Video: Lamar Alexander advises Obama to stop being Nixon

posted at 3:55 pm on October 21, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

This carries an extra added zing from Senator Lamar Alexander, as he started his political career as a staffer to Richard Nixon. When he says a President has assumed a certain Nixonian paranoia, well, he should know. Alexander warns Barack Obama to stop building “enemies lists” in the White House and to start acting, well … presidential:

It’s lengthy and rather Senatorial, but the content packs a punch. Will other media outlets carry this? If they do, then Obama’s little war with Fox will spread to Capitol Hill, where many of his colleagues appear in order to get face time to impress the constituents back home. An ill-advised media strategy may become a political disaster in a season where Democrats can ill afford another one.

In 1969 and during the first half of 1970, I was a wet-behind-the-ears, 29-year-old staff aide in the West Wing of the Nixon White House. I was working for the wisest man in that White House, Bryce Harlow, who was a friend of President Johnson, as well as the favorite staff member of President Eisenhower, and President Nixon’s first appointee.

Based upon that experience and my forty years since then in and out of public life, I want to make what I hope will be taken as a friendly suggestion to President Obama and his White House: don’t create an enemies list.

As I was leaving the White House in 1970, Mr. Harlow was heading out on the campaign plane with Vice President Spiro Agnew whose job was to vilify Democrats and to help elect Republicans. The Vice President had the help of talented young speechwriters, the late Bill Safire and Pat Buchanan. In Memphis, he called Albert Gore, Sr., the “southern regional chairman of the eastern liberal establishment.” He labeled the increasingly critical news media, “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

Those phrases have become part of our political lore. They began playfully enough, in the back and forth of political election combat. After I had come home to Tennessee, they escalated into something more. They eventually emerged into the Nixon enemies list.

In 1971 Chuck Colson, who was then a member of President Nixon’s staff and today is admired for his decades of selfless work in prison reform, presented a list of what he called “persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration.” He said he thought the administration should “maximize our incumbency . . . [or] to put it more bluntly, . . . use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.” On that list of 20 people were people like CBS correspondent Daniel Schorr, Washington Star columnist Mary McGrory, Leonard Woodcock, the head of the United Auto Workers, John Conyers, the Democratic Congressman from Michigan, Edwin Guthman, managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, and several prominent businessmen such as Howard Stein, of the Dreyfus Corporation and Arnold Picker, vice president of United Artists. The New York Times and the Washington Post were made out to be enemies of the Republic.

Now make no mistake, politics was not such a gentlemanly affair in those days either. After Barry Goldwater had won the Presidential nomination in 1964, Daniel Schorr had told CBS viewers that Goldwater had – quote – “travel[led] to Germany to join-up with the right wing there” and – quote “visit[ed] Hitler’s old stomping ground.” — unquote. Schorr later corrected that on the air.

What was different about Colson’s effort, though, was the open declaration of war upon anyone who seemed to disagree with administration policies. Colson later expanded his list to include hundreds of people, including Joe Namath, John Lennon, Carol Channing, Gregory Peck, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Congressional Black Caucus, Alabama Governor George Wallace. All this came out during the Watergate hearings. You could see an administration spiraling downwards. And, of course, we all know where that led.

Now the only reason I mention this is because I have an uneasy feeling, only ten months into this new administration, that we’re beginning to see symptoms of this same kind of animus developing in the Obama administration.

According to Politico, the White House plans to “neuter the United States Chamber of Commerce,” an organization with members in almost every major community in America. The Chamber had supported the President’s stimulus package and some of his early appointments, but has problems with his health care and climate change proposals.

The Department of Health and Human Services imposed a gag order on a large health care company, Humana, who had warned its Medicare Advantage customers that their benefits might be reduced in Democratic health care reform proposals—a piece of information that is perfectly true. This gag order was lifted only after the Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said he would block any future nominees to the Department until the matter was righted.

