The Nixon Effect

A specter is haunting American politics: the specter of Richard Nixon, whose career as a politician created the image-drenched, spin-ridden political culture that now dominates elections and daily governance. David Greenberg, the author of Nixon's Shadow, notes that he came from California, "where Hollywood's influence and the rise of professional consultants first made 'image' central to campaigns." Embracing the new techniques of TV and public relations, Nixon "recruited aides from public relations (William Safire), advertising (H.R. Haldeman) and television (Roger Ailes). In 1968, he won the presidency as a 'New Nixon,' through a strategy designed to control his image. When journalist Joe McGinniss detailed this strategy the next year in The Selling of the President, shamefaced reporters vowed to get wise to such manipulation. ... Since Nixon, we have grown wise to the sleights of modern politics - and politicians have reacted by devising craftier methods."