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Hall of Fame: The Case For Richard Nixon



An unlikely diplomat, President Richard Nixon saw his presidency defined by his foreign policy accomplishments. (STF/AFP/Getty Images)

Today begins the first of three weeks of analysis and debate over the three nominees -- Richard Nixon, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Tip O'Neill -- for inclusion in the Fix Political Hall of Fame.

We will make a case for and a case against each man in the next 21 days and at the end of that process, we'll turn it over to Fixistas for a vote. The man with the most votes enters the HOF. The others have to, as Doris Kearns Goodwin says, wait 'till next year (or, in this case, next month).

Nixon is first up in this shortened holiday week -- a slight that the former president almost certainly would have noticed and groused about were he still alive.

Perseverance Personified: If part of the American ethos is rising, being knocked backward and rising again, then Nixon is the politician whose career best embodies it. Nixon was a fast riser -- winning a seat in Congress while he was in his early 30s and getting elected to the Senate soon after that. By 39, he was Dwight Eisenhower's running mate and spent most of his 40s in the White House as vice president. (He almost didn't make it when allegations of his ties to a group of wealthy businessmen threatened his place on the ticket in 1952; Nixon, characteristically, bounced back with the "Checkers" speech).

Adversity struck in earnest as Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential race and two years later lost a run for governor of California -- a defeat punctuated by his angry and self-pitying post-election address in which he famously declared: "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."

But, Nixon was far from done in politics; he had the itch and he couldn't resist scratching it despite himself. Nixon re-emerged as a national figure during the 1964 and 1966 campaigns and by 1968 he was not only running for president but (finally) winning his coveted office by beating Hubert Humphrey. Nixon's reelection romp four years later presaged his largest (and final) setback -- one that came to define his career.

But, a look at the totality of Nixon's political career shows a uniquely American story of aspiration, accomplishment, failure and (attempted) reclamation. Nixon is to politics as Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden or even Michael Vick is to sports. We, as a country, love second chances and Nixon had more of them than any politician in modern memory.

Diplomat Extraordinaire: Nixon was an extremely active presence on the international stage throughout his presidency -- and several of his trips reached near-iconic status. He was the first American president to visit the People's Republic of China (in 1972) -- despite his strong anti-Communist stance -- and is widely credited with helping to thaw relations with that country. (Nixon's surprise visit became so well known that the mere mention of "Nixon in China" has become a stand-in for a bold, unexpected political move -- heck there is even an opera dedicated to the visit.)

Later that same year, Nixon huddled in Moscow with Leonid Brezhnev, the head of the Communist party in Russia, and Brezhnez reciprocated with a visit to the U.S. in 1973 -- back and forth visits credited with the detente between the two nations. And, it was Nixon who (finally) brought an end to the war in Vietnam by declaring a settlement that preserved "peace with honor" for the United States. It's hard to come up with a modern American president who had lower expectations on the international stage and who went on to accomplish so much.

Political Animal: Part of membership in the Fix Political Hall of Fame is possessing a rabid (and uncontrollable) love for the game of politics. No one this side of Bill Clinton can match Nixon in this regard. His love-hate relationship with public life was a fascinating bit of personal drama that played out in the national spotlight. The fact that his desire for public office won out over his distaste for everything that came with that office at nearly every turn in his life shows how strong the political bug had caught Nixon.

What sort of man decides to run for president eight years after he had lost that office as a sitting vice president and six years removed from a sweeping defeat for the governor's office in California? A man who is so consumed by politics that he can think of nothing else he could do with his life.

Nixon's obsession with politics clearly had a negative side -- his paranoia, conspiracy theories and willingness to break the law to gain the upper hand against his political opponents being the most obvious example -- but there is also something dreadfully compelling about someone who had any number of opportunities to join the private sector and make a comfortable life for he and his family and each time took a pass to return the boiling cauldron of elective politics.

