I went to a screening of “Frost/Nixon” Monday evening expecting to see an interesting film and maybe get a quote or two from the film that I could write about on this blog.
It turned out things got really interesting after the movie ended and they turned on the lights.
Chris Wallace of Fox News had heard filmmaker Ron Howard, historian Robert Dallek and James Reston, a character in the movie, castigating President Bush as a modern version of President Nixon for about a half hour when the “Fox New Sunday” host apparently felt he’d endured enough.
“You’re simply making suppositions based on no facts whatsoever,” he told the panelists.
I’ve written a full story about the exchange that’s up on our Web site. But i wanted to give readers a full transcript of the exchange, which I have on tape.
Here’s how it transpired:
I, too, am most interested … to connect with the younger generation on this material, because the younger generation feels that Richard Nixon was railroaded out of office and that what he did is trivial compared to what George W. Bush does.
Yeah, I respectfully would like to disagree with that. It trivializes Nixon’s crimes and completely misrepresents what George W. Bush did. Whatever George W. Bush did was after the savage attack of 9/11, in which 3,000 Americans were killed, it was done in service of trying to protect this country. I’m not saying that you have to agree with everything he did, but it was all done in the service of trying to protect this country and keep us safe. And the fact is that we sit here so comfortably, and the country has not been attacked again since 9/11. Richard Nixon’s crimes were committed purely in the interest of his own political gain. I think to compare what Nixon did, and the abuses of power for pure political self preservation, to George W. Bush trying to protect this country – even if you disagree with rendition or waterboarding – it seems to me is both a gross misreading of history both then and now.
Let me take some issue with what you’re saying. We historians are going to be very eager to have access to the records of George W. Bush in the future. Now, in November 2001 Mr. Bush issued an executive order which makes it much more difficult for historians to gain access to these records. What is he hiding? What does he want to hold back? We as historians, you see, feel that it is absolutely essential before you make this judgment, that you’ve made in so confident a way, that we need to have the records. We need to find out what went on in this current administration. We now know about Nixon a great deal more because we’ve had 3,700 telephone phone conversations, which he never intended to see the light of day. But most of them have now been made available, and there are millions of pages of documents. We’re nowhere near getting that kind of material. And we will see in the future what the record holds about Mr. Bush. I have my biases in this case. They are distinctly negative about Mr. Bush because I think he’s abused power. I wouldn’t say necessarily the same about him as Richard Nixon. But sui generis. He may have abused power in his own special way. But we’ll see in the future what the record tells us.
But the point isn’t whether or not he used power. First of all you’re simply making suppositions based on no facts whatsoever.
Come on. You read the New York Times, my friend.
And the other panelists have also been very confident in their position. All I’m saying is I see no personal political gain in what George W. Bush did after 2001. I see a great deal of personal political gain in everything that Richard Nixon did.
We will see.