A top Senate Republican took to the Senate floor Wednesday morning to suggest that the Obama White House is plotting a political strategy similar to that of ex-President Richard Nixon and may be on the verge of preparing its own “enemies list.”
Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who served in the Nixon White House, offered what he said was a “friendly suggestion” to the White House not to repeat the errors he saw committed by the staff of the disgraced former president.
“Based upon that experience and my 40 years since then in and out of public life, I want to make what I hope will be taken as a friendly suggestion to President Obama and his White House: Don’t create an enemies list,” Alexander said.
Describing the actions of Vice President Spiro Agnew and Nixon operative Chuck Colson, Alexander said he sees “symptoms of this same kind of animus developing in the Obama administration.”
Alexander read off a list of examples he says support his contention, including: a reported effort by the White House to marginalize the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a supposed effort by the Health and Human Services Department to put a “gag order” on the insurer Humana, the White House move to take on Fox News, Obama’s repeated criticisms of banks and investment houses, his alleged “taking names” of “bondholders who resisted the GM and Chrysler bailouts,” and the president’s move to make insurers the bogeyman of the health care debate.
Alexander claimed that the incipient White House “enemies” campaign extends even to Congress. He suggested that Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was the victim of a sort of payback, saying that after Kyl suggested the stimulus plan wasn’t working, the White house subsequently wrote the governor of Arizona that, “If you don’t want the money, we won’t send it.”
He said that after he and Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) questioned the power of White House “czars,” they both were “called out” on the White House blog.
“This behavior is typical of street brawls and political campaign consultants,” Alexander said. “If the president and his top aides treat people with different views as enemies instead of listening to what they have to say, they’re likely to end up with a narrow view and a feeling that the whole world is out to get them. And as those of us who served in the Nixon White House know, that can get you into a lot of trouble.”
After Alexander’s remarks, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) rose to speak on a different topic, but he first commented that it appeared Alexander was accusing the administration of “Nixifying” the White House — adding that he hoped the term would enter into “the lexicon.” Alexander replied that he was “seeing some signs” in the Obama White House that he had seen “at the early stages of Nixon.”