Here's Nixon, in August 1970:
It was in Denver's Federal Building that President Nixon committed the startling gaffe of prejudging the case of Charles Manson. While complaining that the press had made Manson a glamorous hero, Nixon said: "Here was a man who was guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason." For a lawyer who occasionally delivers homilies on legal propriety, this was a serious breach.Here's Obama yesterday:
Attorney General John Mitchell, who was standing at Nixon's side, instantly recognized Nixon's error. "This has got to be clarified," he told Presidential Aide John Ehrlichman immediately afterward. Unhappily, what ensued was a series of errors compounded by instant communications. Startled reporters dashed to the pressroom, and within minutes, the bulletins were moving across the land. The statement was filmed and broadcast later on network television, with a clarification appended.
But the damage was already done. It was not until half an hour after Nixon spoke that Press Secretary Ron Ziegler reappeared before the newsmen. After some minutes of verbal fencing, Ziegler agreed that Nixon's words about Manson should be retracted. When Ziegler told Nixon what had happened, the President was surprised: "I said 'charged,' " he replied. During the 3½-hour flight back to Washington, Mitchell persuaded Nixon to put out a statement backing Ziegler up. It read in part: "The last thing I would do is prejudice the legal rights of any person in any circumstances. I do not know and did not intend to speculate as to whether or not the Tate defendants are guilty, in fact, or not."
OBAMA: So people can have philosophical views [about Bradley Manning] but I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source [basis]… That’s not how the world works.
And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.
We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.
[Q: Didn't he release evidence of war crimes?]Obama is right. What Ellsberg published was troves and troves of highly classified top secret and ultra top secret documents. What Manning allegedly did was to pass on classified information, much of it about war crimes and financial crimes of America's biggest banks and corporations. They are not the same thing. Ellsberg's act was far more serious in real terms, though Manning is, of course, a member of the U.S. military.
OBAMA: What he did was he dumped…
[Q: Isn't that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?]
OBAMA: No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.
There are a number of problems that glare at one from Obama's incredible statement. First of all, there is the obvious fact that Manning has not been convicted of anything. The second, is the concern that Obama has now tainted the jury pool. Here's what happened to the Manson jury, as a result of Nixon's statement:
Jurors, already sequestered in the Los Angeles, were protected from the next day’s four-inch headlines by papering over the windows of the courthouse: “MANSON GUILTY, NIXON DECLARES.”There's a big difference here, beyond the above, though. If Manning is ever tried (some doubt he will be), it will be before a military court martial, whose members will all see Obama as their Commander-in-Chief.
Obama's Q&A quoted above was a result of the flash mob event earlier yesterday, at a fundraiser in San Francisco. Here's how it was covered at FOX News:
Translation - it takes a major gaffe by Obama for FOX to cover Manning. Here's a more sympathetic story on the flash mob, by Alyona Minkovsky on RT TV:
Obama's staff isn't nearly as capable, or perhaps moral as that of Richard Nixon. What might there to be learned from that?
Hat tips - Teddy Partridge and Michael Whitney