Misulonas: Romney campaign more Nixon than Reagan


Joseph Misulonas, Columnist

Many people have compared this year’s presidential election to the one in 1968. An unpopular Democratic candidate with a mediocre record is going up against a Republican candidate who had failed to get elected in a previous election, now trying to take advantage of the weakness of the incumbent.

There is one thing very few people have mentioned about the similarities between these two elections: Mitt Romney is Richard Nixon.

First of all, Romney shares Tricky Dick’s distrust of the media. There was the infamous Romney staffer who said, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Then there was Romney blaming the media for his gaffe-filled overseas tour this summer, where he criticized London for not being prepared for the Olympics and was called a racist by Palestinian officials for claiming that the reason Israel is wealthier than Palestine is due to cultural differences. For a man trying to lead the world’s greatest democracy, Romney has displayed a surprising level of hostility to the free press, one of the pillars of our democracy.

There are also similarities between Nixon and Romney’s foreign policy agendas. Nixon infamously bombed Cambodia during the Vietnam War without informing Congress or the American people. Romney has also shown his willingness to use bombs to achieve foreign policy goals. Romney wants to institute a “Credible Military Option” in Iran, which I assume means more than simply wagging our finger at them. And in June, Romney said on “Face the Nation,” “If I’m President, the Iranians will have no question but that I would be willing to take military action, if necessary, to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m President, that we need to have war powers approval or a special authorization for military force.” What a democratic vanguard!

Nixon resigned from the presidency once it was discovered that his campaign had bugged the Democratic National Committee offices during the 1972 election. While Romney has not done anything illegal in his bid to be elected president (at least that we know of), he has not been afraid to run a dirty campaign, including running blatantly false advertisements. There was Romney’s welfare attack ad on Obama that was discredited by nearly every single media outlet, from Politifact, which described it as “Pants on Fire,” to the Washington Post, which gave it “Four Pinocchios.” Recently, Romney has released an ad in Ohio claiming that Chrysler cut jobs in the state to send to China. This ad has also received plenty of backlash, including from Chrysler and GM themselves, who said, “We’ve clearly entered some parallel universe.” Romney has displayed a Nixonian lack of concern for honesty in his campaign.

Romney and Nixon would never have been considered presidential contenders if not for the weakness of their opposition. Nixon benefited from a widely unpopular war, increasing inflation in the late 1960s and a mass of white, middle class voters who had felt ignored by the Johnson administration. Romney is benefitting from stale economic growth, a slow decrease in unemployment and the fact that Obamacare is one of the greatest failures by a president and Congress to explain the benefits of such a dramatic change in public policy.

Due to the weakness of the opponent, voters are willing to give someone like Nixon or Romney a shot at the presidency. They may not have displayed any qualities fitting of the leader of the world’s leading democracy (in fact, they spit in the face of many of our democratic values), but because they are simply not the incumbent, we are willing to give them a shot.

The Nixon administration brought increasing inflation, economic stagnation, Vietnam escalation and Watergate. While I doubt that a Romney presidency would be as disastrous as Nixon’s, I cannot accept that someone who has displayed the level of dishonesty that Romney has is worthy of the presidency of the United States of America.

I can only hope that tonight after the election results come in, Romney will say, “You won’t have Mittens to kick around anymore.”

Joseph Misulonas is a Medill junior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].