Barack Milhous Obama

What prior administration does the Obama administration most resemble? In its early days, there is a surprising contender: that of Richard Nixon.

Helen Thomas sounded the theme in an interview with CNS News that followed a Robert Gibbs press conference:

Following a testy exchange during Wednesday’s briefing with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas told that not even Richard Nixon tried to control the press the way President Obama is trying to control the press.

“Nixon didn’t try to do that,” Thomas said. “They couldn’t control (the media). They didn’t try.

“What the hell do they think we are, puppets?” Thomas said.

I think the answer to that question is Yes, actually.

The Nixonian note was sounded again in the Obama administration’s response to Republicans who are pressing for information on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin. It appears that Obama’s firing of Walpin was both illegal and politically motivated, and his aides are circling the wagons, hoping the issue will go away without their having to provide information to Congress. Once again, Byron York has the story:

All in all, the “extensive review” appeared more of a sham review — an exercise designed to support a decision that had already been made. Nor has the White House been open about it. “Information provided to my staff by Mr. Eisen has been incomplete and misleading,” Republican Rep. Darrell Issa wrote in a July 1 letter to White House counsel Gregory Craig.

For its part, the White House is hinting broadly that it might invoke executive privilege to keep documents from Congress. “Your questions seek information about the White House’s internal decision-making process,” Craig wrote to Sen. Charles Grassley on June 30. “These questions implicate core executive branch confidentiality interests.” At another point, Craig pledged to cooperate “to the fullest extent possible consistent with constitutional and statutory obligations.”

The message, apparently, is for GOP investigators to back off.

Ah, executive privilege! The very words are redolent of the 1970s. (Although, of course, all administrations invoke executive privilege on occasion, sometimes properly, sometimes not.) Barack Obama is often compared to Jimmy Carter; the resemblances are obvious. But there may be a streak of Nixon in Obama, as well.


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