Tomorrow: The Case Against Nixon.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 1, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Hall of Fame  
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Comments

I agree that Nixon should be in the Political Hall of Fame.

Posted by: Lisa421 | July 6, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I think Nixon should be in the HOF. It doesn't reflect that he was a good influence on politics, but he was a major political newsmaker when he succeeded and when he failed. It's not a measure of how many people agree with his actions or policies, but about his prominent and longtime involvement in national politics.

Posted by: dave82881 | July 6, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, enough newbees vote for Tip O'Neill to split the libs, giving Nixon one last political victory.

Posted by: JakeD | July 6, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"Ah, but we are. If I understand correctly, at the end of this exercise we vote to induct either FDR, Tip O'Neil, or Nixon. "

I didn't know that. That's kind of a stupid system- even the baseball HoF lets voters vote for multiple candidates, it doesn't just pit all possible inductees against each other.

Also, if CC wants some non-Presidents to make it in, this is a pretty big road block. I like O'Neil quite a bit, but I'll have to vote for FDR, if I only get one vote.

Posted by: colby1983 | July 3, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

What happened to "The Case Against Nixon"? I know it is a very easy exercise, but you did promise it...

Posted by: thephd | July 3, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Nixon is the Pete Rose of politics. No.

Posted by: gbooksdc | July 2, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Nixon belongs in the hall of shame, not any hall of fame. In the Sienna survey of historians in 2002, Nixon came in as #26, in the C-SPAM survey in 2009, Nixon was # 27.

L. Johnson was 15th, 11th respectively, Reagan 16th, 10th, Clinton 18th, 15th.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | July 2, 2009 3:42 AM | Report abuse

Nixon belongs in a Machiavellian hall of fame or hall of shame. He was one of the leading politicians during the late 1940's and 1950's responsible for McCarthyism. His Senate campaign against Senator Helen Douglass was a shameful, smear campaign.

Besides his lack of respect for the Constitution and rule of law, clear in his involvement in the Watergate scandal, as well as comments that if a president approves an action, that makes illegal, Nixon's continued military intervention in southeast Asia led to the deaths of hundres of thousands of people. His military attacks on Cambodia destablized the neutralist government there, contributing to the infamous Khmer Rouge taking control of the country.

Nixon being in any hall of fame would reflect a repudiation of any sense of ethics, the rule of law and insensitivity to those who needlessly died because of his military decisions.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | July 2, 2009 3:19 AM | Report abuse

colby1983 wrote: "Just that if we were judging him against FDR (and we're not)"

Ah, but we are. If I understand correctly, at the end of this exercise we vote to induct either FDR, Tip O'Neil, or Nixon.

Posted by: nodebris | July 2, 2009 1:03 AM | Report abuse

(raises glass to colby1983 for the use of the impersonal "one")

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 2, 2009 12:22 AM | Report abuse

"Successful politicians get elected and wield power effectively."

I think that's a reasonable definition, and a good thing to base PHoF on.

But effectiveness must be judged against a certain goal, so what's yours?

I'm gonna guess it's maintaining popularity and power for one's self and one's party. In which case, FDR clearly did a lot better, holding on to the Presidency for his party for 16 years (20 if you want to count Truman's second term, and you really could), and everything else for a lot longer (with brief interruptions after WWII). The next four Presidents expressly tried to build off of FDR (With the Republican calling himself a "liberal"), and even a very Conservative Republican President 30 years later spoke of him with reverence.

Contrast that with Nixon, who never secured his party Congressional majorities, whose unpopularity dragged down his successor, too, even against some no-name loon from Georgia, and who, to this day, is synonomous with corruption and secrecy (to the extent that it overwhelms the very real accomplishments as President).

None of this is to say Nixon doesn't belong in the PHoF. Just that if we were judging him against FDR (and we're not), his record wouldn't carry him.

Posted by: colby1983 | July 1, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

His end was anything but edifying, and he was too beaten down to do more than walk out the door.