The White House Communications director recently announced that the administration would treat a major television network, Fox News, as “part of the Opposition.” On Sunday White House officials were all over talk shows urging other news organizations to “boycott” Fox and not pick up any of its stories. Those stories, for example, would include the video that two amateur filmmakers made of ACORN representatives explaining how to open a brothel. That’s a story other media managed to ignore until almost a week later when Congress decided to cut ACORN’s funding.

The President has not stopped blaming banks and investment houses for the financial meltdown even as it has become clear that Congress played a huge role, too, by encouraging Americans to borrow money for houses they couldn’t afford.

He was “taking names” of bondholders who resisted the GM and Chrysler bailouts.

Insurance companies, once the allies of the Obama health care proposal, have suddenly become the source of all our health care problems—because they pointed out, again correctly, that if Congress taxes insurance premiums and restricts coverage to those who are sicker and older, the cost of premiums for millions of Americans is likely to go up instead of down.

Because of that insubordination, the President and his allies have threatened to take away the insurance companies antitrust exemption.

Even those of us in Congress have found ourselves in the crosshairs:

The assistant Republican leader, Sen. John Kyl of Arizona, said to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the stimulus plan wasn’t working. The White House wrote the governor of Arizona and said, “If you don’t want the money, we won’t send it.” Sen. McCain said that this could be perceived as a threat to the people of Arizona.

Sen. Bennett of Utah and Sen. Collins and I as well as Democratic Senators Byrd and Feingold all have questioned the number and power of the 18 new White House czars who are not confirmed by the Senate and have suggested that is a threat to constitutional checks and balances. The White House refused to send anyone to testify at congressional hearings. Sen. Bennet and I found ourselves “called out” on the White House blog by the President’s communications director, Anita Dunn.

Even the president, in his address to Congress on health care, threatened to “call out” members of congress who disagreed with him.

This behavior is typical of street brawls and political campaign consultants. It is a mistake for the President of the United States and the White House staff.

If the President and his top aides treat people with different views as enemies instead of listening to what they have to say, they’re likely to end up with a narrow view and a feeling that the whole world is out to get them. And as those of use who served in the Nixon administration know, that can get you into a lot of trouble.

This administration is only ten months old. It’s not too late to take a different approach – both at the White House and here in the Congress.

Here is one opportunity. At the beginning of this year, shortly after the President’s inauguration, the Republican leader, Sen. McConnell, addressed the National Press Club. He proposed that he and the President work together to make social security solvent. He said that he would make sure the President got more support in that effort from Republicans than President George W. Bush got from Democrats when he tried to solve the same problem. President Obama held a summit on the dangers of the runaway costs of entitlements which I attended. Every expert there said making social security solvent was essential to our country’s fiscal stability. There is still time to get that done.

On clean energy, Republicans have put forward four ideas: build 100 nuclear plants in 20 years, electrify half our cars and trucks in 20 years, explore offshore for low-carbon natural gas and for oil, and double energy research and development for alternative fuels. The administration agrees with this on electric cars and research and development. We may not be far apart on offshore exploration. And, at his town meeting in New Orleans last week, the President said the United States would be “stupid” not to use nuclear power. He is right, since nuclear reactors produce 70% of our carbon free electricity. So why don’t we work together on this lower-cost way to address clean energy and climate change instead of enacting a national energy tax?

On health care, the White House idea of bipartisanship has been akin to that of a marksman at the state fair shooting gallery: hit one target and you win the prize. With such big Democratic congressional majorities, the White House figures all it needs to do is unify the Democrats and pick off one or two Republicans.

That strategy may win the prize but lose the country. Usually, on complex issues, the President needs bipartisan support in Congress to reassure and achieve broad and lasting support in the country. In 1968 I can remember when President Johnson, with bigger majorities in Congress than President Obama has today, arranged for the Civil Rights Bill to be written in open sessions over several weeks in the office of the Republican leader, Everett Dirksen. Dirksen got some of the credit; Johnson got the legislation he wanted; the country went along with it. Instead of comprehensive health care that raises premiums and increases the debt, why should the White House not work with Republicans step by step to reduce health care costs, and then, as we can afford it, reduce the number of Americans who don’t have access to health care?

