Sunday, May 13, 2007

Saint Richard?

Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace from the presidency exactly one week before my sixteenth birthday. As young as I was, I think I was fairly politically astute for my age and I was angry as hell at the bastard for what he had done to the country I love so much. I remember thinking at the time that It would never again get as weird as it had been during the Age of Nixon. But then a funny thing happened: in 1980, the American people sent a feeble-minded, failed "B" movie actor named Ronald Reagan to the White House and all of the sudden, Dick Nixon didn't look so bad anymore. Truth be told, at times I found myself feeling a sense of teary-eyed nostalgia for the old bugger. Well into Ronnie's second term, I wrote a song parody which was supposed to be sung to the tune of Bobby Goldsboro's 1968 hit, the fabulously maudlin, "Honey":
One time I thought that Richard Nixon's presidency was the worst thing possible,
But that was many years ago and nowadays that sentiment seems laughable,
In 1980, somehow, the electorate coughed up a brain-dead movie star,
I never had faith in the voters but I never realized how dumb they are....
And Nixon, I miss you
And I'm feeling blue
I've lost all of my senses
I'm nostalgic for you....
And see the debt how big it's grown, but friends, it hasn't been too long - it wasn't big,
In early 1981, the debt that's now a red wood tree was just a twig.
While Tricky Dick might have been inherently corrupt and dysfunctional as a human being, the man had a real and deep-seated affection for the aims and aspirations of the middle class of which he was a product. While some of his economic policies were questionable to say the least, the Trickster, unlike Reagan, never forgot where he came from. In his youth, he had known real poverty, not to mention personal tragedy - two of his brothers, Arthur and Harold, dying of tuberculosis at very young ages. Say what you want about the Nixon presidency - as bad as it might have been - no one will ever be able to realistically accuse his term of office as being an assault on people of modest means. That assault, which has been going on in full force for over a quarter of a century now, began on January 20, 1981 when Reagan took the oath of office as the fortieth president of the United States. It is now in the process of destroying the American middle class.
If Ronald Wilson Reagan was able to transform Richard Milhaus Nixon from ogre to grand old statesman - however flawed - the administration of George Walker Bush has turned the man into a virtual saint! And while the Gipper still looks like a doddering old fool, even in hindsight, he at least has the good fortune of being followed into office within the span of a mere twelve years by a man who will no doubt be remembered as the worst chief executive in American history. Reagan and Nixon might have been horrifically misguided as far as their respective ambitions were concerned, but they were surrounded by smart (if not brilliant) people who were at the very least marginally competent. And Nixon, it should not be forgotten, was not by any means possessed of a mediocre intellect. Other than Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, he probably had the best mind of any president who ever served. Even the worst administrations (Buchanan, Grant, Harding and Hoover come readily to mind) have had at least some redeeming factors. George W. Bush and the tidal wave of corruption and stupidity that comprises this disgusting administration will not be able to make that claim. When the final chapter of his reign of error is eventually written, nothing positive will be said to have come from this White House. Nothing.
When Richard Nixon died on April 22, 1994, the passage of twenty years time had somewhat softened the animosity many people had felt for him at the time of his resignation in 1974. Truth be told, I was shocked at how much the main stream media was able to white wash his legacy to the point of ridiculousness. Seeing people like convicted felons Charles "Chuck" Colson and G. Gordon Liddy being sought out to provide "objective" assessments of his life and career just didn't pass the giggle test as far as I was concerned. Nixon had tarnished the office of the presidency to such a degree that it would prove impossible for his hand-picked successor, the amiable and moderate Gerald R. Ford, to be elected in his own right two years later. He would end up being defeated by a relatively unknown, former governor of the state of Georgia named Jimmy Carter.
Somewhere in the void, Richard M. Nixon, you may be sure, is laughing right now. As revolting as the break in at the Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel on June 17, 1972 might have been, when history finally renders its ultimate judgement, that crime will seem but a paper cut when placed in juxtaposition to George W. Bush's moral and ethical blood bath. Compared to the Bush Mob, the Nixon Gang are starting to look like a bunch of Trappist Monks. For all of their misdeeds (and I can't believe I'm even defending these guys, I assure you!) Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and John Mitchell are remembered by those who knew them as basically decent and intelligent men who did some mean and stupid things. The Bush White House is riddled with far too many human characteristics to adequately catalogue; decency and intelligence are not among them.
I used to think that it couldn't get any worse than Nixon - then along came Reagan. I would console myself during the eighties by thinking that Ronnie's presidency was the ultimate in foolishness - and then along came a half-witted frat boy named George W. Bush. I'm not going to get fooled again into thinking that this is as bad as it gets - but I will tell you this: if, in the years to come, the American people are ever again foolish enough to send to the Oval Office someone who equals or surpasses this president in terms of sheer corruption and imbecility, it will destroy this country - that's assuming it's not already beyond repair.
Pray for peace.
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
Happy Mothers Day!


At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How true Tom,now that we have seen what Ronnie and the 2 Bushes have done to our once-great country, Nixon looks better all the time.Nixon loved his country and respected the Constitution, unlike the current occupant who is ripping the greatest document since Magna Carta to shreds and trampling on the pieces.
As for Ronnie,he had to be in the first stages of Alzheimers.
After all these years the first thing I think of in relation to Ronnie is the spectacle of a PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA LAYING A WREATH ON THE GRAVES OF NAZI SOLDIERS AT BITBERG GERMANY!!!!
Nixon's downfall was his "poor little me" obsession, he was always harping in his poor childhood.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Bambic said...