==

I saw his resignation speech live. I tried to gloat that he'd been "bagged" by Watergate, but he was too pitiable by that point. I was 20. It was later, mostly after his death, that I learned how great he had been.

He did manage to recover some statesman credentials before he died. I was glad.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 1, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

"

Uh, armpeg, even his fellow Republicans told him they couldn't defend him and wanted him to leave. Nixon brought himself down.

However, he did three things on the way out and one after he left office that speak well for what was left of his character: 1. He made sure Spiro Agnew (an even bigger crook) was gone before he resigned.2. He picked Gerald Ford as his successor, an inspired choice of an honest, competent man. 3. He accepted his fate and resigned, sparing the country a show trial of epic proportions. Posted by: Gallenod"

My memory of the mess was that, actually, Congress goy Agnew so as to be able to get at Nixon. Once his personell protection, (They wouldn't dare impeach Nixon and have to take Agnew as President..." was gone Nixon knew the jig was up.

It was Congress more than Nixon who decided that a man who played too many games at Michigan without any particularly effective head protection was the right choice as leader of the free world. By that time Nixon seems to have drifted off int the lala land he occupied, mentally those last days. He merely and meekly acquiesced.

And he went, quietly, like McCarthy, because he knew that he no longer had the touch to keep juggling those chainsaws.

His end was anything but edifying, and he was too beaten down to do more than walk out the door.

Posted by: ceflynline | July 1, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Since today is the pro side of Nixon, will leave out the anti-anti, but even his plusses were more minuses than seemly.

He was an opportunistic schemer more than anything else, and devious beyond measure. Joe McCarthy had no tricks that Nixon wasn't flat out better at. Inside that schemer was the potential for every nasty think ever done by him or in his name.

He DID open up China, but the price was selling out the republic of Viet nam, and later selling out the Republic of China. But Nixon ws willing to sell out about anyone to get what he wanted.

He attracted a decidedly nasty set of associates, loyal yo the point, and beyond, of criminality, and given to inventing dirty tricks that became republican Party standards for all these years following.

He was always dark and threatening, even when it probably worked against him, and his checkers debacle should have warned us all (I was all of five at the time, but I still didn't like him) and lead us to find better talent, but again, he was just the zombie the conservatives wanted.

Give me a happy, effective, good hearted politician, like FDR, HHH, or Tip any time.Of the three politicians offered, rank him fourth.

Posted by: ceflynline | July 1, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

I would edit or expand that to read "An honest man who was a competent Speaker of the House and an incompetent President".

==

You already corrected on the first, I would take issue with the second.

Ford was exactly what we needed after the tumult of Nixon, a laid-back low-key president. We could continue the argument about pardoning Nixon if you like, but the nation was exhausted by Watergate and the Irvin hearings and needed to move on more than it needed to see the full vindictiveness of judgment done.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 1, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

"Successful politicians get elected and wield power effectively."

FDR was elected four times, and I think the GOP to this day cringes over how effectively he wielded power. Nixon, of course, eventually totally lost control of all power and couldn't effectively do anything but resign.

I still don't see how, by any reasonable definition of "politician," FDR wasn't a better one.

Posted by: nodebris | July 1, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Sorry. Ford=House Minority Leader, not Speaker.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | July 1, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Gallenod wrote, "2. He picked Gerald Ford as his successor, an inspired choice of an honest, competent man."

I would edit or expand that to read "An honest man who was a competent Speaker of the House and an incompetent President".

Posted by: douglaslbarber | July 1, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about the EPA, but Nixon really upped the money on cancer research. NCI was created by FDR, but Nixon gave the institute some real monetary muscle.

Posted by: DDAWD

==

Nixon signed NEPA on 1/1/70, choosing the first day of a new decade (by numerical rollover, that is) for such a monumental change in America's relationship with the natural world.

I didn't need to google that, I remember it from the time.

