Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Tale of Two Administrations

A couple of days ago I blogged about stuff that happened on August 9th in past years, and I mentioned the resignation of Richard Nixon on that day in 1974. When I was researching Nixon (and believe it or not I do a fair amount of research and fact-checking for my blogs so I don't sound like a total idiot) I got to thinking about that administration and the most recent Republican administration we had to endure. There were a number of interesting "intersections" (both parallels and contrasts) between the two, other than the creepiness and horribleness inherent in most Republican presidencies, and I present them now for your edification:

>> Say what you will about Nixon - few would dispute his rampant paranoia, mendacity and his penchant for harassing and persecuting people he perceived as enemies - but he was fairly intelligent. His vice-presidents (Spiro Agnew first, then Gerald Ford) were clueless, buffoonish morons. On the other hand George W. Bush was the feeble-minded idiot and his vice-president Dick Cheney was the evil, psychotic one. Smart and evil beats stupid and evil every time.

>> One of the crowning achievements of Nixon was his opening up of China to the world. Many scholars agree that Nixon was the only one who could have done that at the time, and it helped bring China to the table as a world player. George Bush opened Crawford, Texas, to the world, a fitting tribute to his diplomatic and leadership skills.

>> Nixon inherited the quagmire of the war in Vietnam from a previous administration (L. B. Johnson) and it very nearly destroyed him, if it weren't for his own ridiculous stupidity regarding the Watergate break-in. G. W. Bush basically inherited the Gulf War(s) from his father and it very nearly ran his presidency (and the country) into the ground. And it's still going on.

>> Both presidents had really annoying, loathsome Secretaries of Defense that you just wanted to slap the crap out of. Nixon had Melvin Laird and Bush had Donald "Short People Got No Reason To Live" Rumsfeld.

>> Nixon believed that helping Iran become powerful in the Middle East would serve to keep the Soviet Union in check. Now we're wondering how the hell Iran got nuclear capabilities. Bush believed that bolstering the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan would keep Al Qaeda in check. Except for the fact that Al Qaeda runs both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he's just making them stronger.

>> Both presidents tried to screw around with the Justice Department which ended up biting them in the butt big time. Nixon fired Watergate special independent prosecutor Archibald Cox and two others, in the infamous "Saturday Night Massacre" of October 20, 1974 because their questions and efforts were getting too inconvenient. Despite official denials from the White House, no one with an I.Q. over 60 believes that Bush didn't have any part in the Justice Department's firing of seven U.S. Attorneys because they weren't politically in tune with the Bush administration.

>> Nixon and Bush were both strong social conservatives, and their battles over a number of cultural issues were a constant source of friction and an unwelcome diversion to everything they tried to do. Nixon had the antiwar movement and the counterculture. Bush had abortion and reproductive freedom issues, gay rights and the place of religion in government.

>> Nixon's second vice-president, Gerald Ford, is primarily known for tripping and falling over stuff. Bush's vice-president Dick Cheney is primarily known for war profiteering and being one of the Living Dead. Gerald Ford was much more amusing, but then again stupid is generally quite a bit funnier than evil.

Having lived long enough to remember vividly both administrations, it would be tough for me to determine which one was worse. Both were monumentally evil and damaging for many reasons, too many and too depressing to ponder. Both served to polarize and divide the country even more than it had been, and the lasting effects of this are illustrated by the ascendancy of right-wing talk radio and the insane screaming and yelling happening at town hall meetings regarding health care reform. Both presidents left office with extremely low approval ratings. It is so difficult for me to understand how such damaged, and damaging individuals came to occupy the most powerful political office in the world.

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