Hey Tom-
I've got a good one for you.
When Nixon ran against Kennedy, I guess that would have been in the '59-'-60 campaign, my father---as over-protective as he was---decided to take me with him to a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he worked in radio at the time.
To make a long story short, my dad had put me up on his shoulders and when the crowd surged forward, I fell into his car, onto his lap. I remember the texture of his brown suit, his aftershave, and many hands trying to lift me up. He was a bit disgruntled, but having daughters of his own, asked if I was all right. By then, this stunned four-year-old was back in her own daddy's arms.
My first and last experience in Republican politics...

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

What a great story, Bam! Did any photographer or newsreel camera preserve that scene for posterity? That would be priceless to have in one's archives. Of all of the post war presidents, Dick Nixon is easily the most interesting to read about - even more interesting then JFK.
Tom Degan

At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reagan's eight years made me almost nostalgic for Nixon....until the current thug came along, Reagan was #1 on my list of The Worst Presidents in History. No more, he's permanently dropped down to #2.

I do wonder if this country can survive the time he has left in office. Personally, I think he needs to be gone now, along with that horrible Cheney.

Mary Eman

At 5:51 AM, Blogger Nancy said...

Uh, Tom.
Many of the current Bush thugs WERE Nixonites.
Karl Rove.
Dick Cheney.
Donald Rumsfeld.
Need I say more? Why are you idealizing this trash heap Administration? Bush merely carried out what was promised us by another corrupt Nixon appointee back in the Watergate age.
I have long been haunted by convicted attorney general John Mitchell's assertion, as he was led off to federal prison, that 'this country is going to swing so far to the right that you won't recognize it.'
Well, I know what he meant now.
Get real. Nixon was a crud, one of the worst human beings ever to hold Presidential office. He put the people in place who are running the country now.
And don't you remember when George W. Bush dated Tricia Nixon?

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Dear Nancy,
Again, I have to emphasize (as I did in the piece) that I am most definately not trying to "revision" Richard Nixon as a great president. All I am saying is that as bad as he was, Bush is a much worse and terrifying chief-executive - this can not be denied. I'm sure every one of us, given the choice, would prefer Dick Nixon in the White House than what we've got in there now. Your misinterpratation of what I wrote only tells me you didn't read the whole thing, my dear.
Tom Degan

At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,
Another good post and you are absolutely right on the money again. In hindsight and by comparison, Nixon was not nearly as bad as Reagan or Dubya. One of the things that has constantly puzzled and infuriated me is the mindless adultation given by so many people to that senile old fool Reagan who was incapable of separating reality from a movie script.

And as we all know, Bush has simply taken Reaganism far beyond what that old duffer ever imagined, however to his credit, Bush seems to have more people who know what a failure he is than Reagan ever did. He will certainly never have to worry about people talking about what a great president he was.

For all of his faults, Nixon did accomplish some things for the good of this country, and I don't think even the most ardent Bush supporter can come up with ONE positive thing that Dubya has accomplished. If he were not so totally despicable, it would almost be funny to see a man who has failed at everything he has ever done in life sitting in the White House. The sad thing is that he is taking this country down the toilet with him.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

Dear Tom,
You can agree to disagree, but I certainly did read the entire article, and Dick Nixon is doubly damned for giving Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove their start in politics.
I most certainly would not want him back. Which is better, having your nails wrenched out with a pair of pliers or a dull scissor?

At 4:46 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Jane, again, you've totally missed the point. You can't seriously say with a straight face that the Nixon administration was even one fifth as bad as Bush II. Did you know that Daniel Patrick Moynahan was a member of the Nixon team? This is getting silly!
Tom Degan

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

My name isn't Jane. Someone did not read the last message.
And I'm not claiming any politicians are saints. But Nixon bred devils.

At 2:59 AM, Blogger Bambic said...

Is it possible that Tom was merely paying tribute to Dan Ackroyd's news-anchor-character on the old Saturday Night Live where he would begin his rant (with Jane Curtin):
"Jane, you ignorant slut..."
Well Tom?
And I believe that the Detroit Free Press may have photographed my incident on Dick's lap...(?)

At 3:09 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

The Jane reference was just a coincidence, I was communicating with someone with that name, earlier....And as far as Nixon breeding devils is concerned - and again, I can't believe I'm defending the guy - who in 1969 could have predicted where Cheney and Rumsfeld would go? I'll repeat myself: it is insane to imply that the Nixon and Bush I presidencies are one in the same in their incompetence and corruption.

At 5:07 AM, Blogger Nancy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:08 AM, Blogger Nancy said...

John Mitchell's quote was right on the money. These people were planning Bush-style administrations even then.

At 5:12 PM, Blogger stoney13 said...


Great post. I remember watching the Watergate Commision Hearings on television every day for a month, because it was the only thing that was on! How very FUCKING delightful!!!

Some of the youngsters out there may find this hard to believe, but backm in THOSE day,(when dinosaurs roamed the earth), we had nothing but three comercial channels and PBS to watch on TV!!!! No cell phones, video-games, (outside of a video arcade), or personal computers, either! AND I WANTED TO KILL NIXON!!!!!!!

There wasn't shit on TV because of the prick!!! And if THAT wasn't bad enough, whenever my friends and I went forth to persue the really IMPORTANT things in life at that time, (smoking pot and building hot-rods!), the ONLY thing ANYONE wanted to talk about was WATERGATE!!!!! IT WAS A FUCKING NIGHTMARE!!

Now in these days when Bush makes Nixon look absolutely saintly, nobody seems to notice!!!

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Tom, Besides Nixon, time is making others look almost saintly, remember Jim Wright and Tip O'Neill forced to resign for dastardly deeds that are common practise now?
Remember the Vicuna coat "scandal" during Eisenhower's presidency.
I recall an old song "Time Changes Everything"

At 3:13 PM, Blogger SupremeAntBee said...

I just started reading this blog, and I love it! Thank you very much for your insightful writing. I will be coming back here daily.


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