Even then concern for the environment was regarded as "hippie," and while the GOP wasn't as arrayed against the environment as it is now, suicidally so, it was nevertheless a bold and courageous move for a determinedly conservative politician like Nixon. That's why I give him the nod. For having the courage to go against the grain, so much different from the slavishly devoted Republicans we have now.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 1, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Whoa, actual useful information posted by JakeD.

What a pity it comes from someone who so routinely posts drivel and self-promotion that everyone here has the habit of scrolling past his posts.

Hey Jake, maybe if you dropped the for the record / next canard / registered independent / LONG FORM / etc. crap people might read when you actually post something useful.

And if you posted something useful a lit-tle more often.

And oh, yeah, next time post a link and an excerpt

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 1, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

"Didn't Nixon give us the EPA? and more spending on domestic programs"

I don't know about the EPA, but Nixon really upped the money on cancer research. NCI was created by FDR, but Nixon gave the institute some real monetary muscle.

Posted by: DDAWD | July 1, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

"Part of membership in the Fix Political Hall of Fame is possessing a rabid (and uncontrollable) love for the game of politics. No one this side of Bill Clinton can match Nixon in this regard."

Posted by: JakeD | July 1, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Gallenod:

Thank you for that distinction. I agree that FDR was a better President, but Nixon was a better politician.

Posted by: JakeD | July 1, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I recommend watching Frost/Nixon. The portrayal of Nixon was incredible.

Posted by: DDAWD | July 1, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I agree with those who consider FDR a better president than Nixon. But I still think Nixon was the more accomplished politician.

Obviously I have different expectations of behavior for poliicians than I do presidents, though it is possible to be good at both.

Successful politicians get elected and wield power effectively.

Successful presidents make the world a better place without stain or stigma. (Or at least without getting caught.)

But for the PHoF, I'm only considering the former.

Posted by: Gallenod | July 1, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolitionism#United_States

The first American movement to abolish slavery came in the spring of 1688 [George Washington was born 44 years later in 1732] when German and Dutch Quakers of Mennonite descents in Germantown, Pennsylvania (now part of Philadelphia) wrote a two-page condemnation of the practice and sent it to the governing bodies of their Quaker church, the Society of Friends. Though the Quaker establishment took no immediate action, the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, was an unusually early, clear and forceful argument against slavery and initiated the process of banning slavery in the Society of Friends (1776) and Pennsylvania (1780).

Thomas Paine [1737–1805], whose 1775 article "African Slavery in America" was the first article published in what would become the United States which advocated abolishing slavery and freeing the slaves. The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage was the first formal American abolition society, formed April 14, 1775, in Philadelphia, primarily by Quakers who had strong religious objections to slavery. Rhode Island Quakers, associated with Moses Brown, co-founder of Brown University, and who also settled at Uxbridge, Massachusetts prior to 1770, were among the first in America to free slaves. The Society ceased to operate during the Revolution and the British occupation of Philadelphia. After the Revolution, it was reorganized in 1784, with Benjamin Franklin as its first president. Benjamin Rush was another leader, as were many Quakers. John Woolman gave up most of his business in 1756 to devote himself to campaigning against slavery along with other Quakers.

The Abolitionist Movement set in motion actions in every state to abolish slavery. By 1804, abolitionists succeeded in passing legislation eventually emancipated the slaves in every state north of the Ohio River and the Mason-Dixon Line. However, emancipation in the free states was so gradual that there were still a dozen "permanent apprentices" in the 1860 census.

John Jay [1745–1829] founded the New York Manumission Society in 1785 to advocate this reform with Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Thanks to the considerable efforts of the NYMS, New York abolished slavery (gradually) in 1799. In terms of numbers of slaves, this was the largest emancipation in American history (before 1863). New Jersey in 1804 was the last northern state to abolish slavery (again in gradual fashion). At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, agreement was reached that allowed the Federal government to abolish the international slave trade, but not prior to 1808. By that time, all the states had passed individual laws abolishing or severely limiting the trade, all but Georgia by 1798; some of the Southern laws were later repealed.

