One of the strange parts of the modern mass media age is that the mainstream is vastly more rigid and doctrinaire than in the prior age. Everyone assumed that the burst of new media platforms would broaden the scope of what is acceptable discourse. In the 90’s we were endlessly hearing about how “new voices” and “new perspectives” would change the conversation. Instead, it was one purging after another as the Overton Window swung left and became increasingly narrow.
The most obvious example that comes to mind is the treatment of Mark Steyn by the Conservative Industrial Complex. He made some glib comments about how homosexuals were discussed in the old days and was pilloried by the hysterical homosexual activist editor of National Review. Eventually, he was driven off the site as a heretic. His crime was being funny and interesting, which is always a problem for the ideologues.
Anyway, one result of this weird narrowing of the range of acceptable opinion is that decent writers have to figure out how to take the fringe ideas and make them respectable. It is often an impossible job as so much has been deemed unacceptable. We live in a land where you can be fired from your job because you noticed that guys named Mohamed have a habit of exploding in public.
Still, the fringe is the incubator of interesting thought these days. A theme with the Red Pill Right, for example, is that we are in a similar phase as we were in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The Left is running out of steam as its ideas become increasing absurd and dangerous. Disorder and malaise are causing the silent majority to look around for someone to restore sanity to government and put things back into their proper order.
That’s what bleeds through here in this Ross Douthat column about Ted Cruz. It is against the law now to mention Nixon as anything other than the Hitler of the 1970’s so comparing Cruz to Tricky Dick is, as they say, problematic. Instead, Douthat has to rely on a reference to a fictional character most of his readers have to pretend to know. It is not a great way to get into the essential character of Ted Cruz, but it opens the door a bit to historical comparison at the root of it.
I wrote the other day about Cruz being a sigma male and that is not a terrible framing, but a more useful one is to look at Cruz as the modern incarnation of Dick Nixon. Cruz, like Nixon, is a guy you instinctively want to avoid. There was an alien aspect to Nixon that even his friends found to be off-putting. His enemies, of course, pounced on these things, hence the name “Tricky Dick.” Cruz has this same problem. His friends are not enthusiastic about him, but his enemies are very enthusiastic.
Nixon, like Cruz, was never embraced by the GOP. Eisenhower picked him as his VP but treated him like bad odor. Ike was universally revered, but Nixon, despite his talents, was despised by the WASP elite of both parties. Democrats hated him for Alger Hiss and Republicans hated him for being low-class. The fact that Nixon was smarter and more knowledgeable about international affairs made things worse as he could not be dismissed as a rube.
That seems to be a similar issue with Cruz. He had few friends in the Bush administration, despite checking all the boxes and being super smart. Of all the candidates running, on paper he should have been the first choice of the GOP elite. Instead, he was the last choice. Even now, he is not really an option, just a useful weapon against Trump. It is quite remarkable how much the party establishment hates the guy.
Of course, like Nixon, Cruz hates the establishment just as much as they hate him. A big part of Nixon’s ambition seems to have been driven by his rejection by the elites. We are seeing that with Ted Cruz. He got the senate seat and they treated him like a hired man so he went rogue, calling out the leadership. He even accused McConnell of lying to the caucus, which is unheard of in Washington. His entire campaign is built on his personal animus to his party’s leaders.
Historical analogies are never perfect. Cruz will never be the GOP nominee. He is just being used right now as a vehicle for the Stop Trump folks. They hope Cruz can prevent Trump from getting 1237 delegates. If that happens, the convention goes to a second ballot, at which point the party leaders step in and dump Cruz and Trump for one of their own. If they cannot pull that off then they will make a deal with Trump, maybe having one of their guys as his VP. Either way, Cruz will never be the nominee.
That is another point of comparison with Nixon. Ted Cruz is a very smart guy. He is also a very clever guy. Nixon was one of our smarter presidents, but he had a huge blind spot at times when it came to his enemies. He never fully appreciated just how much they hated him. That seems to be the defect of Ted Cruz. He thinks he can win and there is no way in Hell the GOP will let him win. He is failing to appreciate just how much they hate him.
