George Will's Historical Analogies

By Conor Clarke

I am all for the sanctity of contract, but I thought this analogy from George Will, on Obama and the rule of law ("Tincture of Lawlessness"), was a bit much:

This is not gross, unambiguous lawlessness of the Nixonian sort -- burglaries, abuse of the IRS and FBI, etc. -- but it is uncomfortably close to an abuse of power that perhaps gave Nixon ideas: When in 1962 the steel industry raised prices, President John F. Kennedy had a tantrum and his administration leaked rumors that the IRS would conduct audits of steel executives, and sent FBI agents on predawn visits to the homes of journalists who covered the steel industry, ostensibly to further a legitimate investigation.

Whoa. Has Obama actually done anything like that? Has Obama done anything qualitatively worse than, say, Henry Paulson or George Bush?

More generally, I wonder how consistently partisans like George Will are attached to the rule of law. When the whole AIG bedlam started, it was slightly odd to see, for instance, Glenn Greenwald fantasize about shattering those compensation contracts like ceramic mugs. Greendwald wrote books about the Bush adminisistration's insufficient fealty for the rule of law!

But I think the principle cuts in both directions. George Will's passion for the rule of law is admirable, but I don't really recall that passion finding its way into too many columns about Bush or Paulson.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/05/george-wills-historical-analogies/17582/