Just because you can, does not mean you should. Look, as conservatives or Republicans, we truly do get the point that much of Hollywood despises us or the ideology they have convinced themselves we blindly follow. For the last two decades or so, they have channeled much of that anger into films that have bashed Richard Nixon or George W. Bush. And now, purely because he can, director Ron Howard and his team are giving us “Frost/Nixon.”A feel-good film for liberals that once again, in case you missed the plethora of earlier offerings, trumpets the evils of President Richard Nixon and his particular band of henchmen.
Recently, here in Washington, Mr. Howard offered up a screening of the film at the headquarters of the National Geographic Society before a mostly left-leaning audience. Unfortunately for the filmmaker and those in attendance who really can’t stand Mr. Nixon or President George W. Bush, a fly in the ointment appeared in the guise of Chris Wallace from Fox News. Now, even though an independent study by Pew demonstrates that Fox News, by far, is the most balanced of the networks, all on the left loudly proclaim it to be nothing more than a tool of the Bush administration.
Understanding that hostile perception, Mr. Wallace as he himself has described in interviews could stand it no more and decided to challenge the liberal panel of Mr. Howard, screenwriter Peter Morgan, James Reston Jr., and “historian” Robert Dallek. During the question and answer session after the screening, what most set off Mr. Wallace was a pronouncement by Mr. Reston (the son of the New York Times columnist and openly Nixon hating former researcher for Frost) that the film was “a metaphor for George W. Bush.”
As he has stated, against the pleas of his wife to remain silent, Mr. Wallace asked for a microphone to refute what he believed to be a ridiculous and biased statement. “To compare George W. Bush to Richard Nixon is to trivialize Nixon’s crimes and is a disservice to Bush,” said Mr. Wallace. “Richard Nixon’s crimes were committed solely for his own political gain, whereas George W. Bush was trying to protect the American people.” Mr. Wallace then reminded the panel that Mr. Bush must have done something right after 9/11 as, over seven years later, “we are all sitting here tonight so comfortably.”
Therein lies a very important point. For much of the left, it’s imperative to their narrative that they never admit Mr. Bush has done anything right. While they have taken him to task time and again for “never admitting his mistakes,” the irony is lost on them that they can’t admit to his successes. Even those that protect them and their loved ones. As if to underline the loathing of Mr. Bush and the denial of any of his success, “Historian” Mr. Dallek predictably suggested to Mr. Wallace that while, thanks to the Watergate tapes, Mr. Nixon’s crimes were well documented, we would have to wait until such documentation on Mr. Bush emerged before his sins would become more apparent. Mr. Wallace again became frustrated that a “historian” would utter such an ignorant and biased statement and said, “You make suppositions on no facts whatsoever.” To which Mr. Dallek incredulously replied, “Do you read The New York Times?”
As one who spent three years working in a joint command in the Pentagon with a top secret clearance, and with the full knowledge that the American people — and that includes the powers that be in Hollywood — are not privy to the vast amount of information or intelligence used to protect them, I’d like to pose a very probable scenario to Messrs. Howard, Morgan, Reston, and Dallek: What if, based on up-to-the-minute intelligence contained in the President’s Daily Briefing (the PDB), President-elect Barack Obama is confronted with horrific information that the candidate Obama never saw, and decides purely in the national security interests of our nation to keep in place some of the policies of the hated Mr. Bush? What critical movie, biased historical supposition, or slanted screenplay will they offer up in criticism of Mr. Obama? For that matter, what critical movies of any presidents other than Messrs. Nixon and Bush, would the panel consider? Surely Mr. Dallek knows that unbiased history tells us that President Lyndon Johnson abused his office and power.
In the last several years, Hollywood has produced a number of money-losing failures aimed at Mr. Bush. It is the right of those investors, screenwriters, producers and directors to make films that the vast majority of Americans choose not to see. Just as it is Mr. Howard’s right to make yet another film demonizing Mr. Nixon. At what point does Hollywood let their irrational and often factually inaccurate hatred for these two presidents go and move on? Obviously, they are not there yet.
Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and author.