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“…he had a huge blind spot at times when it came to his enemies. He never fully appreciated just how much they hated him.”
I always considered Nixon to be somewhat paranoid, hence Watergate. Especially given that the election was not going to be close, I know he claims he didn’t know about the original breakin, but others dispute that.
As to going off the gold standard, debt economies give the illusion of wealth…which is good optics for a politician– at least until the bill comes.
Wage and price controls– attempt to control hoarding. It was a short term solution, but certainly not good policy. Having sat in lines at gas pumps, it seemed to work pretty well.
China on balance was a good thing, probably his signature achievement.
At the time, the EPA was probably necessary. I was going to school in LA in the late 60’s and at times the pollution was pretty bad. But like all government programs mission creep takes over.
It was a shame because Nixon probably would have prevented the traitorous cut and run the Democrats perpetrated on Vietnam. It seems like a good Democrat has never seen a communist dictatorship that they couldn’t like.
There are a few good Nixon posts over at 28sherman:
Nixon’s 100th Birthday: The HBD + Anti-Cathedral President
Unified Theory on Watergate
When Nixon and Moynihan Almost Revolutionized Welfare
Nixon Saw What We See
When Nixon Calls
Gary North’s perspective on Watergate is fascinating. There is much more there than we have been led to believe.
“Somebody deep inside the bowels of the White House had access to the tapes. This person leaked the exact position of the tapes to the government’s lawyers. This was illegal. The government knew it was illegal. Any reporter with an ounce of sense would have known it was illegal. Any historian with an ounce of sense would have followed the trail back into the White House. And yet, 40 years later, nobody in the mainstream has done it….Forcing Nixon out of office was not a triumph of democracy. It was the triumph of a mole inside the White House, the complicity of the courts at theft, and the self-imposed silence of the media. ”
The book Silent Coup did a good job of laying out the facts of the case. The fact do seem to suggest John Dean was probably the brains behind the burglary, but it’s not an ironclad case. The Nixon White House was full of rats so the record will probably never be clear.
Zman, I stumbled across this recently-published book that asserts that John Dean organized the Watergate break-in because of his connection to a DC call-girl ring. Don’t know if this angle is covered in Silent Coup, but it looks interesting.
The one thing that Nixon did that is unforgivable was to start affirmative action.
Affirmative Action resulted from the 1964 Civil Rights Act, an LBJ “gift” to the nation.
It’s first mention was in Executive Order 10925 of March, 1961.
See here for more:https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Aamnation.com%2Fvfr+affirmative+action&qfront=affirmative+action&gws_rd=ssl#q=affirmative+action+history
This is a nice try, but more than a bit off.
Nixon grew up poor, and attended Whittier College and Duke Law School, then went into the navy. Cruz at least did not grew up poor, attended Princeton and Harvard Law School, and then entered the legal apparatchik system that the Republicans maintain. Cruz has nothing like going after Alger Hiss in his background because he hasn’t really had any political accomplishments, only rhetoric. I really don’t see much basis to compare to them. And Nixon did have friends. Cruz has mistresses.
If you really need to find a contemporary version of Nixon, Chris Christie or someone like him comes much closer. Lawyer who graduated from Seton Hall, not the Ivies, can cut corners on minor ethical matters, not good for civil liberties but pretty pragmatic on everything else.
I can’t think of a 1950s or 1960s analogy for Cruz because its hard to imagine someone like him becoming a national political figure. He might have become a corporate lawyer for an oil company then, and maybe one of those guys you see grilling Nixon in Texas during one of the cut scenes of Stone’s movie.
You have to understand that hatred of Nixon was handed down, generation to generation. The press never forgave him for being right about Alger Hiss. When I stopped being a liberal, I thought I should read a bit about Nixon and set aside my prejudices. I read about his early career, from a historian that had access to the Nixon library. He did some interesting work on those early “dirty tricks”, which turned out to be pretty much non-existent. Standard media, say something long enough and people believe the lie. (Found it “The Contender” by Irwin Gellman. Nixon’s own writing are interesting as is the biography of Pat Nixon by her daughter.)
