When Bob Woodward, one of two Washington Post reporters who were instrumental in cracking open Watergate, went on MSNBC and compared Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal to Richard Nixon’s tapes, eyebrows went up all over Washington. Then it was reported that FBI analysts may be able to recover some of the e-mails that were “wiped” off of Hillary’s private server as well as learn who had access to it and whether outsiders tried to hack it. Comparisons to Nixon and his tapes are becoming more concrete.
The comparison drew howling scorn from Clinton defenders. On Wednesday, veteran Clinton consigliere James Carville went on MSNBC to rail against “stupid media people” for obsessing “over a pile of garbage.” Sounding like Nixon minion Ron Ziegler’s diatribes against the Washington Post during Watergate, Carville dismissed Post writers as being employed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who is “running that sweatshop out there in Seattle,” adding: ”There’s nobody editing that newspaper as far as I can see.”
On Thursday, Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC seemed almost desperate to get better answers from Hillary: “She seems to be really struggling . . . and the problem is that there’s not a good answer. Right? Does anyone have a good answer for this?” Her co-host, Joe Scarborough, responded: “There is not a good answer.” Brzezinski then plaintively said, “Really, work on it — make up one.” In other words: Make. It. Go. Away.
Eugene Robinson, a liberal columnist at the Washington Post, has even resurrected a word Nixon made famous during Watergate: “stonewalled.” In a column last Monday he wrote that Hillary “stonewalled for so long — there’s no other word for her stance — that recent pledges of openness and cooperation ring hollow.”
Democrats should be very nervous about the growing Nixon comparisons.
As I wrote for NRO last March:
The Republican party and conservatives paid a stiff price for swallowing doubts about Nixon and elevating him to the presidency. There was enough evidence for them to be deeply concerned about how he would perform in office. There is certainly ample evidence for Democrats to worry about what a return of the Clintons to the White House could mean for their party. . . . If Democrats ignore the warning signs about Hillary the way Republicans ignored the ones raised about Richard Nixon, they may well also owe history and their party a future accounting.
After all, Democrats should remember the last time the Clintons were in the White House. Bill won election twice with a minority of the vote, but Democrats lost control of both houses of Congress two years into his presidency — and that in a time of peace and relative prosperity.
Pat Buchanan, a former speechwriter for Richard Nixon who advised his boss to burn the Oval Office tapes, told Newsmax TV:
If I were a Democrat and looking forward to the election of 2016 and I looked at what’s been done and what’s been coming out, what’s been revealed, and what looks like it’s going to be revealed . . . I would feel we have a candidate here who’s walking through a landmine [field] for the next 18 months, and if one of those landmines goes off, that could take out her candidacy and leave you with no one really able to take on the Republican party.
Chris Matthews, the MSNBC host and former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, still believes Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination. But even he says there are troublesome aspects to her campaign:
Most politicians want you to know everything about them. They do like the fact that [there is] public exposure. She is the absolute opposite, like Nixon was. The exact opposite of that.
She’s in a public life that she doesn’t actually want to be in personally. So she puts out this avatar, this person that cares about children, this image, this is this person. . . . Her image is only a policymaking being, not a person. I’m telling you, that’s the thing that haunted her for 30 years. I don’t want to talk about me. That makes her unique.
But she isn’t. Hillary Clinton does share Richard Nixon’s penchant for secrecy and dissembling, an obsession with enemies, and an inability to change course until even more damage is done. The country paid a terrible price electing to its highest office a person with Nixon’s character flaws. If Democrats don’t understand that their self-interest lies in looking at other candidates before their 2016 convention, they face a strong chance that over a long campaign the public will come to agree that Hillary has too many Nixonian qualities to be trusted with high office. I simply don’t believe that an electorate that says it’s sick and tired of Washington scheming and evasiveness will elect a candidate who personifies those qualities.
— John Fund is national-affairs correspondent for National Review.