Posted by: JakeD | July 1, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

(cont.)

After the American Revolutionary War, Quaker and Moravian advocates helped persuade numerous slaveholders in the Upper South to free their slaves. Manumissions increased for nearly two decades. Many individual acts of manumission freed thousands of slaves in total. Slaveholders freed slaves in such number that the percentage of free Negroes in the Upper South increased sharply from one to ten percent, with most of that increase in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. By 1810 three-quarters of blacks in Delaware were free. The most notable of individuals was Robert Carter III of Virginia, who freed more than 450 people by "Deed of Gift", filed in 1791. This number was more slaves than any single American had freed or would ever free. Often slaveholders came to their decisions by their own struggles in the Revolution; their wills and deeds frequently cited language about the equality of men supporting their manumissions. Slaveholders were also encouraged to do so because the economics of the area was changing. They were shifting from labor-intensive tobacco culture to mixed crop cultivation and did not need as many slaves.

The free black families began to thrive, together with African Americans free before the Revolution, mostly descendants of unions between working class white women and African men. By 1860, in Delaware 91.7 percent of the blacks were free, and 49.7 percent of those in Maryland. These first free families often formed the core of artisans, professionals, preachers and teachers in future generations. Of course, it would take a bloody Civil War and 13th Amendment to end slavery once and for all.

In 1786, Washington wrote to Robert Morris that "there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery." Of course, he eventually freed his slaves (upon the subsequent death of his wife). The importation of slaves into the United States was officially banned on January 1, 1808. Does all of this mean that Washington was NOT our greatest President? I would beg to disagree.

And, now you know why I am so patient re: abortion.

Posted by: JakeD | July 1, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

The first emancipation judgment in England came in 1772, freeing up to 14,000 slaves -- attacking my logic is akin to claiming that I "lie" in every post -- George Washington knew what he was doing was morally wrong, which was proven upon his death.

Back on topic, however, not only did Nixon successfully negotiate the ceasefire with North Vietnam and open relations with the People's Republic of China (as already noted), he also reaped the benefit of the space race and eventually initiated détente with the Soviet Union (as Vice-President in Moscow in 1959, while touring the exhibits with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, they stopped at a model of an American kitchen and engaged in the impromptu "Kitchen Debate" about the merits of capitalism versus Communism). On May 24, 1972, Nixon approved a five-year cooperative program between NASA and the Soviet space program, culminating in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a joint-mission of an American Apollo and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft in 1975.

Keep in mind, as well, that Nixon effectively ended the military draft in this country with the formation of the Gates Commission to look into ending the military service draft, implemented under President Johnson. The Gates Commission issued its report in February 1970, describing how adequate military strength could be maintained without having conscription. The draft was, unfortunately, extended to June 1973 but then ended once and for all. Up to the present day, military pay was increased as the primary incentive to attract volunteers, and television advertising for the United States Army began in earnest.

Nixon also supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War and helped resolve the Indo-Pakistani War which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. He was the ultimate foreign policy politician. As someone else pointed out on a previous thread, only Churchill (someone I would nominate as well) was Nixon's equal as a 20th Century statesman.

For more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Nixon

Posted by: JakeD | July 1, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Using your own "logic" President Washington was a "sleeze at his core" for owning slaves. The trick is to provide an honest and objective assessment of these (admittedly) imperfect men.

Posted by: JakeD

==

For a guy who sneer-quotes "logic" you're awesomely poor at exercising it.

Nixon's bombing of Viet Nam and Cambodia counted as atroicity during his lifetime.

Washington's owning of slaves reflected a morality that was over a century away from correction. He may have had misgivings about slavery but there was no moral foundation yet for those misgivings.

