Nixon’s Shadow

That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.


As Broadway audiences still flock to sold out shows of “Frost/Nixon,” right, the federal government is doing its own part to help in the publicity plans. That’s a joke, because if there’s one thing that you can always be sure of in politics, there will always be another batch of Nixon tapes to release. On Wednesday, as if to send the message to the world that it is now in charge of the Nixon Library and by extension the late president’s legacy, the National Archives released  numerous documents and some 11 hours of secret tapes from the 37th president’s term.

Between the now characteristic expletives, rants about “the blacks,” and worries about “the Jews,” Nixon and aide Chuck Colson are heard mocking CBS News and NBC News’s David Brinkley, and sound positively hostile toward George McGovern (“a prick”) even after Nixon trounces him on election night 1972.  Also getting lambasted: George H.W. Bush, Henry Kissinger and the upcoming bicentennial. (“All that nonsense”).

There is nothing much that is surprising about the tapes. But here’s stating the obvious: At a time when the public already has a low trust of leadership, they reinforce the notion that what politicians say publicly and privately are two very different things. And they do certainly make for compelling listening for political junkies.

Update: In one newly released 1970 memo from media adviser Roger Ailes (now chief of Fox News) to H.R. Haldeman, Ailes critiques Nixon’s TV appearances, and recommends the president spend more time conversing with his wife on camera.  And, as always, there’s the perpetual problem of Nixon’s stubble and sweat.

Gravel Grumbles: Mike Gravel has been running around angry throughout his quixotic bid for the presidency, and now he has another reason to be upset: He’s being shut out of the upcoming Logo debate on gay issues because he hasn’t proven his “viability.” (The threshold is that a campaign has to raise $100,000). Noting that he  supports gay marriage while most of the others do not (save for Kucinich), Gravel writes on Huffington Post: “Ironically I think the real reason why HRC didn’t invite me is that I’m too vocal in my advocacy of gay rights. None of the top tier candidates would have been comfortable facing an opponent who consistently points out their refusal to embrace true equality for gays and lesbians.”

Challenge to “Captivity”:
Patt Morrison  dissects  the claims from the movie “Captivity” that some “850,000 are reported missing every year in the United States, many of whom are never seen again…. ” No shock here, but she finds the slasher pic’s statement misleading.

Prius Pol: More than a few Washingtonians might have been scratching their heads Thursday, wondering if they had indeed just seen former “West Wing” star Rob Lowe and a senior congressman zip by in a Toyota Prius.

Wonder no more: It certainly was Lowe – on a demo ride with Rep. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who had just chaired a hearing about plug-in hybrid cars and their potential to help reduce contributions to global warming. Lowe and Markey wanted to showcase plug-in hybrids and demonstrate that driving one isn’t much different from driving a regular car. Hence, a little tooling around on Capitol Hill. Lowe is familiar with hybrids, being a driver of one himself at home. Presumably this qualified him to appear with three other expert witnesses who testified before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

That, and maybe – just maybe – his showbiz presence would attract media attention. Markey spokeswoman Jessica Schafer deemed the ride a success, stating that both pol and star emerged afterward from the Prius “smiling.” Perhaps as much for the paparazzi as for the ride. (William Trplett in Washington)

War Over “The War”: Ken Burns unveiled his new WWII doc “The War” at the Television Critics Assn. gathering in Beverly Hills, with promised depictions of Hispanic and Native American American soldiers. Hispanic and Native American advocacy groups, along with some lawmakers, had complained that the documentary event would leave their ethnic group underrepesented. PBS chief Paula Kerger said that stations also will be offered edited versions of the mini that include no foul language. It will be left to them to judge whether they want to air bits with vet’s expletives — and face the wrath of the FCC.

Sorkin on “Trial”: Aaron Sorkin has pacted with DreamWorks to write “The Trial of the Chicago Seven,” about the infamous trials of protesters at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Steven Spielberg may direct.


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