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Jonathan Alter & The Ghost of Nixon

Jonathan Alter provides a classic liberal misreading of the political dynamics at play in the leaked story on the NSA’s covert spy program. Alter reports that President Bush called in both the publisher and the executive editor of the New York Times on December 6 in a “futile attempt to talk them out of running the story…..one can only imagine the president’s desperation.”

Alter ridicules the idea that Bush’s concern in seeing the story published was U.S. national security.

No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story…..because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker…..the president knew publication would cause him great embarrassment and trouble for the rest of his presidency. It was for that reason—and less out of genuine concern about national security—that George W. Bush tried so hard to kill the New York Times story.

Yeah, Bush looked real desperate yesterday at the press conference when he was defending his decision to authorize the NSA to monitor those communications. The left-wing mind is so warped by the prism of Vietnam, Nixon, and Watergate they seem utterly incapable of any type of objective political analysis.

First, there is a complete misconception about the politics of the late 60’s and 70’s due to the glorification of the hippie, anti-government culture by the press and Hollywood. A student of history who only watched American TV and movies and read The Washington Post and  The New York Times wouldn’t understand the four presidential results between 1968-1980.

Just to recount the facts: in 1968, Richard Nixon and the virulently anti-hippie George Wallace got 57% of the vote. In 1972, Nixon received over 60% of the vote. In 1976, with Republicans utterly on the ropes after Nixon’s disgrace and impeachment, Jimmy Carter barely beat that political powerhouse Gerald Ford. The public put a final punctuation point on the era in 1980 with Reagan’s 489 electoral vote wipeout of Carter.

But to someone like Alter, the late 60’s and 70’s were the penultimate halcyon days for the press and politics. It was when the “good guys” in the liberal press took out the “bad guys” in the Republican party. The mindset survives among many to this day who constantly see the ghost of Nixon around every corner.

Alter is clueless when it comes to the political ramifications of this story. Politically, the White House loves this story. As I mentioned in my column yesterday, it dovetails nicely with the debate over the Patriot Act, Iraq and works to reinforce the existing image of the Democratic party as just not serious when it comes to the nation’s security.

Monitoring phone calls between al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan or Pakistan and individuals in the United States when the there is a gray area when it comes to the legal issues is not going to incite a public rage against the president. To repeat, this is a political loser for Democrats.

Alter and his ideological colleagues are the real ones in a bubble.