That's why we call it "progress." It leaves some behind. You, for example.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 1, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

vbhoomes:

I will try to convince you otherwise on the upcoming anti-Nixon and anti-FDR threads.

fulrich:

Using your own "logic" President Washington was a "sleeze at his core" for owning slaves. The trick is to provide an honest and objective assessment of these (admittedly) imperfect men.

Posted by: JakeD | July 1, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

My guess is we got some libs from Ma. who wanted to throw O'Neal in the pot.

==

The word is "liberals."

"Lib" is a term the trolls use. I'm trying hard not to count you among them, please try to make it easier for me.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 1, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

JakeD, My vote would be for FDR, I just am looking at who had the biggest impact on History not necessary who I personally favor. I don't even know why Tip O' Neil is even in the mix, you got Rayburn, Cannon, Longsworth and a couple more Speakers who had more impact the Tip. My guess is we got some libs from Ma. who wanted to throw O'Neal in the pot.

Posted by: vbhoomes | July 1, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I'd vote FDR over Nixon, of course, a hundred times the President. But I would give Nixon the nod otherwise despite his many failings, faults, and crimes, because despite his views he was able to overcome them in one significant way after another.

Nixon the hot-eyed anti-Communist opened the doors to China.

Nixon the Republican signed the NEPA and the Endangered Species Act.

What Republican now would do anything environmental? They're leapfrogging over each other to show their contempt for the natural world.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 1, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

It saddens me beyond words to have Richard Nixon even considered for a hall of fame. He degraded the presidency after decades of degrading the political processes in America: from sleezy electoral politics to degrading strategies. Yes, he listened to Henry Kissinger and ended the Vietnam war (years late) and went to China (it took years later to normalize relations though remember), but this does not erase the sleeze at his core.

Posted by: fulrich | July 1, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

What brought him down wasn't the Watergate affair per se, but a collution of political enemies that hated him and wanted to score a political coup d'etat against him and the Republican Party.

==

No, it was Watergate

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 1, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

vbhoomes:

Yes, he had some faults 00 we'll hear all about those tomorrow -- bottom-line, are you going to vote for O'Neill or FDR instead of Nixon?!

Posted by: JakeD | July 1, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Nixon was given to much credit in regards to China, it was also China playing the US card. Mao had turned on his masters in Moscow, border flair ups and such, so it just as much in Chinas strategic interest to warm relations with the US as the US.

Posted by: vbhoomes | July 1, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

History may be kinder to Tricky Dick than to Bush II. Nixon and the Ford Pardon did, however, push me over to the Left Side of politics, where I still reside, after apprenticing wholeheartedly with the Right Side in my youth.

I think he deserves a HOF place. He was a presence in American political life from the late 40's until his resignation. One might even say his departure showed some "class" in avoiding the inevitable. We can't say that about the current crop of corner-cutters as easily, I think.

Have wondered over and over why the Chinese don't have a monument to Nixon somewhere in that vast and awakened land?

Posted by: Spectator | July 1, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Chris,

You're really on a roll! First the great piece analysing the strategy behind the Franken win earlier this morning, now this really masterly analysis of the 'pros' in favour of Nixon's induction into the HOF! Really, it's like a (brilliant) chess game! (do you play, incidentally?)

Fortunately, my view of Nixon was not shaped by the 'Tricky Dick' persona that dogged him contemporarily, so I'm able to view him with a bit of distance and 'sang-froid'.

He was, as I said in my nomination of him, extremely flawed but most of his accomplishments on the international scene are beyond reproach. I shall be very interested in seeing the 'anti' arguments tomorrow!

Again, many thanks for these great pieces!

Posted by: sverigegrabb | July 1, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Partisans like armpeg feel that all or most presidents are corrupt; that any president could be subject to a Watergate; and it's only injustice, bad luck, or a conspiracy that it happened to Nixon. Therefore, Watergate should not count against him.

Quite the cynic! But let's examine the argument for a moment.

