Ron Howard, TV's Opie, just directed the film version of Frost/Nixon, because the man knows Oscar-bait when he sees it. And also, sure, because it's politically relevant or something. Howard, the very definition of American Middlebrow, is not a political director, though this year he endorsed Obama because he is a Hollyweird liberal (like his godless pal Andy Griffith). At a recent screening of the film, Howard mentioned how the lessons of Nixon became newly relevant during the Bush administration. Shocking! Good thing Fox News anchor and noted objective journalist Chris Wallace was there to set him straight! Nixon was a crook, see, and Bush is a hero.

Howard screened his movie before a Washington DC audience, then he and writer Peter Morgan and respected journalist James Reston, Jr. had a little panel discussion. And Howard, who voted for Nixon, said he was sad that America was all "never again" about Nixon and then Bush happened. And all the panelists compared Bush to Nixon and then Chris Wallace stood up and schooled them. (Or, as James Pinketon puts it, "FOX News’ Chris Wallace threw a fair-and-balanced apple of discord into the middle of the festivities.")

"Richard Nixon's crimes were committed purely in the interest of his own political gain," Mr. Wallace told Mr. Howard before an audience of a few hundred after viewing the filmmakers new film "Frost/Nixon," which is about the only U.S. president to resign from office.

"I think to compare what Nixon did, and the abuses of power for pure political self preservation, to George W. Bush trying to protect this country — even if you disagree with rendition or waterboarding — it seems to me is both a gross misreading of history both then and now," Mr. Wallace said.


"Yeah I respectfully would like to disagree with that," Mr. Wallace said. "It trivializes Nixon's crimes and completely misrepresents what George W. Bush did. Whatever George W. Bush did was after the savage attack of 9/11, in which 3,000 Americans were killed, and was done in service of trying to protect this country. I'm not saying that you have to agree with everything he did, but it was all done in the service of trying to protect this country and keep us safe."

"And the fact is that we sit here so comfortably, and the country has not been attacked again since 9/11," Mr. Wallace said.

Chris is right, of course. Bush is no Nixon. Nixon was a smart paranoid criminal lunatic who actually effectively managed the nation even as he abused the office for his personal gain, railed against Jews, and illegally bombed Cambodia. Bush, of course, is a messianic moron who ran the nation into the ground, allowed a great American city to be washed away, and lied us into a pointless, poorly planned foreign war because he was so stupidly convinced of his own essential goodness and infallibility.

But, you know, Chris is less right to dismiss Bush's various crimes as borne out of a desire to do good and protect the nation (and do good intentions actually make a difference when you're violating the fucking constitution from the office of the presidency, Chris? really?), as opposed to Nixon's supposedly less pure motives. What the hell was the illegal dismissal of seven US Attorneys for partisan political reasons? That was for the security of the nation?

Giving Karl Rove, architect of the permanent Republican majority plan, a policy position certainly smacks of "pure political self-preservation." The Valerie Plame thing?

Also, yes, Chris, motivation aside, making torture official United States policy is actually worse than a two-bit burglary. Asshole.

How the hell does Mike Wallace even talk to his miserable son?