I remember seeing an aging Nixon on C-SPAN speaking and answering questions smoothly and cogently for over an hour on a range of geopolitical topics without benefit of notes and with a humbled confidence that was (for Nixon) charming. Clinton has that kind of sophisticated knowledgability, Jimmy Carter does as well, but Bush never will, so uninterested is he in other cultures and so reliant upon platitudes and homilies and self-affirmation. I think (hope) Steve Gilliard is right: Bush's presidency will unravel in shame and disgrace, as Nixon's did. But unlike Nixon, Bush will not enjoy a lion-in-winter third act. For better or worse, Nixon was his own man, a stark lesson in the possibilities and limits of self-reliance.Why would you hope things will go badly? Wolcott is characteristically sour, but the subject of former Presidents working on their reputations is important, and speculating about how Bush will fare is worth doing. It's also slightly fascinating to watch people warm up to Nixon now that he's at a great enough distance or -- more likely -- when warming up to him works as a way of expressing how terribly much you hate Bush.
January 13, 2007
That clotted phrase is James Wolcott's assessment of why President Bush "will not be able to rehabilitate himself in retirement" -- unlike Richard Nixon.