If all politicians are corrupt, the first measure of a successful politician is never getting caught. Nixon fails badly at this most basic requirement. Thus, whatever his other successes, we must judge him a poor *politician.*

FDR, on the other hand, escaped the just punishment that all politicians deserve for four whole election cycles, and died in office, honored and respected, our longest-serving president. We must judge him a very, very successful *politician.*

I don't personally subscribe to the cynics' premises, which essentially equate politician with "corrupt liar." Often true is not for me the same as inherent or defining. But if this cynical argument is going to be considered, we should clean it up, make it consistent, and admit that even by that ugly standard, FDR wins.

Posted by: nodebris | July 1, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

And don't forget his Wage & Price Controls.

Posted by: vbhoomes | July 1, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

"They are the Democratic Party, Academia, the Hollywood elites, and the Democratic Party--controlled Main Stream Media. "

The idiocy is unbounded. Unbridled. Laughable. Runs wide and deep in the R party, up to it's very top...

A hard-hitting piece on Sarah Palin in the new Vanity Fair has touched off a blistering exchange of insults among high-profile Republicans over last year’s GOP ticket – tearing open fresh wounds about leaks surrounding Palin and revealing for the first time some of the internal wars that paralyzed the campaign in its final days.

Rival factions close to the McCain campaign have been feuding since last fall over Palin, usually waging the battle in the shadows with anonymous quotes. Now, however, some of the most well-known names in Republican politics are going on-the-record with personal attacks and blame-casting.

William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard and at times an informal adviser to Sen. John McCain, touched off the latest back-and-forth Tuesday morning with a post on his magazine’s blog criticizing the Todd Purdum-authored Palin story and pointing a finger at Steve Schmidt, McCain’s campaign manager.

Kristol cited a passage in Purdum’s piece in which “some top aides” were said to worry about the Alaska governor’s “mental state” and the prospect that the Alaska governor may be suffering from post-partum depression following the birth of her son Trig. “In fact, one aide who raised this possibility in the course of trashing Palin’s mental state to others in the McCain-Palin campaign was Steve Schmidt,” Kristol wrote.

Asked about the accusation, Schmidt fired back in an e-mail: “I'm sure John McCain would be president today if only Bill Kristol had been in charge of the campaign.”

“After all, his management of [former Vice President] Dan Quayle’s public image as his chief of staff is still something that takes your breath away,” Schmidt continued. “His attack on me is categorically false.”

Posted by: drindl | July 1, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Nixon give us the EPA? and more spending on domestic programs, Not my favorite Republican, his biggest downfall as he freely admitted was vindictivness. He was a good hater, good thinker and lousy President.

Posted by: vbhoomes | July 1, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Douglas: I don't think detente was irrelevant. I was likely a contributing factor to the fall of the USSR, as it allowed for increased contact between the two countries, showing both sides' populations the differences in standard of living and lifestyle between East and West. That comparison likely contributed to and accelerated the growing disatisifaction of the population within the Eastern Bloc with their situation.

(A ball Nixon also started rolling with China.)

And we can discuss FDR when his week comes up. This is Nixon Week. Maybe the week we vote is the time to start comparing them, after we've seen all the cases for and against?

Posted by: Gallenod | July 1, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

there is absolutely no one else in history who has done more to degrade America's faith in politics than Richard Nixon. electing him to a politician's hall of fame is like putting john wayne gacy in a clown hall of fame.

his virulently racist, anti-semitic, misogynistic, paranoid, criminal, borderline psychopathic personality is captured on tape for anyone willing to listen and his legacy of lies, shame and deceit needs no liberal to twist.

typically a HOF is reserved for those whose career, in some way, was a net positive for their chosen field. let's not elect the one guy who had such a scandal-plagued end, that ALL political scandals now bear the same suffix he first gave notoriety to.

Posted by: DavidKG | July 1, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Uh, armpeg, even his fellow Republicans told him they couldn't defend him and wanted him to leave. Nixon brought himself down.

