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JAMES MCCARTY YEAGER Nixon: He Made a Desert Washington, D.C. Richard M. Nixon, ever premature, died too soon. Unlike Lady Macbethwho “should have died hereafter” so there would have been proper time to mourn herNixon’s demise prevents both the continuation of his just punishments here on earth, and the further development of that reputation which he occasionally flaunted, frequently modified, and always disguised, but never accepted. I would have preferred Nixon to have been cared for by Francisco Franco’ s medical team, if only to have delayed the onset of the sickening eulogies overwhelming the mainstream media. Always blaming his political enemies for forcing him into practices which, by their very breathless barbarity, had never previously been contemplated, Nixon brought the technique of the Big Lie out of the radio age and into the television age. And he got away with it far longer than anyone who knew him could have imagined he would. Yet he was too blatantly previous with his media manipulations, hence the peculiarly apt justice of his downfall-by-media. With cunning but no smarts, talent but no genius, perseverance but no strength, and ambition but no goals, Nixon came to symbolize the unprincipled politician in a direct line of descent from Senator Joe McCarthy, President Warren Harding and the nameless thousands of Republican hacks bred up out of the well-fertilized fields of the Civil War who constructed the first great governmental empire of entitlements out of the veterans’ pensions and high tariffs of the 1880s. When he burst onto the California scene as a jpnior Congressman in 1946 \(having run after answering a party advertisement eager a blackener of reputations than the dogged, overcompensating Nixon. Then he got to the Senate in one of the three most vicious, mendacious, and despicable postwar Senatorial campaigns. \(Texas holds the malodorous distinction of hosting the other two, Lyndon Johnson’s 1948 effort and As senator again he was too soon aboard the anti-Communist campaign, in the absence of any real evidence, reputedly fabricating documents suitable for hiding in pumpkins with a typewriter suspiciously similar to a subsequent committee exhibit. As an act of calculation, not distaste, he refused to deliver a speech written for him by James McCarty Yeager edits Minority Business Report in Bethesda, MD. the Republican National Committee attacking Communists in the State Department, only to see the speech delivered in Wheeling, West Virginia, by Joe McCarthy. As Vice-Presidential candidate \(the only office to which it may properly be said he was not a total disgrace, it being impossible even more insincere than the commercials surrounding his lame and halting use of television. The Republican cloth coat was just the first of a series of nationally-televised rhetorical flourishes blatantly flying in the face of the very reality they pretended to describe. In an estimable eulogy Murray Kempton found Nixon’s social-climbing gaucherie almost touching in its bewildering omnipresence. Veteran public interest lobbyist Maurice Rosenblatt tells about the time when the German President was coming to Washington on a state visit for which a banquet was to be given in the Old Senate Chamber. Nixon came down to the Capitol that afternoon to confer with the chief steward “as if he didn’t have anything better to do with his time,” Rosenblatt observed. “Nixon told the chief steward, who knew more about his job than Nixon knew about his, that he must remove all the French wines from the table and substitute German ones, or an international incident would be precipitated.” More likely one would have occurred if Konrad Adenauer had been deprived of fine French vintages, but the steward only remarked after Nixon agitatedly left the room that, as Vice President, Nixon had no authority to issue orders in the Capitol, and ignored him. His defeat by Kennedy should have been the end of him, but California Governor Pat Brown delivered what even Nixon admitted was the coup de grace, though Nixon characteristically blamed Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis for Brown’s victory. Then Nixon was rescued by Lee Harvey Oswald, and the country has never been the same. Whereas Lyndon lied to us out of a perverse sort of pleasure, Nixon always solemnly pretended that only the gravest national need could induce him to perform the excruciating and sober labor of twisting the truth not only beyond all recognition or belief, but with a tortuous forcefulness like that of a frightened child’s as it hugs a kitten to death. Elected on a peace platform, Nixon escalated the war just as Lyndon would have continued to do. It is a little-noticed coincidence that Lyndon died of a heart attack the day before Nixon publicly announced peace in Vietnam .on January 13, 1973. I have always thought that what shattered Lyndon’s life was the courtesy phone call he received at the ranch prior to the public announcement. In that call Nixon must have confessed that the peace terms to which he had at last acceded were the same ones Lyndon could have had before the New Hampshire primary of 1968. Nixon’s tombstone prates of “peacemaker,” but he accepted peace only after having produced an army that finally refused to fight and an air force that finally refused to fly. Watergate was merely the outward and visible sign of an inward rot; Nixon was impeachable over the Cambodian incursion if anyone had had the courage. He should have been impeached for overthrowing, at the behest of the telephone company,. the duly elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende. And surely not much credit can go to a man who helped fan the ice of the Cold War and then had the nerve to expect kudos for negotiating with Russians and Chinese whom he had previously succeeded in demonizing. Domestically, Nixon did not try overtly to destroy nearly as much of the government as Reagan would later try to do, but his damage was of a more systemic and central nature. Nixon so devalued political discourse that even Lyndon looked good by comparison. In fact, until Clinton stopped the slide, each President since Johnson has managed to make his predecessor seem decent by comparison.. Nixon’s blueprints for press manipulation, for destabilizing government agencies of whose mission, however legislatively established, he disapproved, were preserved for further expansion under Reagan-Bush and Bush-Quayle. Thus we had not only Nixon’s six years, but a grand total of 18 under his tutelage, almost all of them uniformly disastrous. The foreign policy legacy of 150 years of American lip service to anti-imperialism was squandered in less than a quarter-century, punctuated by the remarkable sight of Nixon’s tame war criminal’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. A 1968 post-election poster shoived a very pregnant flower-child with the caption, “Nixon’s the One!” Even at death, the jokes continued. They were going to lower the flags to half-staff for 18-1/2 minutes, but they couldn’t find anyone who would admit to doing it. G. Gordon Liddy was going to give the eulogy, but he took the Fifth instead. Then they got Rosemary Woods to give it, but they wouldn’t let her say anything. Tacitus, speaking of Roman efforts in Germany, had Nixon cold more than a thousand years ago when he said, “They made a desert and they called it peace.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11