In The News
Wake up screaming ‘Nixon! Walker!’
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Milwaukee Labor Press
Posted May 30, 2012
Nixon. Walker. The inescapable connection has been bothering me for weeks. Walker. Nixon. Nightmare on Main Street. Only if Wisconsin voters wake up June 5 and elect Tom Barrett as their governor will they be spared being haunted by this demon screech across 40 years.
In 1972, American voters ignored reality tracked by journalists Woodward and Bernstein – the start of the Watergate expose. But voters dismissed the Washington Post as overreacting to – well, as a sign of how journalistic integrity has changed since then, let’s quote the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel May 20 this year as it defended the John Doe charges against Scott Walker appointments at Milwaukee County: “Overzealous political associates sometimes get in trouble.” That was how voters in November of 1972 treated the Watergate investigation.
Yet a few months after overwhelmingly re-electing Nixon president, the mounting evidence became inescapable. The nation’s voters belatedly discovered that those “overzealous political associates” were doing far more than getting into trouble on their own. They were following orders. They, dozens more and the president himself were hip-deep in campaign abuse, dirty tricks, assorted corruption and collusion at his behest to destroy their enemies. As revelations mounted and aides were indicted (they soon went to jail), Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment. Five years later it was hard to find anyone who admitted voting for him though he won the presidency twice.
As historical parallel it’s right to have the specter of Nixon hanging over Walker. But in some ways it’s extreme. For one thing, Nixon was clearly smarter. He was a better administrator and a shrewder politician willing to be convinced by the opposition to do important things. He became a late convert to the environmental movement and worker safety, actually creating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Air Act of 1970 and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Right after his resignation he said publicly that his undoing was blind hatred of his enemies. Forty years give us some perspective on his personality, even some sympathy for the private demons that so contrasted with his public aura of family values. His behavior was well disguised before the real Nixon emerged on tape to bring him down.
Walker is still right upon us -- the lack of distance amid political heat benefits him even despite videotape.
There is quite a bit of evidence of chicanery but many, like those voters in 1972, can’t believe that his history of dirty tricks and political corruption can be tracked back to his college years and his early terms in the legislature and as Milwaukee county executive.
They think it is dirty tricks to talk about his dirty tricks, which is the same technique that Nixon used for a long time to escape Judgment Day.
In the heat of immediacy, and because he is now the target, Walker can still get away with saying how he thinks the recall rules are bad. That’s sure finessing around his statements ten years ago of how great he thought the recall effort was in allowing voters to fight back against bad politicians,
He can say the private emails he won’t reveal outside the John Doe probe – which legal experts say he is amply free to reveal -- don’t matter since they involve a land deal in which “no bid was accepted.”
He is counting on voters not seeing a parallel to convicted Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich who defended his taped “pay to play” efforts to influence a US Senate seat by arguing that his effort to sell the seat failed. Blago is now in prison.
Milwaukee County doesn’t square to his diehard GOP supporters with the million dollars plus of Nixon’s CREEP effort, which deliberately ignores how American law works. Prosecutors such as Milwaukee DA John Chisholm don’t measure corruption in dollars but by the simple intent of being willing to bribe and unduly influence even to get “petty cash.”
And the simple willingness to be bought makes nothing petty these days, as evident when America’s richest right-wingers see something in Walker that makes them willing to plunge $30 million into his efforts to stay in office. Money was just as easy for Nixon to come by in 1972 terms as it seems to be for Walker.
No wonder I’m having nightmares.
Americans are terrible at remembering the lessons of history or the motto that used to appear on the masthead of a Milwaukee newspaper: "Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it."
Unfortunately today’s JS backed Walker. And the published motto of its editorial page boss David Haynes is “Keep the marketplace of ideas stacked.”
I think he actually wrote “stocked,” but you know how newspaper these days are full of typos.