The President and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan have been courageous— there is no better word for it— in advocating paying teachers more for teaching well and expanding the number of charter schools. These ideas are the Holy Grail for school reform. They are also ideas that are anathema to the labor unions who support the President. President Obama’s advocacy of master teachers and charter schools could be the domestic of equivalent of President Nixon going to China. I, among others, admire his advocacy and have been doing all I can help him.

Having once been there, I can understand how those in the White House feel oppressed by those with whom they disagree, how they feel besieged by some of the media. I hope the current White House occupants will understand that this is nothing new in American politics—all the way back to the days when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson exchanged insults. The only thing new is that there are today multiple media outlets reporting and encouraging the insults 24 hours a day.

As any veteran of the Nixon White House can attest, we’ve been down this road before and it won’t end well. An “enemies list” only denigrates the Presidency and the Republic itself.

Forty years ago, Bryce Harlow would say to me, “Now Lamar, remember that our job here is to push all the merely important issues out of the white house so the president can deal with the handful of issues that are truly presidential.” Then he would slip off for a private meeting in the Capitol with Democratic leaders who controlled the congress and usually find a way to enact the president proposals.

Most successful leaders have eventually seen the wisdom of Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who said, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies.
The British writer Edward Dicey was once introduced to President Lincoln as “one of his enemies”. “I did not know I had any enemies,” was the Lincoln’s answer; And Dicey later wrote, “I can still feel, as I write, the grip of that great boney hand held out to me in token of friendship.”

So here’s my point. These are unusually difficult times, with plenty of forces encouraging us to disagree. Let’s not start calling people out and compiling an enemies list. Let’s push the street-brawling out of the White House and work together on the truly presidential issues: creating jobs, reducing health care costs, reducing the debt, creating clean energy.


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I AM a crook!

Gob on October 21, 2009 at 3:58 PM

What was different about Colson’s effort, though, was the open declaration of war upon anyone who seemed to disagree with administration policies. Colson later expanded his list to include hundreds of people, including Joe Namath, John Lennon, Carol Channing, Gregory Peck, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Congressional Black Caucus, Alabama Governor George Wallace. All this came out during the Watergate hearings. You could see an administration spiraling downwards. And, of course, we all know where that led.

A man who can use history to give clarity to the present.

Statesmanship.

ted c on October 21, 2009 at 3:59 PM

You tell ‘em, Lamar. (TN-RINO)

Grrrrrr.

Labamigo on October 21, 2009 at 4:01 PM

Michelle doesn’t have a fur coat. She has a good Communist Mao jacket… of course I tell her she’d look like Angela Davis wearing anything.

JohnGalt23 on October 21, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Having trouble posting. Hello?

Gob on October 21, 2009 at 4:04 PM

That’s a magnificent speech and should leave a mark, if any of these clowns in the White House are capable of feeling chastened. Lamar Alexander is hardly a right-wing bomb-thrower, and his more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone is pitch perfect here.

rockmom on October 21, 2009 at 4:05 PM

Bbbb..b.b.bbut i thought we were supposed to compare him to Lincoln, to Roosevelt, to president’s of stature, of substance, of honesty and of good stock. How is it that this guy can juxtapose the current president with president’s whom the MSM haven’t told us to compare him to? How is that?

*does not compute*
*error**error*

ted c on October 21, 2009 at 4:10 PM

Lamar Alexander is about to be “called out” again…

d1carter on October 21, 2009 at 4:11 PM

OT- just read a summary of a horrible decision by a Minnesota (?) judge in the flying imam case against US Air. Very scary stuff- methinks AQ will be celebrating today.

LASue on October 21, 2009 at 4:11 PM

The White House Communications director recently announced that the administration would treat a major television network, Fox News, as “part of the Opposition.” On Sunday White House officials were all over talk shows urging other news organizations to “boycott” Fox and not pick up any of its stories. Those stories, for example, would include the video that two amateur filmmakers made of ACORN representatives explaining how to open a brothel. That’s a story other media managed to ignore until almost a week later when Congress decided to cut ACORN’s funding.

