On yesterday, we all piled into the car to the nearby city of Yorba Linda, CA, to visit
THE RICHARD M. NIXON PRESIDENTIAL MUSEUM AND BIRTHPLACE
(The only presidential library not to accept taxpayer funds)
Now, my father and I were expecting to be snickering and poking fun the whole time, but it turns out that the museum was profoundly interesting. It was less about Nixon than it was about the the state of the world when Nixon was on the scene. One thing I'll say for the guy is that he was really good at pulling himself back up once he'd been knocked to the floor. He was completely washed up after losing the 1960 presidential election, went back to practicing law, wrote some books, hung out. And then he decided to run again in 1968, and was the president. After watergate, he came back again, wrote a bunch of books, and was a close foreign policy advisor to both Reagan and Bush the Elder (not that being chosen as a policy advisor to Reagan or Bush is so much of an honor, but being chosen as advisor to the President is).
What really struck me about Nixon was that he was honestly a sharp, smart guy. His speeches were in general pretty idealistic, and full of historical and literary references. Certainly he did a great deal to undermine checks and balances on the executive branch, and he used the FBI and CIA as tools of coercement, and he could have pulled out of 'Nam sooner, maybe. But one got the sense that he was trying, at least. He made a big deal in Vietnam about "withdrawl with honor," and not just pulling all the troops out immediately but trying to make sure the South Vietnamese woudln't get crushed by the North when America left. Of course, they got crushed anyway, but I'd like to think he tried to prevent it. He just seems so much more sincere, and not completely out of it, like Bush.
My grandparents, on the other hand, were big Nixon fans. My great-grandfather even more so. One of his most prized possessions was a letter Nixon wrote him after he resigned; as my great grandfather had sent him a letter of consolation for it. Why? Because for all his faults, he helped out Israel during the Yom Kippur war (against the wishes of Kissinger, I might add). My grandparents are knee-jerk Jews. Whoever supports Israel has their vote. They were even thinking of voting for George Bush next year, because he's backing Ariel Sharon even though Sharon's a jerkoff. After much berating from the younger generations, as how Bush only supports Israel so the Third Temple can be rebuilt and then Jesus can come down and kill all the Jews, they're like "ok, fine, we'll vote for Lieberman." Needless to say, my father and I were about to tear our hair out.
One other thing about the Nixon museum was that it was very positive. It had an optimistic forecast for the country, and it didn't have anything particularly bad to say bout anybody, even Nixon's opponents and critics. I admire that, that they didn't get too partisan or too nasty. Also, they had a bunch of Ronald Reagan movie posters. That man was in some seriously bad films. One in particular was about him being a prisoner of war, and the tagline was "It's P.O.W.erful" Almost as bad as the spelling in Tru Calling.
On the lighter side, I found out something quite cute. George Bush the Elder's nickname for George Bush the Younger is "Quincy." (if you get it, you're OK in my book).