Cruz and Nixon differ in one gigantic way. Cruz simply can’t win because he has no appeal to Nixon’s core constituency– the “Silent Majority”. Trump has taken full ownership of this treasured constituency– the last one to command it was Reagan– which is why Trump is the obvious favorite to be the next President.
Cruz has been holed below the water line, and is slowly sinking into oblivion. The creepy bastard.
As an ex-Cruz supporter, I see him as more devious and sanctimonious than prior to this campaign. I do not believe there is anything Cruz won’t say or do to be president. His conservative credentials (so touted by Levin and Limbaugh et al.) are merely the vehicle he is driving. I no longer trust Cruz.
Pretty accurate. I think Cruz is more of Conservative and Nixon a moderate – whether that is their natural instincts or a reaction to who ran the party in their respective eras can be debated.
I would like to point out – Nixon won eventually.
Nixon and Cruz were/are both tweaked, that’s for sure. But I think ole Ted is a pervert and not nearly as good a politician as Nixon was. Cruz will not win re-election, and will not be taken in as a lobbyist. He is a walking corpse, but just doesn’t know it.
Nixon was at least sincere in his anti-communism and his loathing of the hippies. Not long ago, I watched Cruz deliver a jeremiad against the entire DC political culture from an empty Senate chamber and it was a spellbinding performance, a “Cortes burns his ships” kind of moment, and the party leadership and the money men will never forgive him.
And I might buy it hook, line and sinker were it not for Heidi, who is an establishment Republican and DC operative to the gills. Her “job” at GS after she left the Bush WH was as naked a payoff as payoffs get. Denouncing the DC cartel when you and your wife have profited from it so handsomely raises certain questions of sincerity and believability.
I remember LBJ and consider Cruz to be closer to that model politician than Nixon.
You could not be more wrong. LBJ loved being in the Senate. He had immense power and knew where the bodies were buried. He should not have taken the VP position. He was comfortable where he was.
Cruz, like Rubio, can’t wait to move on to the new job. Cruz has a record as a Senator, but you’d never know it from his campaign. He has no real allies in the Senate and has been ineffective. He has no intentions of spending years in a job to gain power. He wants it all now.
In an effort to prove you mis-underestimate me I will demonstrate that I can, “be more wrong,” by expanding my argument.
As I said I remember LBJ. Did not know him personally but remember the conversations around the dinner table concerning his political career here in Texas and nationally. LBJ loved many things but nothing trumped power, and he never hesitated to take a step up when the opportunity presented itself. He also would not shrink from any tactic or abandon any supporter if it advanced his position. An alliance to him meant, “What can you do for me today.” I am not clear on how an opportunity to become President of the Senate would be considered a reduction of power. I have no doubt that when you told him he would be unhappy as VP, rather than staying on the floor of the Senate, he laughed in your face. But, perhaps not; not knowing him personally I can’t testify to the fact. I am certain he didn’t climb through the muck of Texas Democrat politics, earning one of the most enduring reputations for utter ruthlessness in the history of the party, to shrink from the last step.
That Cruz is an opportunist is not a refutation of my argument. The political landscape has changed dramatically since 1968, and earning ones bones is not what it once was. I reiterate my “more wrong” statement. As a remorseless, ruthless, duplicitous, shrink-from-nothing opportunist (while ensuring his finger prints are on nothing) Cruz is more an updated LBJ than RMN. But, we all remember things differently so at the end of the day it’s just an opinion.
You’re spot on about Nixon. It’s funny how the people who should know best treat him like some kind of bizarre one-off, when in fact he’s exactly the kind of guy The Party System (5th, 6th, whatever ridiculous incarnation we’re supposed to be in now) produced with machinelike regularity. Pick any 19th century president — the odds are you’ll find a weirdo with limited interpersonal skills. In the newsprint-and-telegraph media era, the President was basically just his party’s designated flak-catcher. Nixon was a Martin van Buren type — an ideas guy, an organizer, a wire-puller, who through a weird confluence of circumstances ended up as the nominee. It’s only the media era, and really the tv era, where you get the “imperial presidency” (in that jerkoff’s condescending but wonderful phrase) and all the hoopla and nonsense that goes along with it. As I’ve said before, Cruz would’ve cleaned up in the 19th century. Alas, it’s the Twitter era.
