an advertising campaign against what they see as one more government intrusion into our lives. The ads point to countries like Great Britain and Canada which have national health care. They site statistical data that brings into question whether we would be taking a step forward or a step backward by gutting our current system in favor of national health care models.
Obama and the Democrat's don't like the ads and are pushing back. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., made a surprising appearance at a Senate committee hearing to support repeal of 60 year-old antitrust laws that benefit insurance companies. How's that for getting even?
Whether it's Fox News, the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies, banks, talk radio, town hall meeting attendees, tea party protestors, or Republican members of Congress- beware! There is an enemies' list somewhere in the White House and maybe some of us are on it.
Nixon's paranoia and the resulting negative impact it had on America may one day seem tame when compared to what's unfolding now in the bunker at the White House. His ghost is stirring back at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.