October 24, 2009

Good for Joe Conason for pointing out that Pat Buchanan of all people has no business complaining about the Obama administration daring to point out that Fox News is an arm of the Republican Party after all of the things the Nixon administration did that Buchanan himself was involved in. Chris Matthews sure wasn't going to do it.

Media Matters has a nice run down of why this latest meme by the right calling the Obama administration "Nixonian" is utterly ridiculous.

Conason wrote about many of the points he attempted to make to Buchanan during this segment in his column at Salon this week--

Criticizing Fox News isn't "Nixonian." But Fox News is:

With outraged Washington journalists and Republican politicians crying "Nixonian!" over the public scuffle between the Obama White House and the Fox News Channel, what began as a mundane spat is turning into a cosmic jest. Somewhere, Nixon himself is enjoying a mordant laugh to hear this shrill defense of his old servant Roger Ailes, the television wizard whose deceptive campaigning ushered him into the presidency more than 40 years ago -- and who then became the living symbol of everything negative and nasty in American politics during the two decades that followed.

To understand what is going on today, it is essential to remember that where Ailes came from, "Nixonian" was not an insult but a badge of honor -- and seething hatred and even persecution of the press, rather than mere criticism, was a way of life.

Whatever the merits or defects of the strategy pursued by Obama's communications office in pushing back against Fox News, the furious backlash inside the Beltway is badly overwrought. Mainstream defenders of the conservative cable channel suddenly seem to be afflicted with a strange amnesia, causing them to forget not just the numerous episodes of partisan distortion that have permanently pocked its reputation, but the dirty war against the press and the First Amendment that was waged by the Nixon gang in the late '60s and early '70s. That lost memory does a disservice to journalism and history.

Continue reading...

Transcript via Lexis Nexis below the fold.

MATTHEWS: Pat, where`s the line in terms of looking bad? When do they begin to look bad?

BUCHANAN: Well, the White House staff looks bad already, I think, very bad. They look petty, the three of them going out there, saying the same thing. but the problem is, Barack Obama, Chris, the greatest asset this presidency has is Barack Obama, the fact that he`s a -- he`s a pleasant guy, that he`s got persona and he`s very attractive. He`s the greatest political asset in America today.

And you depreciate and minimize that asset by getting him involved in this urinating contest with Fox News. And they`re dragging the president down into it. And you can see from your clip today that the president said, Look, I`m not losing sleep over this. This isn`t my problem. He wants to be...

MATTHEWS: Yes. Can he keep...

BUCHANAN: ... up and away from it.

MATTHEWS: Joe, can he keep his troops out there, firing away on Fox, and keep above the battle and get away with it? Or sooner or later, does some reporter say to him, Are you singling out Fox for denial of press privileges here at the White House?

CONASON: Well, I -- look, I think...

MATTHEWS: Are you doing that, Mr. President?

CONASON: First of all, I think it`s funny to hear Pat, who worked in the Nixon White House, which constantly attacked the press in the pettiest, meanest and sometimes illegal ways, to suddenly complain that the Obama White House is doing something wrong here. That`s number one.

Number two, look, it`s best to let the president be above the fray. On the other hand, when you have a network that is organizing rallies and has Glenn Beck as the anchor for the coverage of the tea party rallies...


CONASON: ... then you`re going to have some pushback, and you better have some.

MATTHEWS: So Nixon`s your standard of morality.

BUCHANAN: Chris...

CONASON: Not mine. Not mine.


CONASON: No, I don`t think there`s...

BUCHANAN: Let me respond to that...

CONASON: I don`t think there`s a viable comparison.

BUCHANAN: ... the Nixon...

MATTHEWS: Well, let me take a look. Here`s what the White House says it`s doing. And Pat, I think they make their own case here, which you will respond to, I think. David Axelrod, who`s a smart guy -- and I think he`s a mensch -- but here he is saying something I think we can argue about. Quote, "This is a discussion that probably had to be had about their approach" -- that`s Fox -- "to things. Our concern is other media not follow their lead."

