Many things were widely predicted for Barack Obama when he first ran for the White House five years ago, and many recent presidents were seen as likely role models. One side of the great partisan divide forecast historic achievements in the mold of FDR, while the other side foresaw overreaching failure in the mold of Jimmy Carter.
But almost no one — save a couple of commentators on the ideological fringe — expected Obama would get to a second term and find his legislative agenda suddenly frozen in the face of a bipartisan wave of comparisons to Richard Nixon.
“The Day the Obama Administration Went All Nixon On Us,” is the headline on today’s post from Will Bunch on the left-leaning Huffington Post, who focused his ire on revelations of Associated Press phone record seizures by the Justice Department.
“This is an agency with an enemies list,” Lou Dobbs said of the IRS on the right’s favorite cable news network, Fox, after Obama’s Monday news conference. “This is a president whose inner Nixon is being revealed.”
“Has Obama Taken a Page Out of Nixon’s Playbook?” asks the headline atop a column today by editor Jacqueline Leo in the budget hawkish but otherwise down-the-middle Fiscal Times. “There may not be direct parallels to the Obama administration, but the events of the last few months have become too big to ignore. There’s the Benghazi cover up; a slew of executive orders that bypass Congress; the IRS targeting of GOP conservative organizations; and now, the intrusion, violation and intimidation of a major news organization.”
That commentators from the left, right and center have all seen the parallels to the 37th president, who was forced to resign when his views of the “imperial presidency” jumped the shark during Watergate, should be “chilling” to the president, to use the word being ascribed to both the IRS special scrutiny for conservative groups and the DOJ’s unprecedented prying into a newsroom’s operation as party of a leak inquiry.
Forty years on, the Nixon taint remains probably the most difficult for an American politician to scrub away. And the fact that it’s being applied so widely now could not be worse for the president’s timing, because it means his already teetering domestic legislative agenda may well be supplanted at the Capitol for months to come by nothing but oversight hearings.