GOP jabs at the press echo Spiro T. Agnew 46 years ago

President Zach Messitte is one of three writers who published an opinion piece in the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel newspaper over the weekend.

In “The GOP and Those Nattering Nabobs of Negativity,” they write that 46 years ago this week, long before current Republican candidates’ “potshots” at the press, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew found his own national political voice, helped unite the GOP and later coined some memorable alliterative phrases by bashing those ‘effete snobs’ who asked the questions, wrote the columns and prepared the evening news.

“Less than a year into his term as Richard Nixon’s vice president, Agnew was already on the political sidelines. … Agnew was desperate to find his way to relevancy.

“The media provided a perfect opening. With the some crafty speech-writing help from future presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, Agnew was suddenly the unifying voice of the ‘silent majority,’ the same disparate coalition of geographically diverse and fiscally conservative white suburbanites, religious voters and mistrustful xenophobes that the Republican Party then (and now) so desperately needed to galvanize in order to win the next election.

“In Agnew’s famous Nov. 13, 1969, talk in Des Moines to the Midwest Regional Republican Committee, a speech that recently ranked 48th on American Rhetoric’s top 100 political speeches of the 20th century, the vice president went after television news in a way that directly links to the current GOP’s recent critiques.”

Agnew became a sought after speaker and fundraiser. But after members of the media uncovered that Agnew had taken bribes and failed to pay taxes while vice president, he resigned in disgrace in 1973, providing, perhaps, “a cautionary tale for politicians who protest too much against a free press,” the piece concludes.


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