Four decades ago, Lamar Alexander worked in Richard Nixon's White House. Sen. Alexander today says Barack Obama's White House reminds him of that place, that time, that mindset and those people.
Intending no disrespect to my old colleague, these days are not at all like those days, and this president and White House are nothing like the White House in which this writer worked from Inauguration Day 1969 to August 1974, when Marine One lifted off the lawn.
Richard Nixon had been elected in the most turbulent year since the Civil War.
Between New Hampshire and November, there was the Tet Offensive, LBJ's announcement he would not run again, the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, race riots in 100 cities and Washington, D.C., the takeover of Columbia University by radicals, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, a Democratic convention in Chicago marked by rancor inside the hall and police-radical confrontations outside, and a campaign in which Hubert Humphrey was shouted down at rallies until he agreed to a bombing halt in Vietnam.
No, these times are not those times.
Nixon took the oath as a minority president, 43 percent, in a hostile city, with both houses of Congress against him and a national press corps that had loathed him since he exposed the establishment golden boy Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy, 20 years before.
Obama took the oath with close to a filibuster-proof Senate, a near 80-seat majority in the House, the media at his feet, not his throat, and a city in adulation that had voted 93 to 7 for Barack Hussein Obama.
Not even JFK entered office with more goodwill.
While Obama inherited an economic situation far worse than did Nixon, Nixon inherited a war far more divisive and bloody than Iraq and Afghanistan combined, with 535,000 troops in Vietnam or on the way, and 200 soldiers coming home every week in caskets and body bags.
By October 1969, Nixon had ordered 100,000 troops home from Vietnam, proposed a Family Assistance Plan, enunciated a new Nixon Doctrine, welcomed the Apollo 11 astronauts home from the moon and become the first President to visit a communist country, Romania.
Obama has held a beer summit and won a Nobel Peace Prize.
In both October and November of 1969, 500,000 demonstrators marched on Washington to -- in the words of David Broder -- "break Richard Nixon" as they had broken Lyndon Johnson.
Wrote Broder, "The likelihood is great that they will succeed again."
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