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Senator urges Obama: Don’t start enemies list

A top Republican invoked the memory of the scandal-marred Nixon administration on Wednesday to urge U.S. President Barack Obama to "back up" and not "start an enemies list."
Alexander addresses reporters during the 2009 Reuters Washington Summit in Washington
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.,  addresses reporters during the 2009 Reuters Washington Summit in Washington on Wednesday.Jonathan Ernst / REUTERS
/ Source: Reuters

A top Senate Republican invoked the memory of the scandal-marred Nixon administration on Wednesday to urge President Barack Obama: "Don't start an enemies list."

Sen. Lamar Alexander told Reuters he sees the Obama White House adopting an attitude similar to that of the Richard Nixon White House four decades ago, that "everybody is against us and we are going to get them."

Alexander cited as examples the Obama administration threatening to strip the insurance industry of its exemption of federal anti-trust laws, "taking names" of bondholders who opposed the auto bailout, its reported aim to "neuter the U.S. Chamber of Commerce," boycotting Fox News Network and "calling out" of others who oppose it.

"I'm suggesting to the president that he back up and start over," said Alexander, a member of the Senate Republican leadership. "Don't start an enemies list."

"We want to work with you," Alexander said.

Alexander made the comments at the Reuters Washington Summit, a series of interviews of key Washington figures.

Obama took office promising to reach out to Republicans in Congress, but they have lined up to oppose many of initiatives, including his bid to overhaul health care.

The Nixon White House compiled an "enemies list" of journalists, business and labor leaders as well as members of Congress and others.

Nixon was the only U.S. president to resign, forced to do so in August 1974 after a series of scandals, including "Watergate," the bungled break-in at Democratic headquarters and botched cover-up of White House involvement.

"We've been down this road before and it won't end well. An 'enemies list' only denigrates the presidency and the Republic itself," Alexander said later in a speech in the Senate.

Alexander's comments drew a nod of concurrence from Republican Sen. Judd Gregg. Earlier this year, Gregg agreed to cross the political aisle and join the Obama administration as commerce secretary — only to later back out.

Alexander said he was offering "friendly advice" to the White House and expressed hope it would accept it that way.

But as a senior Republican aide put it, "This is going to tick them off. But they have to realize, you can't behave like this and expect bipartisan cooperation."