"I Remember Nixonland as a Beautiful Place!"

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Rick Perlstein's Nixonland is a surprising hit, a beneficiary of the goodwill he won with his masterful history of the Goldwater movement, Before the Storm (2000). Today Perlstein appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe, a show occasionally co-hosted by Pat Buchanan, whose young and innocent days as a Nixon strategist are recounted throughout the book. Giggly host Mika Brzezinski encourages Perlstein to engage Buchanan, and so he does. ("Barnicle" is faux workin'-man pundit Mike Barnicle.)

PERLSTEIN: You were the guy who said polarization was a great thing!

BUCHANAN:Yep, positive polarization. You divide the country in half and we get the larger slice.

PERLSTEIN: What do you think of that, guys?

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, boy.

BUCHANAN: What do you think about that, Barnicle?

BARNICLE: I think it's called "politics." It's called American politics.

PERLSTEIN: Yeah, that's what Ehrlichman said.

It gets better from there.

I don't know who comes off worst in this. Certainly Barnicle's inability to comprehend that the world might not be the sepia-toned CBS highlight reel that he wants it to be is amusing. "I was there!" he says to Perlstein, as if we don't know anything about the dirty 1972 campaign now that we didn't know then. Perlstein keeps catching the panelists dead to rights, and Brzezinski practically gets the vapors.

Jesse Walker's blockbuster interview with Perlstein is right here.

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  1. Ahhhh . . . Nixon. A chicken in every pot and tap on everyone’s phone. You know . . . the good ol’ days.

  2. How did he cheat in the 72 election?

    What are you, kidding me?

  3. Oh, damn. I haven’t seen a whooping like that since the first Kerry-Bush debate.

    “We bribed Wallace?”

    “You wrote the memo, Pat.”

    “Yes…”

    Buchanan is like the guy in the samurai movies who doesn’t realize his head has been cut off until he leans back to laugh.

  4. Only tangentially related to the topic but how often do I have the chance to expound on it?

    Dismissing anything Mike Barnicle says by calling him a plagiarizer is ad hominem, for sure? but it’s always fun. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine.

  5. Ever know those people who want to expound on their theory about the difference between black people and niggers?

    Mike Barnacle got in trouble at the Boston Globe because he wrote a column about how a black guy called him up and did that.

    Except he made the whole thing up.

    “I’m shocked at your language,” Barnacle wrote.

    “No, I’m black,” the caller replies.

    Whole thing, made up.

  6. Ever know those people who want to expound on their theory about the difference between black people and niggers?

    Yes, joe, I know. You mean people like Senator Byrd, D-WV. Watch him expound on that very theory on Youtube.

  7. Quick, find a Democrat for a tu quoque argument!

  8. Jesus, that isn’t even what Byrd was saying.

    There is literally no connection between anything I wrote and your response, except you got your panties all damp because of the n-word.

    Asshole.

  9. Jesus, that isn’t even what Byrd was saying.

    Umm, he said that “there’s a difference between black people and niggers, there are white niggers too, it’s not a racial thing.” Sounds to me like he’s expounding a theory on the difference between black people and niggers. I’m sorry, what did you mean? I’m not really familiar with people who have ever expounded that theory differently than Senator Byrd.

  10. And besides, it’s not “find a Democrat.” It’s “find the most nationally prominent person to have made that argument on a national stage.”

    Everyone that I’ve ever heard to expound the theory you’re talking about has used it exactly like Senator Byrd. “There are black people and there are niggers. White people can be niggers too.” Etc. Sure, in many cases those people are probably racist and trying to cover or explain it away somehow. I don’t see why it automatically has nothing to do with Sen. Byrd when he makes the same argument in public than those (probably racist) people do in private.

  11. Umm, he said that “there’s a difference between black people and niggers,”

    No. He doesn’t. Ha ha, you never even watched or listened to before you decided it would kewl to throw it in someone’s face.

  12. No. He doesn’t. Ha ha, you never even watched or listened to before you decided it would kewl to throw it in someone’s face.

    You think that when he says “There are white niggers. I have seen a lot of white niggers in my time, if you want to use that word,” he’s not referring to that argument? When he clarified himself later with Alan Colmes with

    “COLMES: … that’s not a word you would normally use, I guess. And I knew you were trying to make a point, where that word means ignorance. Is there a misunderstanding about what that word really means?

