First Published in The Plain Truth in the Fall of 2009! Yes, we are ahead of our time!
There have been a lot of comparisons of Obama to Roosevelt or Reagan or Kennedy but I am beginning to think he is more like Nixon. Yes, that Nixon. Perhaps enough years have passed so that people can think of Nixon in terms of something other than Watergate and his impeachment. For if you can get past his ignoble ending you might be able to see his brilliant beginning as President.
For all his faults, Nixon was a brilliant strategist. He was only 37 when he won his Senate seat after first serving in WWII and then being a Congressman for his district. Two years later, at the age of just 39, he became Eisenhower’s Vice President. I am sure there must have been a lot of talk about someone of his young age and inexperience becoming one heart beat away from the presidency. He lost his first bid for presidency in the infamous race of 1960 against JFK where to this day many believe that Kennedy’s father and Daley rigged the results from Chicago thereby giving the win to JFK. He finally came to office in 1968 when he defeated Hubert Humphrey.
Republicans are currently outraged that Obama wants to talk to our enemies. Yet no one recalls that Nixon with his Secretary of State Kissinger broke all kinds of barriers and had numerous discussions with our enemies including China and Russia. They also brokered the first agreements between Israel and Egypt and Syria. I doubt if Clinton will serve Obama as well as Kissinger did Nixon, but those who are loudly arguing against President Obama’s decision to meet with almost anyone should remember the past.
Additionally, just as President Obama is ending our involvement in Iraq so did President Nixon end our involvement with Vietnam. Is it the right thing to do? Maybe not for if history is to go by for pnce we pulled out troops then North Vietnam quickly invaded and overtook South Vietnam and still controls them today. Will Iraq someday invade and take over Iran? I don’t know but we are opening the door for them when we leave. And even if they don’t invade I wonder just how long democracy will last before a group destroys the hard earned democracy for a dictatorship or worse, rule by a religious imam.
On the domestic front, both Presidents faced economic problems. From 1968 to 1970 the Dow Jones fell 36% while inflation and unemployment increased to 9% and 6.6% respectively and by 1974 inflation was 12% resulting in even higher unemployment. After trying tax cuts and following the economic advice of Milton Friedman, Nixon did an about face after a huge Democrat mid term win. (And today people are already predicting a Republican comeback in Obama’s midterm elections of 2010.) To resolve the country’s “stagnation”, Nixon imposed wages and prices controls, took us off the gold standard resulting in the depreciation of the dollar and imposed deficit spending. All of this was seen as a betrayal of Republican beliefs and achieved little success resulting in the economic disaster which Carter made even worse a few years later.
Obama, too, is facing economic disasters and is trying to resolve it with sweeping changes. Only time will tell if it will work. But Obama is already disgruntling some liberals by including ideas that are more moderate than they would want. People today are also very concerned about government now controlling private industry through the bailouts and now actually owning a private bank. Yet no one remembers when Nixon had the government control private businesses prices and wages when he imposed price and wage freezes. Could you imagine the outrage today if Obama declared what a business could charge or what you salary would be? Yet that is exactly what happened nearly forty years ago. By the way, it was a complete disaster and did nothing to help the economy which might be a harbinger of things to come.
Almost no one remembers Nixon’s impact on the environment. Nixon personally could care less about the environment but instead implemented a strategy of being environmentally friendly in order to attract moderate Democrats plus it would counter any more radical proposals from the left. As part of his strategy he approved the landmark National Environmental Policy Act and also approved legislation to protect endangered species and threatened coastal areas plus he enacted ocean dumping restrictions along with clean air policies. President Obama, also has ideas on the environment and climate change and he, too, hopes to enact new sweeping proposals.
In addition to being young brilliant political operatives who faced similar foreign and economic problems both President Obama and President Nixon have massive egos. Granted, to run for president you need a big ego in the first place. But I think these two are different. For their ego’s are also fueled by anger; Nixon’s at the rich and powerful and Obama’s at the rich and white. Both may say they are for the little guy but both are actually only for themselves. And they will do almost anything to promote themselves; be it tossing aside dear friends who have become obstacles or tapping the other side’s offices. For with these massive egos also comes the belief that they are above the law, even rules they have implemented. Think of Obama’s self imposed rule of not hiring people associated with lobbyists and then appoints someone with a lobbyist background to a cabinet post! Or appoints a tax evader to the post which controls the IRS!
Again and again Obama has shown he is above the law, just like Nixon thought. So I can’t help but wonder if Obama will have the same kind of ending as Nixon….