I have invested much of my summer reading a three-part biography of Richard Nixon by historian Stephen E. Ambrose. Each volume is over 1,000 pages, so it has taken quite some time to consume all the material. One of the things that has fascinated me is the parallels between politics during Nixon’s presidency and politics in 2017. I have accumulated a handful of additional quotes since the last time I posted quotes, some are by Nixon, some about Nixon, some about politics in general.
Watergate, according to Nixon, would be seen by future historians as “the broadest but the thinnest scandal in American history, because what was it about?”
If I were a liberal Watergate will be a blip.
What did he think of the White House press corps? They “hate my guts with a passion,” Nixon said. “But I don’t hate them, none of them. . . . I can see in the eyes of them, not only their hatred but their frustration, and I, as a matter of fact I really feel sorry for them in a way, because . . . they should recognize that to the extent that they allow their own hatreds to consume them, they will lose the rationality which is the mark of a civilized man.”
“Cowards die a thousand deaths,” he noted, “brave men die only once.”
Nixon’s attempt to use the IRS to get his enemies bothered all the politicians, perhaps more than anything else that the President had done. One supposes they realized how vulnerable they were to such a vendetta. There is irony here. The Kennedys had used the IRS against Nixon, and others; one of Nixon’s most consistent complaints to Haldeman was that the IRS would not cooperate with him and go after his enemies. Nixon was guilty of trying to misuse power with the IRS, but not of actually having done so. He was losing votes for something he had not done, but that had been done to him.
With the exception of [Barbara] Jordan, every one of the speakers knew that there was no political profit for them back among their constituents in impeaching Nixon. With no exceptions, every speaker wished with all his or her heart that this cup had not come.
“We are . . . saying that a President may be impeached in the future if a Congress expresses no confidence in his conduct, not because he has violated the law but, rather, because that Congress declares his conduct to be abusive in terms of their subjective notions of propriety.”
[Nixon’s mother] Hannah did live her life for others, avoided squabbles, did her best to stay above the battle, radiated calm and love.
The light never went out, Nixon stated, not until the last breath, for those who had the self-discipline to live in the darkness a while, then turn it on again.
“Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”
In his memoirs, Ford quotes Winston Churchill: “Among the deficiencies of hindsight is that while we know the consequences of what was done, we do not know the consequences of some other course that was not followed.”