Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tricky is Right!

I'd have to say that most presidents would probably fall into that general category of "fascinating". Some (FDR, JFK, Clinton) undoubtedly are far more fascinating than others (Ford, Carter, Coolidge). But, yes, all of these fellows are, to a certain degree, "subjects"/"case studies"............................................................................But, I'm also telling you here, there isn't a single one of those other 42 (don't forget, Cleveland x2) that even compares to Nixon. I mean, think about it, folks. This fellow had nothing but utter disdain for his vice president. But, still, he kept that poor bastard around ("if they keep going after him, then maybe they WON'T go after me, evidently the reasoning). He would also constantly refer to his secretary of state as a "dirty Jew". But, yes, when he needed somebody to pray with him, who did he turn toward (pray with me, Henry, pray with me) BUT THIS DIRTY JEW. He spent the bulk of his adult life Commy baiting - only to, when he finally did become president, work with the Soviet Union AND China. He constantly spoke in bellicose/narrow-minded terms. But, during his years in the White House, he governed there as liberally as any president of the 20th Century. Talk about a contradictory fellow, huh? And, no, folks, I haven't even touched on the paranoia yet. That, I'm afraid to say, will have to wait for another day.


Oso said...

He had a pretty decent health care plan too, which the Dems didn't support at the time.

He gave back some land in New Mexico,some really beautiful lake and thousands of acres of land,far as I know only US president to ever give land BACK!

And the CETA program,it helped me pay the bills for awhile.on the other hand,his wage and price controls gave me a 15 cent an hour raise in my factory job instead of the quarter an hour I'd hoped for.
Boss actually blamed it on Nixon.

Plus he's a lotta fun to imitate.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

David Frye's was my favorite. Seriously, though, to have had a fellow as paranoid as that, with his fingers on the nuclear trigger no less! George C. Scott in "Dr. Strangelove, anybody? LOL

SJ said...

@Will, Oso,
President Nixon is one of those guys I'll always remember in black & White, even though as a small child I saw him on color TV...
Different era, different man.
He was certainly corrupt, but no one would ever think to call him stupid, or inexperienced, or incapable. Very few politicians today could match his intellect.
Even as liberal, I've always sympathized with him in a strange way. He had a long personal history of being bested by better-looking, more appealing --though not necessarily smarter rivals.
There's just an unfairness to life that he never really seemed to be able to deal with rationally.
I can relate to making enemies lists.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Hi, SJ. Yeah, I kind of feel sorry for him, too. He wasn't a well man. He certainly (even though some of this stuff is highly humorous in retrospect; "pray with me, Henry, pray with me") wasn't stable enough to be president. That's for sure.

Stella by Starlight said...

What a great post!!! Will, you always remind me of those difficult shades of gray in political thought. I remember a film in my American history class of him running against Kennedy with that famous upper lip sweat recounting of his love for "Checkers." I was still an infant during that election.

If you can make such gracious comments about Nixon, I can think of a couple of Bush II positives. He does deserve credit for declaring the Marinna Trench an environmentally protected area and his unwavering aid to Africa.

I'm not sure if it was a class act or self-preservation when he said he would never comment on the decisions of the Obama Administration because he was no longer president. Then again, I'm not sure whether he or Cheney served as president.

Stella by Starlight said...

Sorry, SJ. Your comment resonated with me and I should have commented. one would ever think to call him stupid, or inexperienced, or incapable. Very few politicians today could match his intellect. His dealings with China and Russia were extraordinary in many ways, especially living through the Cold War.

No matter how much you disagreed with Nixon and his J. Edgar Hoover tactics, he he never did deal with his critics rationally. Sometimes, I don't either.

I, too can relate to making enemies lists. I'd be a hypocrite to say I wouldn't.

Oso Nixon IS a lot of fun to imitate. I remember Rich Little mimicking him perfectly. George Carlin didn't seem enamored of Nixon:

I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately—George Carlin. "The last vote that George Carlin said he cast in a presidential race was for George McGovern in 1972. When Richard Nixon, who Carlin described as a member of a sub-species of humanity, overwhelmingly defeated McGovern, the comedian gave up on the political process."

As I think about this thread on Nixon, my mind wandered over to another presidential cipher: LBJ Wiki has a nice overview of his presidency and creation of his Great Society: legislation that included laws that upheld civil rights, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education, and his attempt to help the poor in his "War on Poverty." Simultaneously, he greatly escalated direct American involvement in the Vietnam War.

I have always been torn about the utter contraction that characterizes LBJ. I adored him for his progressive legislation, yet loathed him for the thousands who needlessly lost their lives, limbs, and sanity in Viet Nam. This is one crisis of conscience I'll never solve.

"...after having signed the Higher Education Act of 1965, Johnson looked back: 'I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically every one of those children because they were too poor. And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.'"

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

The thing about Bush 2, Stella, we're probably not going to know for another 2-3 decades what his full legacy will be. But, right now, as we speak, I'd put him right down there with Johnson (Andrew) and Nixon. One of the worst, in other words. I would agree with you, though, the AIDS initiative in Africa was his benchmark. And he TRIED to do the right thing on immigration. I'll give him credit there, too.......I also share your frustration with LBJ. On the one hand, he was a true hero on civil rights. On the other hand, he was a bald-faced liar. "I will never send American boys to do the fighting that Asian boys should be doing." A real contradiction of a man.

Oso said...

Two positives,IMO,one could say about both LBJ and Nixon is that they were veteran political insiders and they knew their way around the American political system.They could get things done.Witness Medicare-LBJ saw the need and pushed it,threatened and twisted arms and if my understanding is correct-voila! Eleven months later people were collecting Medicare payments.Now even if the Dems watered down piece of crap health care bill is passed,it doesn't go into effect for what,four or five years?

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

The Dems could probably use the "Tipster", too. He was a "get 'er doner", too, right?

Oso said...

yep the Tipster would help.

SJ said...

@Stella by Starlight,
yes, I agree. He was just very accessibly human, and was just plain formidable.
I can't relate to a Washington, a Jefferson, either of the Roosevelts, or Eisenhower, they were just far beyond me in too many ways, but Nixon for all his accomplishments is someone I understand while being horrified and impressed at many of the things he did.
BTW- Mycue, the founder of the blog I call home, wrote an animated cartoon on the early childhood of Richard Nixon, which I illustrated, you can watch the animatic for it here: