I watched Nixon’s 1974 farewell speech live, with tears in my eyes. Not tears of sorrow; it was actually a bizarre speech. But at the moment’s poignancy and historical weight.
I’d been a fervent Nixon supporter in 1968, and he was my friend. A slight exaggeration, but I did feel a personal connection. In my teens I would write to famous people for autographs. This was before celebrity culture; they weren’t inundated and would often reply. I wrote to Nixon several times about politics while he was in New York exile after his dual election defeats. Looking toward a comeback, he was working the Republican vineyards; probably didn’t realize I was a kid. Anyhow, he would respond to me not with form letters but meaty disquisitions that seemed obviously personally dictated.
He was my dream presidential candidate, which seemed a pipe dream at first, given the GOP’s crushing 1964 defeat. I was very active in Republican politics, both on campus and in the real world.
I signed up with Nixon’s campaign. A huge Nixon poster adorned my bedroom. On Election Day (my first vote), I was a poll worker, then stayed up through the night watching returns. It was a nail-biter.
I remember my elation the next day, commuting to my law school. My classmates were mostly radical left, with only a handful of “out” Republicans. Sixty-eight was such a tumultuous year. But in the end, it was my guy who’d won. I was over the moon.
Later I was actually appointed by Nixon to a minor federal commission.
As Watergate unfolded, I followed events closely. Carefully read the transcripts of White House tapes, and was appalled. The man there revealed was not who we’d thought he was. Most Republicans had the same reaction.
I was as partisan as anyone. Indeed, at the time, deeply engaged in the political wars locally, as a ward leader.
But I saw no animus by any Republicans against Democrats over impeachment. It was not a partisan issue, it was about the facts. Nixon resigned because his own party could not condone what he’d done.
Certainly they were not demonizing Democrats as “traitors,” as trying to mount a “coup” to overturn the previous election, or any such nonsense. Even Nixon himself, in that mawkish farewell speech, did not impugn his opponents’ motives.
Trump’s offenses are far worse than Nixon’s. Nixon tried to cover up a “third rate burglary.” Trump, the mis-use of hundreds of millions in U.S. aid, perverting our foreign policy, for his own base political ends. Mulvaney saying this is normal, and we should just “get over it,” insulted our intelligence.
But not only do Republicans defend Trump, their idea of a defense is cooking up false smears against Democrats, like their meritless attack on Adam Schiff for supposedly lying — he didn’t — as if Trump isn’t the biggest liar ever. What a sickening disgrace.
Trump’s behavior shows he’s trying to prove he can get away with absolutely anything. Our president is literally an insane out-of-control monster, a patsy for dictators, yet Republicans still have his back. When Senate Republicans vote to clear him, it will be their final, ultimate degradation. While Democratic presidential canmdidates are off on another planet somewhere fixated on the minutiae of health care plans. If Trump is re-elected, America will need mental health care.
In 1974 we were all Americans, first and foremost. Not blinded by partisan tribalism. We could tell right from wrong. Truth from lies. And true patriots from Russian stooges.
What a different country that was. I mourn for it, with tears of sorrow in my eyes.