August 9, 2014

40 years ago today: Nixon resigned.

There are a lot of current stories reminiscing about what was, for most journalists at the the time, a day of jubilation. I'll link to The New Yorker, which brought my attention to this great reenactment of the event by Harry Shearer, showing how it looked and what was said before and after the part we saw on television:



And here's the real thing, including the pre- and the post- show:



"When you watch the actual footage from that evening, recorded by one of the TV cameras in the room, Nixon’s swaggering tone-deafness will make you squirm. Shearer’s reĆ«nactment magnifies that effect, both because the use of multiple cameras provides detail and depth, and because presenting the episode as a dramatic scene underlines the strangeness of the President’s behavior."

30 comments:

m stone said...

The actual resignation event aside, those were the days when people in power admitted their mistakes and fell on their swords.

Simon Kenton said...

Those were the days when principled people of your own party told you that you were beyond the pale and had to go. Barry Goldwater. I don't see anyone able to rise above the spirit of faction now. We seem to be in an era comparable to 1870 - 1890 with regard to the contemptibility of our congressmen and -women.

Opinh Bombay said...

Won't it be wonderful when we have a Republican President so we can have Investigative Reporters again?

Ipso Fatso said...

Harry Shearer takes a nice safe shot at Richard Nixon. Would he engage his mediocre talents to satirize Obama? No way, he doesn't have the balls. Typical of him and his generation.

Anonymous said...

I'm seeing a lot of retreat into 'safe' media topics and liberal standards now that many Obama bills are coming due, as happened when Bush came up lame.

'Why is Congress being so obstructive? Are they being obstructive? Our experts discuss tonight at 7:00.'

I don't really expect them to do the kinds of critical examination leading to the pile of Barry policy failures quite yet, if ever.

The Kennedys, royal-watching, the Nixon narrative, Civil Rights moral high-ground, 'Owning' history with WWI coverage, reasserting more common signposts on the wide road towards progress is more likely.

**Many on the Right have been returning to standard Reagan worship, some Goldwater rhetoric, Coolidge as a model for limited gov't, anti-Commie esprit...

At the New Yorker, despite the quality of the publication, a major political editor is a few clicks to the right of Robert Cook. This is reflective the New School hue of parts of NYC and is unsurprisingly mixed with the avant-garde in the arts. Such 'revolutionaries' tend to gather there, as activists do around foundation money.

At Center-Left, pretty much Statist NPR, despite the great production values, they're reaching out from the boomer crowd to hipster culture which they'd be happy to make THE culture, reflective of more mainstreamed 60's environmentalist, feminist and protest counter-culture ideals embedded at NPR.

Under such banners, America could well be lead into a fiscal failure of the Republic, or a sad, corrupt American version of the Euro-State chugging away.

Why settle for that?

That's my banner, but I'm not much of a joiner.

Anonymous said...

By Bush, I mean at this point in his second term, not that I see much if any equivalence in media coverage.

The reason I criticize the Right is limited government principles, like all principles, must be kept away from pols to some extent. I mistrust populism and politics generally, but it's a necessary evil. Power corrupts and incentives matter.

What scares me about Left liberal ideals is the 'personal is political' lunacy. People with nothing else to believe but ideology are the ones who generally should be kept furthest from power.

They can't see anything else.

St. George said...

When Nixon ordered bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong around Christmas 1972, more than 100 B-52s flew about 750 missions (not counting hundreds of other smaller fighter bomber missions).

Our POWs in Hanoi could hear the thunder and feel the earth shake. They could see fear in the faces of guards. After that, Adm. Stockdale writes in his autobiography, the torture stopped.

What did Obama order yesterday?

A few fighter planes went in.

Nixon knew how to try to win a war. Obama lost the peace and has no idea how to stop barbarian hordes.

30 more months.

rhhardin said...

I saw it in an Eastern Airlines boarding area and thought nothing of it.

Another politician.

dbp said...