However, he did three things on the way out and one after he left office that speak well for what was left of his character:

1. He made sure Spiro Agnew (an even bigger crook) was gone before he resigned.

2. He picked Gerald Ford as his successor, an inspired choice of an honest, competent man.

3. He accepted his fate and resigned, sparing the country a show trial of epic proportions.

4. The interview with David Frost.

I don't particularly like Nixon or much of what he stood for over his career, but you don't have to like someone to appreciate his achievements and impact.

Posted by: Gallenod | July 1, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Nixon's overtures to the Soviet Union and China can't be overlooked. At that point, Nixon rose above politics and embraced the best use of presidential power.

(I assume his abuse of this power will be one of the arguments for tomorrow...)

Posted by: RickJ | July 1, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

FDR's contributions to changes in American life, government, politics and in the international order were more sweeping and longer lasting than Nixon's.

Nixon had no remarkable domestic accomplishments to compare with creation of Social Security, Tennessee Valley Authority, and rural electrification, no name only a few of FDR's signature accomplishments.

Nixon was certainly a maestro in international affairs, but his contributions weren't as lasting as the changes wrought in Yalta at least in part by FDR. After all, it was less than a generation after Nixon's presidency that the Soviet Union disintegrated, rendering Nixon's signature policy of detente irrelevant.

You might argue that Nixon is a political landmark that marks the high water mark of the Imperial Presidency, its limit being defined by his resignation in the aftermath of Watergate, posing as an enduring warning to future Presidents of limits they dare not pass.

However, I'd argue that George W. Bush was in some senses "Nixon's revenge", claiming more powers for the presidency than Nixon ever dreamed of claiming.

Though I think Nixon is excessively vilified in our time, and his accomplishments too little known, my vote will be for FDR.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | July 1, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Pres. Richard Nixon was a very good president and should be in the Hall of Fame. What brought him down wasn't the Watergate affair per se, but a collution of political enemies that hated him and wanted to score a political coup d'etat against him and the Republican Party. These political enemies are the same today as during the Nixon years, and haven't changed a bit. They are the Democratic Party, Academia, the Hollywood elites, and the Democratic Party--controlled Main Stream Media. If any Democrat President had done the exact same thing as Nixon did, nobody would have ever heard or have read anything about it. It would have been a non-story.
By the way: Richard Nixon was consitered by many to be the best pocker player in the US Navy, when he served (1st Lt, I believe), and it was known that he could bluff just about anybody.

Posted by: armpeg | July 1, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I vote for Richard Nixon too.

Posted by: JakeD | July 1, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Nixon was a pure political animal: opportunistic, paranoid, bold, firm in his convictions, generous to his allies (note that I don't say "friends") and vicious to his adversaries.

Eisenhower neither trusted Nixon or liked him (one more example of Eisenhower's good judgement). Nixon was on the ticket to keep the conservative wing of the Republican party happy. Ike marginalized Nixon during his eight years as vice president and did not support Nixon when he campaigned for president, which only made his loss to Kennedy that much more inevitable.

(On the other hand, I wouldn't even nomniate Eisenhower for this list. Great guy, but not much of a politician.)

And yet Nixon came back to win the presidency and craft some of the most significant foreign policy achievements of any administration.

And even Watergate, is a reason to vote for him. Watergate was a defining political event that has led to political controversies of every stripe to be described as "something-gates" ever since. It may have been one of the most infamous scandals in political history, but even infamy should count for a political Hall of Fame.

Yes, he did remsemble the offspring of unmarried rodents. But he had a remarkable career in politics. He's everything political in a single package. He hit both the apex and nadir of political achievement.

You can count my vote for Nixon now.

(I'll vote for Roosevelt next time, unless he's up against the other one.)

Posted by: Gallenod | July 1, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

He was a Dick.

Posted by: Patriot3 | July 1, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

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