Absolutely love the fact that the comment abount ACORN has been entered into the official record. Especially since new revelations have surfaced today. This was a very good speech and clearly details all of the ways in which The 0bama administration is attacking it’s political and civilian enemies. Go get em!!

glennbo on October 21, 2009 at 4:12 PM

Lamar is currently on Cavuto.

txag92 on October 21, 2009 at 4:12 PM

Tricky Dicky to Inane Hussein

Hening on October 21, 2009 at 4:13 PM

Cliff notes for the whole 13 minutes:
President obama, I worked in a WH admin that was far less narcissistic than yours is, and that admin was Nixon’s. (slaps obama across the face)
“barry, what the hell are you doing?”
O-”let me be perfectly clear…uh…uh…uhh.. fox news sucks…but since I don’t wanna be compared to my best friend Chavez, i refuse to follow up my hateful statements of Fox news with the confiscation of their white house press corps credentials”

viviliberoomuori on October 21, 2009 at 4:14 PM

added to above statement:
“that is why, as POTUS, i choose to vote present on this particular issue, and let my fellow radicals in the WH do all the damage for me”

viviliberoomuori on October 21, 2009 at 4:16 PM

When he resigned, Nixon said:

“Always give your best; never get discouraged; never be petty. Always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”

I don’t even believe(despite what some 4th grader at a townhall meeting alleges) that the majority of Obama’s opponents hate him. But he’s going to destroy himself and his party with his current strategy.

Doughboy on October 21, 2009 at 4:16 PM

Nixon?He wants to be Stalin.

Farfed on October 21, 2009 at 4:18 PM

Lamar is currently on Cavuto.

txag92 on October 21, 2009 at 4:12 PM

Did you catch the earlier segment, where the dems are locking, and changing locks,(Literally) to keep Republicans out of meetings?

Now THAT’s Democracy in action! NOT!!!!!!!!!!

capejasmine on October 21, 2009 at 4:19 PM

That’s going to leave a mark.

Sir, I knew Richard Nixon and you remind me of Richard Nixon.

Oink on October 21, 2009 at 4:20 PM

Did you catch the earlier segment, where the dems are locking, and changing locks,(Literally) to keep Republicans out of meetings?

Now THAT’s Democracy in action! NOT!!!!!!!!!!

capejasmine on October 21, 2009 at 4:19 PM

Seriously. I’m sure that’s breaking a rule or law.

Oink on October 21, 2009 at 4:21 PM

The military might be one area Obama better be careful. Not to many people will be forgiving if he makes an enemy of the military.

fourdeucer on October 21, 2009 at 4:21 PM

ouch.

Let me be clear…He I will be his my own undoing.

sandlin71 on October 21, 2009 at 4:23 PM

Nixon? Oh please does anyone here actually think President Obama would join the military like Nixon did?

LincolntheHun on October 21, 2009 at 4:23 PM

Tricky Dick is twice the man Dear Leader is. Dear Leader’s parallel is the man who followed him, Jimmy Carter, who proceeded to be the worst president of the twentieth century.

Tricky Dick would never befriend the Taliban, waffle on troops in Afghanistan, appease North Korea or Russia. Tricky Dick despite his paranoia and racism/antisemitism would never compromise US Security. Do not compare Dear Leader with Tricky Dick. There are worlds apart.

nyx on October 21, 2009 at 4:23 PM

fourdeucer on October 21, 2009 at 4:21 PM

Oh, he’s already managed to light that fuse long ago.

MarkABinVA on October 21, 2009 at 4:27 PM

Well, there’s one president the MSM didn’t compare Obama to during the leadup to his holy transfiguration on Jan. 20.

Lincoln? No.
FDR? No.
Reagan, heck no!

Nixon, yep.

Good job, Barry.

