Richard Nixon was notoriously paranoid about the media. He was convinced that the press at large hated him (probably true), and was out to get him (maybe true). Nixon was so convinced that he constructed an entire system to undermine his “enemies.” Nixon’s tactics cleverly put some media outlets on the defensive for a while. However, in the end, Nixon’s vengeance was his undoing (and yes, of course, all those tapes didn’t help).
Since then, administrations have actually adopted some of the less sinister Nixonian tactics, and have been much less hospitable to the press.
In the first days of the Bill Clinton White House, Carl Bernstein wrote that Hillary Clinton banished the press corps to the West Wing basement.
President George W. Bush would snub White House legend Helen Thomas, often refusing her questions, and his people would re-arrange the seats in the briefing room to punish certain critical outlets.
President Obama may be a recent exception. However, even he inexplicably makes odd comments about Fox News, whose reporters and anchors actually have the audacity to ask tough questions! Could you imagine! ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said that recently he could not understand the President’s seeming “obsession” with Fox News.
So perhaps it is not surprising that at the nadir of his popularity, Governor Paterson goes after the media. In some ways, he has been treated despicably. I was appalled by what the alleged jokers at “Saturday Night Live” did to him last year. Making fun of Paterson’s blindness is the lowest of lows. Politics is fair game, physical affliction is not.
But injecting race is another issue. Paterson attacked Dominic Carter of “New York 1,” an African-American who also happens to be one of the most widely respected political journalists in the city. Huh? I don’t get it.
Meantime other African-Americans are now criticizing Paterson, including David Dinkins. It appears even if Paterson is right in his media criticisms, this is a no-win stance for a politician.
Paterson is suffering like so many other incumbents around the country and in our region (including Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, and Governor John Corzine of New Jersey). All three are in serious political trouble. Incumbents seem to be the victims of the bad economy.
Many think that Governor Paterson may drop out to spare himself a humiliating defeat. They have annointed Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as the savior. But if Paterson sticks to his word and refuses to get out, it will be a real headache for Cuomo, no matter how low Paterson’s numbers get.
And then there’s Rudy. The question: will it be Rudy against Cuomo, or Paterson, or someone else?
I for one seem to remember that Presidential race of Hillary versus Rudy (my predication!) that never happened. I remember the 2000 Hillary versus Rudy Senate race that never happened!
And who knows! Hillary seems very unhappy in the State Department. She lives in New York, right? Hillary for Governor? Hillary versus Rudy, the sequel, the third act! Maybe this one will actually happen. Ah, it’ll never happen!