It is astounding to compare that time with ours: Nixon won a huge landslide, the break-in was a botch and so had no impact on the margin of victory. The illegal activities were enough to force Nixon to resign.

Now the illegal use of the IRS (and whatever else was done that we do not yet know about) did arguably effect the outcome of a pretty close election. And yet impeachment is off the table due to what exactly? A complete absence of Democratic statesmen in the US Senate.

somefeller said...

30 more months.

Until Hillary takes over! Heh, indeedy.

Robert Cook said...

"Nixon knew how to try to win a war."

Yet, we still lost the war in Viet Nam. As was inevitable, given that we had no real objective, no goal, were not prepared to move in and colonize the country, while the Vietnamese were fighting for their homeland, and were dug in, and had fought previous armies from other nations. They knew they merely had to persist and time would be their greatest ally. LBJ knew early on we had no chance of winning the war in Viet Nam...yet he doubled down, nevertheless. Such tragic stupidity.

Just as know.

William said...

Nixon is not a man of much charm or magnetism, but his personal code of morality was far superior to those of his two immediate predecessors. I read a couple of the Caro books on LBJ. That man was, by any available metric, far more loathsome than Nixon. LBJ got a bad press, but it was post facto, after Vietnam, and recently some effort has been made to rehabilitate him. Good luck with that......For two generations now Nixon has continued to be trashed. Liberals seem to take as much fun in vilifying him as they do in romanticizing JFK. It's overdone, but it will be another hundred years before he gets a fair reckoning.

Dr Weevil said...

Robert Cook calls the Communists who won the Vietnam War "the Vietnamese", as if the losers whom they slaughtered and continue to oppress were somehow not equally Vietnamese. What a contemptible swine he is. Does he not know that the South Vietnamese lost mostly because they ran out of ammunition and fuel when Congress (led by Teddy Kennedy) cut off the aid that had been promised when negotiating U.S. withdrawal?

richard mcenroe said...

Why shouldn't Nixon's resignation be cause for jubilation? They made a hero out of an anonymous rentseeking bureaucrat bitter over his lack of promotion, got the boat people, the re-education camps, the Killing Fields, the Carter recession, the Ayatollah Khomeini and the 400-Day Iranian Hostage Crisis. Along the way they managed to cover up that the IRS and FBI had been political wings of the Democrat Party since FDR, a coup that haunts us to this day. An unbridled triumph for civilization and American progressivism.

mccullough said...

Boomer nostalgia. Nixon's been dead 40 years. No one under the age of 50 gives a shit about JFK assassination or Watergate.

dbp said...

"Yet, we still lost the war in Viet Nam. As was inevitable..."

Vietnam was a lot like Iraq. A war which was all but won and then the victory squandered by failing to provide minimal continuing support.

David said...

Amazing how he's smiling. Quite radiant. If only he could have flashed that smile more often. And of course told the truth about the whole idiotic mess from the beginning.

eddie willers said...

A victim of technology.

Today, Hunt and his plumbers would be young hackers and everyone would just ruefully shake thier heads if they were discovered.

Then they would find work at Google and Facebook.

Babaluigi said...

Even though the Nixon resignation speech is not one of those "What were you doing when...?" moments like the JFK assassination , I have a distinct reaction to this anniversary.

Soon after he spoke the words, "...I shall resign...," we heard screams and calls for help through the open door of our motel room at Niagara Falls. A family from New Jersey had gone swimming in the algae soup that was the motel's inoperative swimming pool, which had been an especially bad idea because it seemed that none of them could actually swim. First the teenage daughter went in and slid into the depths of the deep end, followed by her brother and then their father in their attempts at rescue. While the rest of America was no doubt trying to digest what they had just seen on the television, I watched my father single-handedly rescue three people from drowning.

My wonderful and heroic father is still with us, I am happy to say. I don't know what ever happened to those people or even what their names were. I can only hope they all went on to live long and happy lives.

Brando said...