NebCon on October 21, 2009 at 4:29 PM

Will other media outlets carry this?

sure, once dear leader has gone through it and spliced the parts that criticize him, it’ll get the seal of approval…

cmsinaz on October 21, 2009 at 4:30 PM

Instead of a Checkers speech we’ll get a Bo speech.

Beaglemom on October 21, 2009 at 4:30 PM

Did you catch the earlier segment, where the dems are locking, and changing locks,(Literally) to keep Republicans out of meetings?

Now THAT’s Democracy in action! NOT!!!!!!!!!!

capejasmine on October 21, 2009 at 4:19 PM

Now how do they get away with this crap? I suppose I am taxed without representation if this is allowed. Am I correct? This is moving faster to dictatorship than I can believe. I want normal America back. I want to go into a time machine and have a do over, please.

NJ Red on October 21, 2009 at 4:31 PM

Oh, he’s already managed to light that fuse long ago.

MarkABinVA on October 21, 2009 at 4:27 PM

Just read The Orders We Will Not Obey looks like a site to add to favorites. Thanks!

fourdeucer on October 21, 2009 at 4:32 PM

Frankly, if any president has gotten a blast back from this Fox attack, it’s Obama.

I’d say most presidents in my lifetime would get a clue.

I rather doubt this one will.

AnninCA on October 21, 2009 at 4:32 PM

The important thing is that…I…have an enemies list.

And you know who you are.

TXUS on October 21, 2009 at 4:33 PM

Now if Republicans will just stop acting like Nixon…

>>> Taking us off the Gold Standand or something

>>> Creating the Environmental Protection agency or something

>>> Kissing the Red Ass of China or something

we might just have a decent reason to vote GOP again.

seejanemom on October 21, 2009 at 4:34 PM

I am really tired of the BS that this is politics as usual,,,,I am in the Mark Levin, Mike Savage, Rush school of thought that this a bloodless coup attempt to “change” and reshape this great country into a progressive/communist state. This is not an R and D thing,,,,,this is survival. This will get ugly and it will not be bloodless. That is the reality. It is already costing military lives,,,,this SOB is voting present.

retiredeagle on October 21, 2009 at 4:34 PM

A man who can use history to give clarity to the present.

Statesmanship.

ted c on October 21, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Had a gentleman stop by the house this morning soliciting votes,he’s running for Highway Superintendent which constitutes a sizable portion of our local budget.He mentioned the very fact that we lack Statesman to stand up for what is right and known. The man came across as very sincere to get thier budget under controll. When asked he told us he had never been involved in politics before but was tired of watching his taxes go up continually and seeing as he was involved in major construction for 25 years he felt he had background to help the local taxpayers. Thru mutual conversation he expressed his opinion that he very much supported Sarah Palin and what she’s trying to do, i,ll be voting for John E.Lewis in thirteen days.

heshtesh on October 21, 2009 at 4:38 PM

“Sen. Bennet and I found ourselves “called out” on the White House blog by the President’s communications director, Anita Dunn.”

Tongue lashing…?

Seven Percent Solution on October 21, 2009 at 4:41 PM

This is not the Nixon I thought I knew…

Kafir on October 21, 2009 at 4:48 PM

Senator Alexander is right. Rahm Emmanuel and Axelrod should have this much class, but I surely don’t expect to see it happen in the near future. I think two children in the White House, Sasha and Malia, is fine. I just despise the “adult children” who are running the White House, all of them. The EU may like Obama, but I think it’s a tad more important that US citizens like him and the job he’s doing.

elclynn on October 21, 2009 at 4:50 PM

Well spoken. Well intentioned. Very thoughtful. I hope they don’t listen to one iota of it. They will marginalize themselves faster than any other administration b4 them!

JAM on October 21, 2009 at 4:57 PM

I think Obama made the mistake of thinking that his base is representative of the country as a whole. The truth is most people do not like this sort of behavior. It really is unpresidential.

Terrye on October 21, 2009 at 4:58 PM

Oh my. A Republican Senator is advising B. Hussein Obama.

Yeah, that’s gotta real zing to it. That ought to sting, huh?

