Never thought I'd see the day that a prominent member of the liberal media establishment praised the Prince of Darkness himself, aka Richard Milhous Nixon, and one of his liberal media cohorts agreed.
Moreover, Nixon was described favorably while being compared to the erstwhile would-be Messiah occupying the Oval Office, Barack Hussein Obama. Strange days indeed, to borrow from John Lennon, the high priest of hippies. (Audio after the jump)
The seldom-heard praise from way left of center came on Bill Press's radio show Wednesday while he was talking with John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine, author, and frequent guest on MSNBC (audio) --
NICHOLS: This is the subtlety of Obama and we should, we should, I know that we live in America, we don't cover foreign policy seriously, but if we were to take a moment to do so, we would say that the subtlety of Barack Obama is that while we talk about him almost exclusively on domestic issues and the economy and other things that are legit for that, people lose the fact that he is one of the most nuanced players on the international stage that we have had in a very long time. And I know this is a terrible comparison and people won't like it, but perhaps since Nixon. He is a guy who actually understands the geopolitics and the people he's dealing with and who he needs to be friends with to achieve complex goals ...
PRESS: Oh yeah ...
NICHOLS: ... to keep America out of war, things like that.
PRESS: Yeah, I mean, it did take Nixon to open up China.
NICHOLS (backpedaling after his heresy sinks in): Yeah, I'm not, we won't have a Nixon party here but ...
PRESS: No ...
I'm guessing at least two people with the last name Clinton would disagree, along with another whose surname is Kerry.
What surprised me about this exchange was, last I checked, Nixon remains firmly ensconced in the pantheon of Most Villainous American Conservatives, situated equidistant between the man who'll probably always hold the top spot, Senator Joseph McCarthy, and relative newcomer George W. Bush.
Nichols' remarks are also noteworthy for what he doesn't say outright but implies, that foremost among Nixon's goals was "to keep America out of war." This stops barely short of pointing out that Vietnam was not Nixon's war, it was botched by Lyndon Johnson to the point that the only satisfactory conclusion for the US was a gradual withdrawal while building up a beleagured ally. (Much as Obama is attempting in Afghanistan).
Also worth mentioning is Nichols' use of "nuanced" to describe the foreign policies of Obama and Nixon. "Nuanced" is, after all, liberal code that translates as -- too sophisticated for most conservatives to understand.
I'm reminded of the time I went to the JFK Library in Boston several years ago to hear Richard Reeves talk about his latest presidential biography, that of Ronald Reagan, titled "President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination."
As luck would have it, a high school principal I had worked for as a substitute teacher after college sat next to me, and we found much to talk about as we waited for Reeves to appear.
Reeves, who'd also penned bios of Kennedy and Nixon, told the audience he'd written the books at roughly the same ages as his subjects, which he thought gave him greater insight into the challenges they faced, especially for Reagan, the oldest of the three.
In his remarks, Reeves said he interviewed Nixon at some point after the earth-shaking trip to China and his meeting with Mao in February 1972. Why did you go, Reeves asked.
At some point in the future, Nixon answered, not right away but eventually, there will be a terrible conflict between East and West, more specifically between China and the US. Hmm, I thought, never heard that before.
Then came this.
And China will win, Nixon said, according to Reeves.
My friend and I turned to each other with looks that said -- wow, did you hear that?
This was back in 2007, and I haven't heard anything as surprising about Nixon until Press's show this week. And I surely hope that when it comes to the future between America and China, Nixon got it wrong.