Several readers took exception to my comparison of Al Gore to Richard Nixon earlier this week. In response, I acknowledged that Nixon had virtues Gore lacks, but I stood by the comparison. I may have to reconsider, however, now that Frank Rich of the New York Times has also compared Gore with Nixon. Actually, the Rich piece reminds me of another similarity. Gore is now going on television shows like Letterman trying to show that, in his new incarnation, he has a sense of humor. The “new Nixon” did the same thing, appearing memorably on “Laugh In” to deliver that show’s trade-mark “Sock it to me” line. Rich’s article reflects the left’s ambivalence about Gore and his impending run at the presdency.
I blogged about Nixon a few times during the summer. Since then, we have picked up many new readers, so I’ll briefly state my objections to him. I consider Nixon’s presidency to have been more liberal than conservative. In domestic policy, he gave us affirmative action, wage-price controls, and a proposed guaranteed annual income. In foreign affairs he gave us detente with the Evil Empire and “normalized” relations with Red China. He kept conservatives happy by attacking liberals and prosecuting the war in Vietnam for most of his presidency. But Kennedy and Johnson also did the latter. Since, it is unlikely that Nixon really believed in affirmative action and a guaranteed income, my second objection to him is his opportunism, and this is where the comparison to Gore comes in. In fairness, though, Nixon was a complex and ambiguous figure. To date, Gore has not shown himself to be all that complex or ambiguous. In that sense, my comparison can be seen as somewhat unfair to Nixon.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell