Re: Surveillance and National Security During Nixon Years and Today

Although most people have a knee-jerk anti-Nixon reaction, the reality

> was that the situation was not that simple. Nixon was not paranoid -- > his Administration really did very determined enemies out to destroy > it by any means possible, as well as disrupt the affairs of the > country as much as possible. Many young people of the time--those who > were in the forefront of the protest movement--really didn't > understand the economic and social harm they were doing to everyday > life of the country by the disruptions. Nor did the appreciate the > evil enemy we were fighting in Vietnam. (Yes, contrary to Jane Fonda, > they were pretty ruthless; remember the boat people fleeing the > country afterwards.)

That there were a few people willing to resort to violence can't be denied, but Nixon and his henchmen went after all opposition, legitimate or otherwise. You don't understand to this day the economic and social harm inflicted by Nixon's continuation of a war he went into office pledged to end. Yes, the VC and NVA were pretty ruthless, but we committed the My Lai massacre and turned our prisoners, the ones we didn't kill ourselves, over to the ARVN, who were not much different from the opposition.

I know personally from those days radicals were coming to college > campuses and spewing propaganda to recruit people to disrupt everyday > life and succeeding in some ways. This is not, contrary to belief of > some, legitimate political discourse. These were criminal acts and a > violation of the rights of other people.

I suppose there was some of that, but the majority of what went on at least started as civil disobedience modeled after that evil radical Gandhi. Governmental over-reaction tended to escalate that into riots at times, culminating in the Kent State massacre.

It was Nixon's responsibility as President to protect this country. > Where Nixon erred is _how_ he went about it. The law enforcement > agencies of the time had existing various police powers. One problem > was that J. Edgar Hoover refused to cooperate with anything; he was > still fighting ancient battles that no longer were relevant.

That, and against whom he used those powers. Remember some of the legitimate critics who were under surveillance, and that the Watergate burglary and cover-up were targeted at the loyal opposition. I won't contest that J. Edgar was out of control, but he served at the pleasure of the president. Of course, he probably had the goods on Nixon as well as everyone else who could touch him.

Moving on to today, the reality is there are evil enemies out there > who want to destroy the U.S. Critics of the Bush Administration have > turned this into a political issue which is wrong. Just as critics > hated Nixon because he was Nixon, today's critics hate Bush because he > is Bush. Both groups focused on the person, not the issues.

Bush is a bit of a snot, but the issue isn't that. It is the evil he is inflicting on the country. He has destroyed much of our foreign credibility through what is widely seen as a war of aggression and torture. He has reduced FEMA to an incompetent wreck. He has failed to implement anti-terrorist protections acceptable to the 911 commission, although congress can share the blame on that one. And he has run roughshod over statute law, even law signed by the then president, claiming the right to ignore it at will.

In a prior thread someone else mentioned that what happened in the > past is irrelevent. Not true. Precedents, for good and bad, are a > part of our culture. To nail one politician for doing the same thing > that other politicians were known to have done is selective > enforcement and wrong. We honor FDR greatly today, but he did do many > of the same things Nixon did.

Precedent is respected by courts. This is necessary to make law a stable reference. It doesn't apply to executive misbehavior. Other- wise, Bill would have been justified in reopening the White House swimming pool and stocking it with stewardesses.

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John McHarry
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