    BYRD: Well, I have heard many people use it. I have heard black leaders use it. I’ve heard white leaders use it. I meant nothing by that except as you were saying. That’s another one of those things that come and go. I don’t dwell on them. I try not to live too much in the past.” (transcript)

    He’s agreeing with the claim that “nigger” is a term for anyone who is ignorant. I just don’t see how that’s different from the argument that I’ve always heard the “there are black people and there are niggers. Niggers are ignorant, etc.” people make.

  13. joe, how can you possibly argue that Sen. Byrd is not agreeing that you can use “nigger” to mean “someone who is ignorant?” If “white nigger” is a possible term to use, and “white niggers” exist, then since not all white people are “white niggers,” and “nigger” means ignorant, one might think that it follows that not all black people are “black niggers.” Unless somehow you’re suggesting that he thinks that all black people are ignorant.

  14. I have heard the theory that you’re talking about, and “There are white niggers,” is an inevitable part of the argument where the person distinguishing “black people” from “niggers” attempts to demonstrate that he’s not racist. (As well, some people claim that his other comments of “I think we talk about race too much. I think those problems are largely behind us… I just think we talk so much about it that we help to create somewhat of an illusion,” are themselves evidence of racism by refusing to admit that it exists, though I think that goes too far.)

    What he said is exactly the argument that I’ve heard other people say and be denounced as “code words” for racism. Of course, sometimes it is, but it seems to be a mighty complicated code.

  15. Oh, so you finally bothered to listen to it.

    I just don’t see how that’s different from the argument that I’ve always heard the “there are black people and there are niggers. Niggers are ignorant, etc.” people make.

    Because Byrd was using it to include a segment of white people as well, and not just “generously” applying the term only to SOME black people.

    As opposed to Barnicle’s made-up caller. Or every other usage of the “niggers vs. black people” shtick I’ve ever heard.

  16. What he said is exactly the argument that I’ve heard other people say and be denounced as “code words” for racism

    Very upset about people being denounced for racism, AND eager to throw out an example of someone on the left using the word “nigger.”

    Suddenly, I find myself extremely bored.

  17. “Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland is a surprising hit, a beneficiary of the goodwill he won with his masterful history of the Goldwater movement, Before the Storm (2000).”

    so i’ve pretty much ignored this book until i just read this and found out it was written by the guy who wrote Before The Storm, which i loved. but i’m not quite getting the point of this sentence. is the book a surprising hit because it’s not very good but getting a good bump from the success of Before The Storm? that’s how i’m reading the sentence. i want to buy this but not if it’s any good.

    comments?

  18. Note to Pat Buchanan: I think that if you divide the country in half, there’s not a “larger slice” to be had by anybody. In fact, I’m pretty sure of it.

  19. Wow… joe’s partisanship continues to overwhelm his own stated beliefs again (6:40)and again (7:52) and again (7:55) as he defends the indefensible Senator Robert Byrd (D-KKK). Kind of like when he repeatedly uses a racial epithet because, YOU KNOW, he loves minorities and supports affirmative action. Which is why he defends Byrd and uses racial epithets.

    joe, HNR’s version of a guy who dropped out of school in 7th grade and practically thinks he IS black…

    That’s right, joe IS Dog the Bounty Hunter: “But I thought I was cool with the certain people that I know and love that are black, that, you know, that can call me ‘whitey’ and I can say — you know what I mean?”

    (I can just hear joe saying that, in the same hurt tone of voice…right after getting beaten like a pinata for saying something he should know better than to say.)

  20. Shorter rob: why do I get in trouble for saying things about black people, and other people don’t? The things I say sound exactly the same as what other people say, as far as I can tell, but I’m always getting picked on and they’re not!

  21. uses racial epithets?

    Ah, the “magic words” theory of race relations.

    Just don’t ever say the magic words, and all is well! If you say a magic word, it doesn’t matter how you use it, you are cursed by the inscrutable race gods.

  22. If you say a magic word, it doesn’t matter how you use it, you are cursed by the inscrutable race gods.

    I would say that, as a applied to white people, this is a good summary of hate speech laws and current orthodoxy amongst race hustlers of every stripe.

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