During a discussion period after the screening yesterday of Ron Howard’s new film “Frost/Nixon,” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace defended President Bush against criticism by Howard that Bush has abused the office of the presidency in a way similar to President Richard Nixon:
“Richard Nixon’s crimes were committed purely in the interest of his own political gain,” Mr. Wallace told Mr. Howard before an audience of a few hundred after viewing the filmmakers new film “Frost/Nixon,” which is about the only U.S. president to resign from office.
“I think to compare what Nixon did, and the abuses of power for pure political self preservation, to George W. Bush trying to protect this country — even if you disagree with rendition or waterboarding — it seems to me is both a gross misreading of history both then and now,” Mr. Wallace said.
So according to Wallace, Bush’s abuses of power in the name of national security are more palatable than Nixon’s because his motives, as Wallace said, were “to protect the country.” Thus he seems to be willing to excuse the disastrous consequences of Bush’s security policies, from the thousands killed and maimed in Iraq to the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and beyond. By that logic, Wallace could excuse the atrocities of some of history’s most ruthless dictators.
But Wallace also seems to ignore the fact that, like Nixon, the Bush White House has also abused power for political gain and to maintain control of government. Some examples:
– Outing of Valerie Plame Wilson: In 2003, the White House leaked the CIA identity of Valerie Plame Wilson as retribution for an op-ed written by Plame’s husband, former Amb. Joseph Wilson, that questioned Bush’s justification for war in Iraq.
— U.S. Attorney Scandal: An 18-month DOJ Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility investigation released in September found that the Bush administration fired nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 for political reasons.
— Hatch Act Violations: In 2003, Karl Rove and Bush re-election campaign manager Ken Mehlman “visited nearly every agency to outline White House campaign priorities, review polling data and, on occasion, call attention to tight House, Senate and gubernatorial races that could be affected by regulatory action.”
Moreover, in one way or another, the Bush White House has politicized numerous federal agencies, most notably the Justice Department, but also, HHS, the EPA, NASA, DOD, the GSA and the Interior Department.
But maybe the real difference between Nixon and Bush is that when Nixon abused his power, it didn’t cost people their lives.