During this last election, pundits likened the candidates to Lincoln, Kennedy, Nixon, Truman and so on. Whatsername even got a fifteen-minute shot till she became a post-election celeb known more for her daughter’s sex life than anything else. McCain lost Obama lost, history was made, and the world became hopeful. Barak Obama’s election was the best thing to happen to George W. Bush. I came to this conclusion in the midst of Ron Howard’s terrific film Frost/Nixon, which depicts the 1977 interview British presenter David Frost (Michael Sheen) did with Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) after the president quit the White House following his involvement in Watergate.
Frost was not a journalist, but he was backed by intrepid researchers—-journalist James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell), producer John Birt (Matthew MacFadyen), and journalist Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt)-—who desperately wanted Nixon to confess on air and had limited time and resources to make it happen. Seemingly born for the tube, the TV talk-show host was up against a man who decidedly was not. Nixon, however, was an old-school manipulator who simply needed the right management for television. And for the first three interview segments, he presided beautifully.
The film ably tells the story of the Frost-Nixon interview, depicting it as a verbal fencing match, which is a little clichéd but accurate. It also shows how a president of the United States got away with a criminal act and had to live with the shame for the rest of his life (Nixon died of a stroke in 1994). A moral ending.
Ah, but for the helicopter.
There was nice little scene of Nixon flying from the White House in a military chopper. Much like the one Bush flew away in January 20, 2009, after Obama’s inauguration; when we all sat glued to the TV to watch (on stations worldwide) the first black man sworn in; when we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
As did Bush and Cheney and Rove.
See, Nixon was impeached and the office of the president was subsequently filled by Vice-President Ford, who served a less memorable term. George W. Bush and his string pullers served two official terms, picked up (“urgently” in Cheney’s case), and were whisked away.
The nation and its media turned its weary eyes and lenses to a new president who offered change and hope. We focused on the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the greedheads on Wall Street.
And turned our attention away from the scoundrels who were responsible for it all.
Are there dogged researchers and journalists who will set their sights on the crimes of the Bush administration how that it cannot be impeached? A president and vice-president who inflicted an illegal war on at least two countries and thereby devastated both of its economies? Will there be a Frost/Nixon anytime time soon? The optimist in me thinks yes. The realistic in me knows no. And the sceptic in me thinks no one will care.