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Assrocket Agonistes

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Hinderaker writes:

Mitt Romney unleashed the N-word on John McCain today, accusing him of using campaign tactics “reminiscent of the Nixon era.” “I don’t think I want to see our party go back to that kind of campaigning,” Romney said. He was referring to McCain’s misleading charge that Romney, like Congressional Democrats, had advocated a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq.

I agree with Romney’s complaint about McCain’s attack, but I’m not sure the Nixon comparison is apt. My recollection of Nixon’s career is that he was at least as often the target as the perpetrator of unfair attacks. For example, it’s hard to think of a charge made in the midst of a Presidential campaign more misleading than John Kennedy’s invocation of a fictitious “missile gap” with its attendant implication that Nixon was soft on Communism.

Oh, for the love of — the missile gap? Are you shitting me? Kennedy’s dishonesty on this issue is hardly a settled matter among historians; he certainly accepted estimates of Soviet capacity (from Eisenhower’s own Air Force) that turned out later to be exaggerated, and he didn’t allow competing data from the CIA to alter his campaign message, but no one who isn’t a desperate Nixon apologist would argue that Kennedy’s use of the issue was remotely “Nixonian.” To at least his mild credit, Kennedy later acknowledged that he’d overplayed the issue.

By contrast, Tricky Dick — a man pathologically incapable of remorse — was one of the greatest fabricators and demagogues ever to compete for American political office. Forget Donald Segretti’s successful rat-fucking of the 1972 Muskie campaign, or the Gemstone project that led directly to the Watergate burglary, or any of the rest of it. Let’s just recall Nixon’s inaugural campaigns for the House (1946) and Senate (1950), both of which were abjectly dishonest — and, in the latter race against Helen Douglas, misogynist — operations that founded and set the tone for his career.

In the ’46 campaign, Nixon ended Jerry Voorhis’ career after five terms in the House by claiming that Voorhis had accepted the endorsement of a “communist” group (CIO-PAC) that he had in fact rejected. Nixon repeated the lie at every turn, though, including at one of their debates, where he waved a piece of paper that was supposed to have furnished “proof” of the endorsement. It didn’t — the endorsement had been offered by a completely unrelated organization. The truth of the matter (which Nixon knew) did nothing to deter him, and he won the race. Four years later, after delivering Alger Hiss’ head on a platter to the anti-communist right, Nixon smeared his way into the Senate by duplicating the venality his 1946 campaign. This time, Helen Douglas was the target. Nixon deliberately distorted her voting record to bolster false accusations about Douglas’ “fellow traveler” sympathies; he famously described her as being “pink right down to her underwear”; and he pursued an anti-Semitic whisper campaign to remind voters that Douglas’ husband was Jewish. The vote in November 1950 wasn’t even close.

It takes a special kind of hack to diminish Nixon’s legacy to the point at which he seems to have peers. But I suppose that’s why blogs like Powerline exist.

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