Richard Milhous Nixon
(President from 1969-1974, 37th)
By Richard E. Noble
John F. Kennedy assassinated. Martin Luther King assassinated. Bobby Kennedy assassinated; the ghettoes a cinder, the college campuses in a state of revolution, the streets of America filled with burning American flags, protesters of one nature or another and people fist fighting in their living rooms.
I remember watching film clips of the 1968 Democratic Convention on TV. I couldn’t believe that it was the United States. I thought it was some banana republic replacing another general who just got his new Polaroid sunglasses in the mail.
Richard Nixon was the Republican and Hubert Humphrey was the Democrat. Nixon couldn’t speak and Humphrey wouldn’t stop. But they both had pretty much the same story. They were going to end the war in Vietnam. Lyndon had quit the battle; no guts, said Harry Truman. But Humphrey had been Lyndon’s vice president and right-hand man. Would he really end the war and reverse his old boss and the whole party? Nixon was Eisenhower’s vice president for eight years. Ike promised that he would end the war in Korea and he did. Could Tricky Dickey be of the same cloth?
Nixon cut his political teeth in the post F.D.R., communist bashing era. He won his seat in the Senate, bashing a Mary Cohagan Douglas. He called her a socialist and a commie. He was one of McCarthy’s dirty dozen. He played big in the Alger Hiss case and the Pumpkin Papers. I really think that Tricky Dickey made a lot of enemies during this anti-commie period. He ruined a lot of lives and destroyed the careers of a slew of prominent hopefuls. He and McCarthy and comrades struck down big names. Those attacked, along with their children, friends and relatives came back to haunt Tricky Dickey. Nixon and crowd didn’t pull any punches and weren’t freighted of fabricating information or doctoring photos to make a point.
“I am not a crook,” said Richard Nixon, and there are those today who claim that he never really did anything worse than other of our fearless, political leaders. I always thought that this claim of innocence on Nixon’s part was nothing but hogwash until I started reading about the life and times of other of our presidents. But whatever, there is no doubt that Nixon liked to dabble on the edge of legal legitimacy. In one of his campaigns, he sent out a card which claimed to have been sponsored by conservatives in the Democratic Party. The card advertised the support and backing of these Democrats. He had no such support from any such group. But just to make matters worse, he had these supposed supporters also make a request for financial support on this card, giving HIS address as the proper place to send their contributions. Was this illegal or just cleaver? Well a court decided that this definitely was illegal, and banned such type activity to “future” political aspirants. Nixon, as innovator of this technique, was excused from any prison time. [Was THIS illegal - seems like an even better question.]
Nixon won his first term as president in a very close election with no opposition claims of foul play. But his landslide victory over McGovern in 1973 was not considered quite so evenhanded. It seems that if you were a McGovern supporter and donated money to the cause, you very quickly found yourself and/or your business being investigated by the I.R.S. Was this illegal?
Whatever you might think, this practice had long ago been declared illegal. But was there any proof that Nixon had actually authorized these I.R.S. incursions? Apparently not; so no prison time here either. In the midst of this second campaign we have new political borders being challenged; the Watergate scandal.
Four years had passed and Nixon hadn’t fulfilled his promise of ending the war in Vietnam. A good many people were not very happy about this. One of these people was a man named Daniel Ellsberg. He had worked for the Department of Defense during the Johnson administration, and had access to information with regards to the war. He knew that the Federal Government was lying to the American people about the war under Johnson and now under Nixon. He decided to expose this to the public in what is now known as the Pentagon Papers.
Nixon had been working on stopping “leaks” in the White House. He had put on a staff of “plumbers”. In the case of Ellsberg it was decided by the administration that he was a traitor to his country and was “undermining the war effort” by giving out secret information to the public and our enemies overseas. Nixon felt that he should be silenced, put in jail or at least discredited.
The “plumbers” or representatives there of broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office looking for information that could discredit him personally. Maybe he was a psychopath, paranoid, or schizophrenic; or possibly something even worse, like a man who cheated on his wife or was queer or dressed “funny” on Wednesday nights.
From the psychiatrist office, the Plumbers then went to the National Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. What they were looking for there is the subject of much speculation, but whatever, the bozos got caught. Getting caught is one of the chief qualifications of becoming a criminal. If you never get caught, you can not legitimately claim to be one. Richard Nixon didn’t do any of the breaking and entering, and, at the time, it couldn’t really be proven that he had authorized any of this activity. So why was he threatened with impeachment and once threatened, did he resign?
Well, it seems that Richard Nixon was audio taping his presidency for prosperity. Other presidents had done the same thing. Knowledge of these tapes became known to the investigating committee, and it was discovered that Nixon knew about the illegal activities of his hired Plumbers and then proceeded to make attempts to cover up their exploits. Tricky Dickey was not ahead of his time on this one. This was already considered a crime, and now Tricky Dickey had been caught. So contrary to his claim, Richard Nixon was and is a crook. He broke the law and got caught doing it. So then why didn’t he go to prison?
This is really one of the most outstanding episodes in American presidential history. Richard Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, had been indicted or found guilty or convicted of tax evasion. (Richard Nixon at a later date was also found guilty of tax evasion, and was fined 300,000 dollars.) Richard Nixon then appointed Gerald Ford, vice president, after which he conveniently resigned the presidency. Gerald Ford then promptly pardoned and absolved Nixon of his sins and any prison time that he might have had coming.
So there you go a Russian classic novel, “Crime and No Punishment”. But nevertheless Richard Nixon must be awarded the prize of being America’s first legitimately criminal president – even though he did no actual prison time – he did “plea bargain”.