Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Disaster of Richard Nixon

Robert G. Kaiser

In the course of his twenty-eight years in politics and twenty more in active retirement, Richard M. Nixon uttered a great many dubious propositions. None was less accurate than the words he spoke on November 7, 1962—the day after he lost the governorship of California to Edmund S. Brown, two years after losing the presidency to John F. Kennedy: “Just think of how much you’re going to be missing,” he told reporters gathered for what he billed as his last press conference. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”

A flawed prognostication. The critics who first found fault with Nixon’s 1946 red-baiting campaign against Democratic congressman Jerry Voorhis of California have been disparaging him ever since. Reading these books twenty-one years after his death, one realizes that finding fault with Nixon still has a future. It may never end. Thanks to his gross abuses of presidential power symbolized by the Watergate scandal and to his own decision to record the details of his presidency on tape, Nixon seems destined to remain an object of fascination, amazement, scorn, and disgust for as long as historians pay attention to the American presidency. When the subject matter is their foreign policy, Nixon’s sidekick, Henry A. Kissinger, will be right there beside him.

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