Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The more things change . . .

Karen Tumulty (Swampland): More Nixon Tapes! More Nixon Tapes!

Regular readers of this space know that the Nixon tapes are regarded here in Swampland as the gift that keeps on giving. And while we haven't yet had time to listen to any of the 154 hours that were released today, reporters who have are finding some gems. Such as this from NPR's Nina Totenberg:

President Nixon reacted privately to the Supreme Court's 1973 decision legalizing abortion by saying he believed some abortions were necessary, as in cases of rape or interracial mating.

And this exchange with the future Bush 41, as reported by CNN's Elaine Quijano:

In February of 1973, President Nixon called future president and then-Republican National Committee chairman George H.W. Bush, and recounted a recent visit to the South Carolina state legislature.

"I noticed a couple of very attractive women, both of them Republicans, in the legislature," Nixon told Bush. "I want you to be sure to emphasize to our people, God, let's look for some… Understand, I don't do it because I'm for women, but I'm doing it because I think maybe a woman might win someplace where a man might not… So have you got that in mind?"

Bush replies, "I'll certainly keep it in mind."

UPDATE: H/T Commenter sgwhite for this link to the NYT's Charlie Savage's report:

Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases, such as interracial pregnancies.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding: “Or a rape.”

  • Jonathan Schwartz: CBS News Edits Out Billy Graham Reference To "Synagogue Of Satan"

    Yesterday CBS ran a story about the latest batch of Nixon tapes made public. And they included a section of a February 21, 1973 conversation with Billy Graham that showed Nixon at his psycho best:

    CBS: In another of the candid and sometimes coarse conversations released today, the President muses about anti-Semitism. He's talking to Evangelist Billy Graham - and worries about reaction to the Washington visit of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir—because Israel has just shot down a Libyan passenger plane.

    NIXON: This anti-Semitism is stronger than we think, ya know. It's unfortunate, but this has happened to the Jews, happened in Spain, it happened in Germany, it's happening, and now it's gonna happen in America if these people don't start behaving. It may be they have a death wish, that's been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.

    GRAHAM: Well, they've always been through the Bible at least, God's timepiece. He has judged them from generation to generation and yet used them and they've kept their identity.

    What do you think about Graham's response there? True, he didn't stand up to Nixon's rambling insanity, but at least he deflected it. He comes out looking pretty good!

    Too bad this is how the conversation actually went (mp3)

    NIXON: The thing that you've really got to emphasize to him, Billy, is that this anti-Semitism is strongly than we think, you know. It's unfortunate, but this has happened to the Jews, it happened in Spain, it happened in Germany, it's happening—now it's going to happen in America if these people don't start behaving.

    GRAHAM: Well, you know I told you one time that the bible talks about two kinds of Jews. One is called the Synagogue of Satan. They're the ones putting out the pornographic literature. They're the ones putting out these obscene films.

    [three minutes of talking]

    NIXON: It may be they have a death wish, that's been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.

    GRAHAM: Well, they've always been through the Bible at least, God's timepiece. He has judged them from generation to generation and yet used them and they've kept their identity.

    P.S. CBS is also wrong that Nixon was talking about anti-Semitism being generated by the shooting down of the Libyan plane. Nixon was actually responded to Graham being angry about a rabbi criticizing a new attempt at widespread evangelism.

    The whole thing is well worth listening to if you're a connoisseur of the psychosis of the people who run this planet. My favorite part is the repeated tongue baths Graham bestows on Nixon, assuring him the country loves him and he may well be the greatest president in history.

    —Jonathan Schwarz

Sargent: Among Republicans, Most Popular GOP Figure Is Palin, By A Mile

It’s really striking how much more popular Sarah Palin is among Republicans than just about any other GOP figure. She really rules the GOP!

Take a look at her latest numbers in the new Pew poll (click to enlarge):

Palin is just crushing other GOPers in popularity among Republicans, with 73%, leading runner-up Mitt Romney by 16 points. And that’s in spite of all Romney’s recent Mittmentum.

Palin is beating Newt Gingrich by even more, 18 points, even though Gingrich has emerged as a kind of intellectual forefather of the modern GOP. And she’s slaughtering poor Michael Steele by 45 points.

That standoff with David Letterman must have really worked among the rank and file. Other GOP leaders not named here, such as the Congressional leadership, aren’t even close. It says a lot about the state of the GOP that there isn’t another current Republican official who is anywhere near being in her league.


Update: As commenter Farinata X notes, a lot of this could be driven by the appeal that Palin’s special politics of resentment and grievance has for the base. That was on display to the max during her Letterman standoff.


The lead story on the Politico today ponders the likelihood of a "Republican comeback."

For the first time since their 2006 election drubbing, top Republicans see signs -- however faint -- of a political resurgence over the next year.

The Politico's Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Martin concede this "sounds absurd," but proceed to spend another 2,000+ words exploring why a Republican comeback is "plausible" and "might not be as far-fetched as it seems."

Substantively, the piece raises some legitimate points, but hardly offers the GOP a roadmap back to the American mainstream. VandeHei and Martin, for example, note that Republican leaders have come to realize that it's in their interests to "distance themselves a bit from George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich." The same piece adds, however, that the party has done a "poor job of doing so."

Similarly, the Politico article argues that Republicans need to "find a way" to appeal to younger voters and minority communities. That's true, as far as it goes, but it's not exactly a constructive tip for the GOP.

But strategic advice aside, one of the striking aspects to all of this is just how poorly timed the idea is.

Last week, two major national polls asked respondents whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the major political parties. The GOP not only fared poorly, but had the lowest ratings ever recorded in NYT/CBS or WSJ/NBC polls.

In a WaPo/ABC poll released yesterday, Republicans hardly fared any better: "Obama maintains leverage on these issues in part because of the continuing weakness of his opposition. The survey found the favorability ratings of congressional Republicans at their lowest point in more than a decade. Obama also has significant advantages over GOP lawmakers in terms of public trust on dealing with the economy, health care, the deficit and the threat of terrorism, despite broad-based Republican criticism of his early actions on these fronts."

The stage is set for a Republican "comeback"? Really?

I suppose in a nowhere-to-go-but-up kind of sense, that's reasonable, but under the circumstances, it's a stretch.

Beutler (TPM): Senate Votes To Invoke Cloture On Nomination Of Harold Koh

At about 11 this morning, the Senate voted 65-31 to invoke cloture on the nomination of Harold Koh to be the State Department's legal adviser. You'll be able to see the roll call here momentarily.

Once cloture is invoked, debate is limited to 30 hours after which a vote on confirmation is required. And according to Laura Rozen, Republicans are threatening to use up all 30 hours. So it may take another day before Koh is officially confirmed.

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