Page 2 of 4

"The present crisis in government will not be resolved on the basis of whether or not Mr. Nixon can be legally proved to have personally shared in obstructing justice in the Watergate case. His administration has been shown to be pervaded by so much other malfeasance that the Watergate break-in is no more than an incident. To confine the issue to that narrow ground seems a serious error. Forget the tapes. What we are dealing with here is fundamental immorality."
Our memories are too short. Tuchman reminds us:
"The Dirty Tricks Department, with its forgeries and frame-ups, burglaries and proposed fire-bombings, operated right out of the White House under the supervision of the President's personal appointees. Is he separable from them?

"Key members of the Committee to Reelect the President, who have already pleaded guilty to perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice, were lent by or transferred from the White House. Is Mr. Nixon separable from them?

"Two of his former Cabinet officers are now awaiting judicial trial. Is he separable from them?

"His two closest advisers, his director of the FBI, his second nominee as Attorney General, have all resigned under the pressure of mounting disclosures. Is he separable from them?

"Corrupt practices in the form of selling government favors to big business, as in the case of ITT and the milk lobby, have been his administration's normal habit. Is he separable from that--or from the use of taxpayers' money to repair his private homes?

"Finally, under his authority, the Pentagon carried on a secret and falsified bombing of Cambodia and lied about it to Congress while the President himself lied to the country about respecting Cambodia's neutrality. There will be no end to the revelations of misconduct, because misconduct was standard operating procedure."
Tuchman also wrote:
"The cause for impeachment remains, because President Nixon cannot change--and the American people cannot afford--the habit of illegality and abuse of executive power which has been normal to him."
But there is something about Nixon that will not allow us to ignore him. He is endlessly fascinating. In Rebellions, Perversities and Main Events, the collected columns of the wonderful New York columnist Murray Kempton, Nixon is discussed:

"His smile across the room is almost and unexpectedly beseeching. The first thought is that he is faintly crying mercy; but he must long ago have ceased to expect mercy anywhere; a man who has so doggedly followed his star without ever asking quarter from history is certainly above asking mercy from journalists . . . this is a man who, say what you choose of him, came to run the course. He will, with time, be a landmark in the history of quiet, determined desperation. . . . We will end surprised to discover that we love him. . . ."
What we are too ready to forget is that all the top posts in the Nixon administration were manned by hard men. Nixon's vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, was forced to resign because of crooked dealings while he was governor of Maryland.

Tom Wicker, the retired Washington, D.C., bureau chief of the New York Times, wrote a piece for last Sunday's Times "Week in Review" section that ran more than 1,000 words but still was barely able to hit the highlights of Nixon's triumphs and peccadilloes in a public political life that began in 1946 when he was first elected to Congress from California.

Wicker recalled something that Bryce Harlow, a Republican supporter, once said of Nixon. Harlow believed that Nixon must have been very deeply hurt by someone he trusted:

"He never got over it and never trusted anybody again. But in life, we get back what we put into it." Wicker added: "Indeed, if Richard Nixon trusted no one, millions of Americans never trusted him."
The Wicker piece pointed out that Nixon made two famous television appearances which, at the time, were the most-watched ever by a political figure. The first was Nixon's "Checkers Speech" that saved his place on the Eisenhower ticket. The second was his debate in 1960 with John F. Kennedy.

I saw them both. During the first, I was still in college. During the second, I was working for a daily newspaper in Lima, Ohio. I was rooting against Nixon both times. In fact, I had made a $100 bet on the outcome of his presidential campaign against John Kennedy with my then-managing editor. I won the bet. But Kennedy's victory so alienated my politically conservative boss that it became necessary to move on to the Chicago Tribune to find work.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Fitzpatrick