You’ve just raised my opinion of Cruz, and explained why Kasich hasn’t dropped out of the race.
If Cruz hadn’t gone nuclear on Trump he could throw his delegates to Trump and get on the ticket. It being politics, maybe such a thing is still possible. He could tweak more noses as VP than as Senator.
I am a Nixon fan. A lot his policy positions were stupid, even for the era, but I like practical politics and Nixon was a pragmatic guy. Frankly, Trump has a lot in common with Nixon in this regard. I think he would relish the horse trading and deal making. If he somehow gains the White House, I will not be shocked if he ends up as a load mouthed blend of Coolidge and Nixon. By that I mean mildly isolationist foreign policy, mildly reformist domestic policy, but also a deal maker with both parties.
Could be. A little reflection might inform us that Nixon had no politics, certainly no conservative politics. EPA, wage and price controls. Fellows like Nixon tend to look acceptable following the ruin of a LBJ. But the ruin of Obama has a 51% approval rating, so there may be no going back.
Nixon was first and perhaps exclusively an anti-communist. The rest was just not all that interesting to him. Trump strikes me as the inverse of Nixon, really just a populist Obama. My guess is he will be a wheeler-dealer on most things, but a hard ass on immigration, the only issue about which he seems to have any passion.
My honest opinion is we blew the last chance to avoid disaster back in the 80’s. We’re headed for collapse and it is way too late to do much about it.
What if the U.S. just repudiated all the national debt?
I’m a Nixon fan also, mainly because of his being anti-communist. In fact, I had just graduated college in the mid-80s (UMASS/Amherst) and read Nixon’s The Real War. It totally changed my life. I had been a leftist throughout college, which was the norm then (and now) at UMASS. When I finished The Real War, all I could think was if the Left was lying about the Soviet Union, and about communism in general, what else were they lying about? That led me to writings by David Horowitz, a former Lefty, and to Eric Hoffer’s True Believer. From there I read widely and with a critical eye.
Difference between Dick & Ted? Nixon didn’t publicly humiliate his wife with rumors/fake denials of dalliances, and Cruz hasn’t written any books worth reading.
@ Kathleen – While his anti-communist position was a plus. I’m not sure taking the US off the gold standard was such a great idea.
You’re right, it was not. Fatal error, long term.
Given that there is a finite amount of gold, how do you grow the value of the world economy when it is based on gold? Also, gold has $0 commercial value; it’s all sentimental attachment to the past.
Yes, gold has NO commercial value.
That’s why people dig holes MILES into the earth to extract it.
The chances are nearly 100% that the processor running the computer you typed that comment from is running on gold conductors, as is much the comm gear that got the signal from you to them and then to me.
But yeah, other than the hundred thousand things it gets used to manufacture every day, gold has no commercial value.
when computers had lots of little boards in them, say 20 years ago, there were some trace amounts of gold in them. not now though. a smart phone has about 0.001 ounces in it. where is gold used commercially, what products? it has some aesthetic value for jewelry and that’s about it. it does have financial value *now* because people have a sentimental view of it. over time that will go away, and then gold will be worthless.
@ theZman – At the current rate of international debt and monetary policy, I think we’re all heading that direction sooner than later.
Nixon just had no real grasp of economics. Hence the monetary and Fed disasters. But got in an China vs. Cuba argument with someone who likened Obama’s visit to Cuba with Nixon to China. Thus, in their mind, completely justified and a diplomatic victory. They were surprised to hear just how much time and how many high level diplomatic meetings were required to put the Mao and Dick in chairs next to each other. Or that the US actually got something for its troubles. Obama? You’d think they woke up one day and thought, “gee we need one of those diplomatic legacy things, hit the phones and see who on the sort list of rogue states will return our calls”. Thing about those Cold War guys, they actually looked into the abyss and had spines. Today every policy decision runs through the “will any feelings be hurt” filter.