The Ghost Of Richard Nixon Is Everywhere And It Can See You Sleep

by evanmcmurry

Hell has frozen over, officially, at least as measured in Nixons (1 Nixon = 5 sweat drops).

Remember about a month ago, when Mitch McConnell called the Obama administration “Nixonian“? Neverminding, of course, that McConnell is the exact brand of twerp who would have been assistant to Nixon’s counsel, or would have defended him with snide editorials, or questioned the patriotism of those who prosecuted him; or that McConnell was scoring points by comparing the current Democratic administration to a former Republican one, as if he knew his party would one day have to accuse President Hillary Clinton of being too Bush-like and he needed to seed the ground.

Now comes Charles Pierce faulting Paul Ryan for coming up short against the megalomaniac precedent that is Dick Nixon:

There’s a lot of old Dick Nixon in young Paul Ryan…There was the crass connection to “the working men and women,” like [Paul Ryan]. The way his voice drops and his eyes glow when he starts talking about the America in which he grew up, where he flipped burgers and washed floors and dreamed very big dreams. There is the obvious effort to… connect, a gift for a simulacrum of empathy that is just inches away from actual sincerity, but which sells on the screen like someone who truly cares about you, his fellow struggling Americans. But it wasn’t until he started tearing up that it all came together for me.

The difference, of course, is that Nixon was deeply, authentically marked by deep and authentic poverty and deprivation. He came by his ultimately self-destructive neuroses honestly. He earned every wound that he imagined the smart people of the world — the Jews, those damn Kennedys — had inflicted on him. He actually worked a job outside of government, and outside the Washington universe of government-dependent think tanks. He once actually had to earn a living. Paul Ryan hasn’t lacked for a job since he left college as the golden child of Wisconsin Republican politics, riding his family connections into a job with then-Senator Bob Kasten.

There’s little to argue with there. Hunter S. Thompson once called Nixon democracy’s greatest mutant; certainly no such Phantom-of-the-Opera level appellation applies to Paul Ryan the Glorified Actuary. But we truly are in a strange time when Charles Pierce is invoking the ghost of Richard Nixon while Mitch McConnell is using him as a scarecrow.