Well, no. Not really. We just needed to fill one of those boxes on the right side of the two-column checkerboard.

pabarge on October 21, 2009 at 5:12 PM

You tell ‘em, Lamar. (TN-RINO)

Grrrrrr.

Labamigo on October 21, 2009 at 4:01 PM

I’ve followed Lamar Alexander’s career since the 1970′s and I’ve met him a number of times. While he isn’t as consistently conservative as I would like him to be, he’s not a RINO. I see him as typical of Southern Republicans pre-Reagan. There is a difference between Republicans like Alexander from a John McCain or a Lindsey Graham. Lamar Alexander has not made it a habit to knife his party in the back.

flyfisher on October 21, 2009 at 5:15 PM

we might just have a decent reason to vote GOP again.

seejanemom

Not that I was likely to ever throw my vote back their way but they completely erased any chance of it with their “pro-rape” vote in the Senate. A story which hasn’t been covered either at Hotair or at MM’s blog from what I’ve seen (if it has please correct me). If I’m wrong, I’m wrong but otherwise the silence of my two favorite news sources is deafening on that issue.

Benaiah on October 21, 2009 at 5:18 PM

If I’m wrong, I’m wrong but otherwise the silence of my two favorite news sources is deafening on that issue.

Benaiah on October 21, 2009 at 5:18 PM

It’s rough being a single-issue voter. It pretty much boots you out of the system entirely.

AnninCA on October 21, 2009 at 5:20 PM

It’s rough being a single-issue voter. It pretty much boots you out of the system entirely.

AnninCA

I’m far from a single issue voter. As I said, I was already unlikely to ever vote Republican (never voted Democrat either) even before that issue came up.

Benaiah on October 21, 2009 at 5:25 PM

Hi all,

Here’s the 2:42 highlight reel of Sen. Alexander’s speech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0y1FU2WGDrM

Sean Hackbarth
Senate Republican Conference

seanhackbarth on October 21, 2009 at 5:27 PM

AnninCA on October 21, 2009 at 5:20 PM

“Preview” is your friend!

Del Dolemonte on October 21, 2009 at 5:28 PM

“Preview” is your friend!

Del Dolemonte on October 21, 2009 at 5:28 PM

No kidding. That last post sure surprised me, too.

AnninCA on October 21, 2009 at 6:04 PM

Damn. That stung. Let’s see if the media earns their cookie and “pat on the head” by ignoring this blistering and fact based critique.

Ampersand on October 21, 2009 at 6:08 PM

It’s a bout time Republicans showed some moxie.

Cr4sh Dummy on October 21, 2009 at 8:10 PM

This was a very good speech. I’m glad I watched it rather than simply read it. Sure it may have been long and rather “senatorial,” but it was also 1) well-researched and replete with personal anecdotes, 2) respectfully delivered, and 3) delivered out of concern, not hyperbolic indictment. That, then, in our YouTube drive-by gleaning of the days events through a pastiche of clips, is why the majority of Americans (especially network news viewers) will never see it. Sad.

I commend Senator Alexander for taking the time to write and deliver it.

flyfisher on October 21, 2009 at 5:15 PM

and thanks FF for adding that. I feel better about my reaction to the speech. That comment added a nice touch.

Captain Scarlet on October 22, 2009 at 4:27 AM

As Rush pointed out, Sen. Alexander is not so naive as to expect Obama will heed his words. He’s just putting it out there on the record that Obama intends to out-Nixon Nixon when it comes to the demonization and ultimate destruction of anyone who stands in his way. The thing about vendettas is that they can turn, like a runaway torpedo, and bite the hand that sent it (not a pretty mixed metaphor, but I haven’t had my coffee yet).

SKYFOX on October 22, 2009 at 9:27 AM

When will someone make a serious comparison between the Obama Administration and Chaeve in Venezuala.

davod on October 22, 2009 at 10:07 AM

Very statesman-like speech. Impressive.

bigjack on October 22, 2009 at 10:16 AM