Last week The Washington Post ran a story on veteran Republican operative Fred Malek and his role in one of the Nixon administration's many untoward activities, specifically memos Malek wrote singling out Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As one who has always found the Nixon era of particular fascination, I can tell you this is just one of many examples of Richard Nixon's special paranoia toward Jews and other minorities finding its way into administration policy. Along with Watergate, this aspect of the Nixon administration will always stain its place in history, marring a record that might otherwise have reflected significant accomplishment.
No one, including Malek, condones his actions nearly four decades ago, and he has long since apologized. His contrition seems genuine, given his presence on the board of the America-Israel Friendship League. He has been defended by no less a figure than Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman, as well as Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), a close personal friend of Malek's.
However, the Post story was clearly driven by Democrats, ostensibly because of Malek's appointment to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's budget reform committee. Most interesting, though, is the prominent place accorded to Jon Vogel, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
Why is the DCCC interested in a decades-old sin by a state appointee? Because Malek also happens to chair the American Action Network, a new 501(c)(4) the DCCC expects to spend $25 million to target Democrats in the fall. The DCCC apparently hopes to damage the American Action Network's credibility, and probably also hopes that some of this will rub off on GOP House candidates, some of whom weren't even born yet during the Nixon administration, in a classic guilt-by-association ploy.
Some Democrats, including Virginia Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, don't agree with this strategy, probably because it reeks of desperation. Facing a national midterm election (i.e. a referendum on the Democrats) in a time of near-double-digit unemployment and record deficits, this is what the DCCC comes up with? This may tell us more about the 2010 midterms than any poll or pundit ever could.