Sunday, September 5, 2010

Bad Times for the Enemies List

These haven't been good times for the folks on the infamous "Enemies List" of the Nixon White House.

Of course, it's been nearly 40 years since the existence of the list was made public, and many of the folks who were on the "Enemies List" are gone now. That's to be expected, I guess. Just about everyone who was on the list would have to be in their 70s or 80s now.

In fact, if you're too young to remember the Nixon presidency, the very existence of an "Enemies List" should tell you all you really need to know about Nixon.

There are a few additional details you might need to know. There were no professional restrictions on this list. On the list you could find an assortment of politicians, actors, athletes, captains of industry, journalists, etc. Anyone who ever rubbed Nixon the wrong way, it seemed, wound up on the list.

I've heard that Gerald Ford, the man who was chosen to fill the vice presidential vacancy after Spiro Agnew resigned (and wound up succeeding Nixon as president when Nixon resigned), once observed that "Any man who has to keep a list of his enemies has too many enemies."

Ford was ridiculed during his presidency for being not too bright, but you've got to admit he might have been on to something there.

Anyway, some of the folks from the "Enemies List" are still around, but the passage of time seems certain to take them with more regularity in the years to come — and that is what has been happening lately.

It's been a tough time for those in the media — something Nixon might appreciate. First, Daniel Schorr died in late July, and then three–time Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Paul Conrad died yesterday.

I can't let Conrad's death come and go without making a few comments.

Winning one Pulitzer Prize would be the pinnacle of just about any journalist's career. Conrad won it three times, an accomplishment that almost no other cartoonist has been able to duplicate since the end of World War II.

When conservatives complain about a liberal bias in the media, they may have Conrad in mind. He was unapologetically liberal, and his political cartoons had a decidedly liberal slant. In fact, he was so liberal that it is said that he was most proud of being included in the list of Nixon's enemies.

He could draw most politicians rather well, but he seemed to have a special knack for capturing Richard Nixon. Maybe it was the shiftiness of Nixon's eyes, his hang–dog expression, the sagging quality of his jowls. Whatever it was, Conrad could nail it like no one else.

Robert McFadden of the New York Times recalled a fitting comment about Conrad:
"Conrad's name strikes fear in the hearts of men all over the world," the humorist Art Buchwald wrote, with echoes of the Shadow and Superman. "Where there is corruption, greed or hypocrisy, everyone says, 'This is a job for Conrad.' "

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