All of which proves our long national nightmare is not over.
How should we look upon Nixon a century after his birth and nearly 39 years after his resignation as president? I vote for “down.”
The year-long Richard Nixon Centennial, being run by the Nixon Foundation at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, has chosen three words on its banner to sum up Nixon: “Patriot. President. Peacemaker.”
I guess “Paranoid” wouldn’t fit.
Nixon was not a fool. He possessed a high-level of political cunning marred only by his corruption, racism, anti-Semitism and attempts to subvert our democratic institutions.
To some, such as those who have contributed big bucks to finance a year’s worth of celebratory events, including a May trip to China to “retrace Richard Nixon’s steps” that “changed the world,” that may seem a little harsh.
But no events are planned to examine Watergate. Why not? Are those who gather to praise Nixon so secretly ashamed that they dare not speak its name?
The Nixon Foundation and the National Archives plan a year of what are being called “Legacy Forums” across the country at which former Nixon officials will discuss Nixon’s “statesmanship, his quest for a just society, the foundation of the modern presidency and his goal for a better America.”
There is no mention of discussing any of the Articles of Impeachment adopted by the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974, that state Nixon “prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice” in America.
There is no mention of his making “false or misleading statements” to law enforcement officers, or withholding evidence, or counseling witnesses to make false statements, or misusing and interfering with the FBI, CIA and Secret Service.
Surely there is time for just one “Legacy Forum” devoted to the committee’s conclusion that “Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
And why not feature some of the tapes that Nixon secretly recorded? They show a fuller picture of the man. One set of tapes, released in 2010, record Nixon saying to Charles Colson, his special counsel, on Feb. 13, 1973, “I’ve just recognized that, you know, all people have certain traits.’
“For example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. It’s sort of a natural trait.
“The Italians, of course, just don’t have their heads screwed on tight. They are wonderful people, but ...” and here his voice trails off for a moment, and then he continues, “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.”
In a separate conversation with his personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, Nixon disagrees with views expressed by his secretary of state, William Rogers, about black people.
“Bill Rogers has got somewhat — and to his credit it’s a decent feeling — but somewhat, sort of, a sort of blind spot on the black thing because he’s been in New York,” Nixon said. “He says, well, ‘They are coming along, and that after all, they are going to strengthen our country in the end because they are strong physically and some of them are smart.’ So forth and so on.”
“My own view is I think he’s right if you’re talking in terms of 500 years,” Nixon continues. “I think it’s wrong if you’re talking in terms of 50 years. What has to happen is they have to be, frankly, inbred. And, you just, that’s the only thing that’s going to do it.”
So here we have the 37th president of the United States saying black people have to be “inbred” if we want to make them smarter.
So spare me talk about China and all the wonderful environmental legislation he passed. The guy was a loon and a danger to our country. And it was only when Republican leaders went to him and told him the House would impeach him and the Senate might remove him from office, opening up the possibility he could be criminally charged and go to prison, that Nixon decided to resign and later was granted a pardon from Gerald Ford, also born 100 years ago this year.
In fact, a lot of famous people were born a century ago, including Rosa Parks, Vince Lombardi, Menachem Begin, Burt Lancaster, Albert Camus, Willy Brandt and Lloyd Bridges.
I’d rather eat a piece of birthday cake in honor of any of them than to Nixon.
Baudelaire once said, “The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist.”
Nixon’s merry band wants to sanitize the past and convince us that only a “good” Richard Nixon existed.
But there are many of us who will never forget the real Tricky Dick. And history shouldn’t, either.
Roger Simon is editor of Politico.