They don't make 'em like Howard Baker anymore. The only reason "the system worked" during Watergate was that Republicans were willing to call out their own side. Can you picture any Democrat now willing to tell Obama it's time to go?

These days it seems Red Team/Blue Team trumps all.

somefeller said...

They don't make 'em like Howard Baker anymore.

True. It's too bad that the GOP base prevents the contemporary versions of people like him or Nelson Rockefeller to gain leadership positions in the Republican party. One more thing that Tea Party types have messed up. But fortunately, there's plenty of room for erudite centrist types in the Democratic Party, so things sort themselves out.

Alan said...

I doubt that Nixon ever gave much thought to tone, one way or another. That and a healthy dose of paranoia cost him the presidency. Having said that, he was still one of the most intelligent and visionary men to occupy the office and it would be fascinating to contemplate how he would have approached our current panoply of problems.

damikesc said...

Ah, back when Presidents had shame...

I don't see anyone able to rise above the spirit of faction now.

Disagree. Plenty of Republicans would tell a REpublican President to go.

I can't think of many Dems would have EVER done that at any point in our history.

H said...

(to richard mcenroe's comment) Nixon's resignation seemed like a triumph at the time because (I, or "we" thought) it sent a message that it was unacceptable to usurp the power of the federal government for purposes of electoral advantage. The "smoking gun" was Nixon's directive that the CIA should claim that the Watergate break-in had a national security angle, in order to mislead the FBI and keep the FBI from investigating fully. But above and beyond that the "pay for play" arm-twisting (obtaining contributions from milk producers organization in return for higher milk supports is the clearest example), and Nixon threatening private individuals with retaliation using federal power (get the IRS to investigate Larry O'Brien).

So this is what I thought (in my 20s) we had achieved with Nixon's resignation. 40 years later, it seems like a hollow victory; the Obama administration is at least as corrupt, and it appears to be accepted as business as usual.

david7134 said...

I thought and still think that Nixon was one of the greatest presidents that we had. He made mistakes, such as the war on drugs, but on a whole he was a far better man than any that have occupied the position since, except Reagan (possibly). Ever look at what he did that was so bad with Watergate? He tried to protect the men under him, that used to be called principal. If anyone knew what the press was like back in the 60's and 70's, you would clearly understand the stress that any Republican was under. We had only to look at the horror of LBJ and Kennedy to see that Nixon was much better. Besides, he did something that can not be beat, he kept my little self out of Vietnam. Without him, I would be dead now.

CatherineM said...

I was 4. I remember shots of Pat Nixon crying. Or perhaps some female staffer. I was unnerved seeing an adult cry. I kept saying why is the lady crying? I was shushed over and over, but I kept repeating that. Only reason I remember it.

Beldar said...

That was the summer before my senior year in high school, and my part-time job was a DJ/news announcer at my hometown radio station. I clearly remember watching the UPI teletype print out the news of his resignation, which I then read live on the air seconds later.

Richard Dolan said...

"Swaggering tone deafness"

That tells you more about the person writing the story than it does about Nixon.

Watching this speech again after 40 years, what jumps out at me is how much of it was an exercise in Nixon trying to convince himself about who he really was -- not a quitter, in a speech announcing that he was quitting; the man in the arena as he was leaving it; sacred pledge upheld, not oath of office betrayed; and on and on. He was a bundle of contradictions, and despite that, one of the most consequential presidents we have ever had.

Anonymous said...

I have a copy of the Des Moines Register with a banner headline of "NIXON RESIGNS" in the biggest type they ever used for headlines. It seemed pretty historic at the time so I saved the paper. And the custom of judging the importance of news by type size is from the last millenium.

I have VHS tapes of the news coverage on September 11, 2001, too. I can still read the paper.

I hope to see a blog post saying "Obama resigns. Heh." But I doubt I will.

Big Mike said...

The bottom line, I think, is that at this point Obama would have to lift his game at least three notches to be Nixon.