Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bush vs. Nixon: Chris Wallace's Argument

Chris Wallace's now-celebrated defense of George W. Bush at the expense of Richard Nixon is disappointing. During a Washington panel discussion, he said:
It trivializes Nixon's crimes and completely misrepresents what George W. Bush did...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.
To paraphrase Wallace, even if you disagree with something that the Nixon Administration did, it is beyond question that President Nixon and his aides had come to the conclusion that their policies in Vietnam and in dealing with the Cold War were vital to the future of the country. Reducing Mr. Nixon's motives to "pure political self-preservation" fails to take into account a seriousness of purpose about foreign affairs for which even most of his critics give him credit.

This is not to suggest that President Bush is as craven as Wallace accuses President Nixon of having been. But it does raise the question (which Wallace himself invites) of whether the activities of the Plumbers in trying to get to the bottom of national security leaks during wartime are really worse than rendition and waterboarding while fighting the war on terrorism.

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