The near-simultaneous publication of Rick Perlstein's Nixonland and Sean Wilentz's The Age of Reagan has stirred up a lot of controversy among the GOP history set. Basically, the question boils down to, "Is conservatism all Nixon, or all Reagan?" Perlstein--though he wrote the seminal work on Goldwater--argues that the conservative revolution was all culture war; all Southern Strategy; all resentment and Id: in essence, that it is all Nixon.
Via Ben Smith, I see that pollster Peter Hart is drawing an analogy between Hillary and Nixon in 1968, which, as Ben puts it, means she's respected among voters but not loved. For a while last year, I thought Al Gore might play the this role--the historical analogy between him and Nixon was even tighter (lose a close presidential election, drop out of public view for a while, then build up goodwill among your party's rank and file, run successfully eight years later)--but I agree that it fits Hillary pretty well this time around.
My earlier post on the Nixon tapes, which include the former president's embarrassing inability to have actual human relations, reminded me of this Christopher Hitchens review of Nixon's memoirs: The most agonizing chapter is undoubtedly the one entitled 'Friends', which more than fulfils the arch and dreadful promise of its title. "I had often heard that real friends are there when you need them the most," writes Nixon.
In the historical race to the bottom that is Nixon v. Bush, the late trickster would seem to have the edge: He was an unimpeachable lawbreaker-- actually, an impeachable one--a claim that doesn't quite stick to Bush. But, in the last month, Bush has been closing fast. While he may not have any second- rate burglaries under his belt, his record now includes his very own version of the Saturday Night Massacre, thanks to the purging of eight U.S. attorneys.
The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 By Dinesh D'Souza (Doubleday, 333 pp., $26.95) I. American conservatism is in crisis. That much is almost universally clear. But the next period in American politics will be determined not least by how clearly we understand the crisis of the right. For it may be that the remarkably successful Republican coalition of the last three decades is not at all doomed at the polls. A Giuliani or Romney candidacy, especially up against a Clinton candidacy, could well eke out a victory in 2008.
by Michael Kazin Gerald Ford would indeed have been generous and statesmanlike if he'd pardoned those who broke the draft laws at the same time as he pardoned Nixon. But he also would have split his party and perhaps lost his chance to win the 1976 nomination--particularly against Reagan, whose political base despised the anti-war movement. At any rate, I still think the Nixon pardon was a mistake. Granted, presidents should not undergo prosecution while they're still in office. But why should they be immune once they leave it?
The Washington Post's Outlook section this week devotes considerable space to famous historians' assessments of where Bush will place on the list of our country's greatest presidents. Unsurprisingly, the consensus is that Bush 43 will rank, well, close to 43rd.
Dean Acheson: A Life in the Cold War By Robert L. Beisner (Oxford University Press, 768 pp., $35) I. "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." The speaker could have been Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, or Bill Clinton. In fact, it was George W. Bush, in his second inaugural address; and what he said is what historians will probably remember as the Bush Doctrine.
The 9/11 Commission was "set up to fail." So says its chairman, former Republican Governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean. "If you want something to fail," he explains, "you take a controversial topic and appoint five people from each party. You make sure they are appointed by the most partisan people from each party--the leaders of the party. And, just to be sure, let's ask the commission to finish the report during the most partisan period of time--the presidential election season." He could have added that President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress had agreed to create the commission onl