So here`s Axelrod, who`s a good guy and I think a straight shooter, Pat -- I think you`d agree...


MATTHEWS: ... admitting that they`re concerned. It`s not that Fox is Fox, but that other networks like NBC, ABC, CBS, et cetera, et cetera, AP, will begin to follow their lead in going after people like Van Jones, by looking for ACORN stories, by focusing on stories that help the right.

BUCHANAN: Well, but wait a minute...

MATTHEWS: That`s an amazing admission on his part.

BUCHANAN: The question is -- the question is not whether those stories help the right but whether they`re valid criticisms of the administration. And I don`t think what Axelrod is doing here is very bright. The reason is, he`s suggesting what the other networks, smaller networks and the big networks and the newspapers ought to do and not do.

CONASON: Yes, I agree with Pat about that.

BUCHANAN: That`s not his job. They can determine whether ACORN is a story.


BUCHANAN: They can determine whether Van Jones is a story.

As for Nixon, let me say this. That was a premeditated attack on all three networks in 1969, which the president reviewed and I wrote and nobody else in the White House was aware of. And it was a major public open assault.

CONASON: It went far beyond that, Pat, and you know it.

BUCHANAN: It wasn`t petty in the least.

CONASON: It went far beyond that. They -- look, they audited Bob Greene`s taxes...

BUCHANAN: That was a big attack and it succeeded.

CONASON: Come on. It went way beyond that. You helped -- there was an enemies list that was drawn up. Dan Schorr was on it. They were going to audit all their taxes. They tried to get Scaife to buy "The Washington Post." They attacked the "Post`s" license...

BUCHANAN: What is wrong...

CONASON: ... when it came up for renewal. Come on.

BUCHANAN: Welcome to politics!



BUCHANAN: None of these guys were audited. Nobody was indicted for that. And quite frankly, Nixon continued that up until 1972 and won 49 states.

CONASON: Well, until the IRS commissioner...


MATTHEWS: Pat, if Roger Ailes were in a situation compared right now to Barack Obama, would Nixon be auditing Roger Ailes right now?

BUCHANAN: Well, we didn`t audit -- if they had audited somebody, they would have caught them. Somebody wrote up a list and said, This is who we ought to go after...

CONASON: They audited Bob Greene at "Newsday"...

BUCHANAN: and nobody did anything.

CONASON: ... as a matter of fact.

BUCHANAN: But you know, Chris...

CONASON: For investigating Bebe Rebozo.

BUCHANAN: ... your hero is FDR. What did they say about FDR? We love him for the enemies he has made.

MATTHEWS: Right. Well, let me ask you, Pat...


BUCHANAN: ... real enemies.

MATTHEWS: Let me get this straight on your thinking.


MATTHEWS: How far do you go with enemies lists? Is it all right to - - it`s all right to do some trash talking. Everybody does it. You say who you don`t like. Fine. Is it OK to audit people? Is it OK to deny them licenses, to say, We`re going to do something to Katherine Graham at "The Washington Post," which I can`t say on television, which John Mitchell said?

CONASON: The attorney general of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Can you make those kind of threats and still be legitimate?

BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what I think you can do. I think auditing somebody is probably illegal and you ought to be caught for it, but having friends of yours challenge a license, or frankly, going with anti-trust, breaking up the networks -- Chris, they were an enormous power.


BUCHANAN: They were a major adversary. How do you deal with them? You should do it aboveboard.

CONASON: Well...

MATTHEWS: So it`s OK...

CONASON: ... it wasn`t aboveboard.

MATTHEWS: ... to keep Rupert Murdoch from getting his hands on "The Boston Herald" and things like that, and "The New York Post."

BUCHANAN: Well, Teddy Kennedy put that in a bill!

MATTHEWS: I know. And so it goes on...

BUCHANAN: You remember that, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... doesn`t it?


BUCHANAN: It`s the name of the game. Welcome to the NFL!

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