Corner of E. Parkway & Young Ave. in Memphis
Corner of E. Parkway & Young Ave. in Memphis
Allow me to be the first to wish you a happy Columbus Day, a celebration of the life and accomplishments of the great Christopher Columbus. Cristoforo Colombo was born around this date in 1451 in Genoa, Italy — a city which I have visited and which is not far from the birthplace of my great-great-grandparents (the small towns of Cortemilia and Piana Crixia). Columbus is credited with “discovering” America in 1492, although he certainly wasn’t the first person to set foot in the New World. Still, he was a preeminent explorer and risk-taker, and is one of my all-time heroes.
Highway 77 in McLemoresville, Tennessee (Carroll County)
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.”
I have just finished reading the 2nd of a three-volume biography of Richard M. Nixon, written by historian Stephen Ambrose. The first two volumes were in excess of 1,000 pages each. Ambrose seems to know more about Nixon than Nixon knew about Nixon. Chronologically, President Nixon had just been re-elected in 1972 as volume two came to an end, so I haven’t yet made it to the depressing part where he resigns.
At any rate, I have been amazed by the parallels between the era of Nixon and today. The similarities are remarkable. I have posted quotes before that illustrate this observation, and now I’m going to post a few more. One thing is for certain; the Democrats & their voters use the same tactics and are guilty of the same treachery now as in 1972.
The Democrats gave an appearance of being anti-religion and pro-drugs, anti-profit and pro-welfare, anti-family and pro-abortion, anti-farmer and pro-migrant worker, anti-Saigon and pro-Hanoi, anti-armed forces and pro-draft dodgers. Delegates booed Hubert Humphrey; they booed the few times Johnson’s name was mentioned; some were heard to cheer Ho Chi Minh.
Senator Scott, meanwhile, charged that “the McGovern campaign is the campaign of the three A’s: acid, abortion, and amnesty.”
The following week, Nixon spent a day campaigning in Ohio. It included a long motorcade. There were protesters carrying signs along the route. When he spotted them, he raised and extended his arms, spreading the first two fingers in the “V-for-Victory” sign. “This really knocks them for a loop,” he remarked, “because they think this is their sign.” In a diary entry, he went on to analyze the antiwar protesters.
“I think as the war recedes as an issue,” he wrote, “some of these people are going to be lost souls. They basically are haters, they are frustrated, they are alienated—they don’t know what to do with their lives.”
What upset him were McGovern’s remarks about Nixon as a person. It was not so much the “most corrupt Administration in history” charge, or even the accusation that Nixon’s tactics were those of the KKK; the charge that cut was the comparison of Nixon with Hitler.
“According to McGovern, the President of the United States is a liar, barbarian, immoral, cruel and murderous.”
I am currently in the midst of the second of three volumes written by historian Stephen Ambrose about the life of Richard Nixon — the “Nixon trilogy,” as I have come to regard it. At any rate, I am right now in the middle of his first term as president. The year is 1970 and the midterm elections have just taken place. America is in turmoil. There is a great deal of campus unrest and political violence. In other words, events 47 years ago are eerily similar to today’s. Back then, the left was protesting the Vietnam War. Today, they are protesting because they lost an election.
At any rate, in the chapter covering these events in 1970, I came across several quotes that could easily have been written about events today. Some of the quotes were spoken by Richard Nixon himself. Others are about Nixon, or about the events during that period. Again, even though these things occurred nearly two generations ago, they bear close resemblance to events today. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun.
Overall, however, the Republican Party did not rally behind its besieged President, the Establishment did not rally behind the besieged institution of the Presidency, the media did not give the President fair and objective treatment.
Nixon told reporters, ‘I think that sometimes the Senate would do better to get out throughout the country and see what the country is thinking,’ just as he was doing. ‘There is sort of an intellectual incest in Washington which really reduces the level of the dialogue, and you have to go to the country now and then to get a real feeling of what people are thinking.”
RN’s effectiveness in using the television medium is remarkable. . . . Instead of trying to win the press, to cater to them, to have backgrounders with them, RN has ignored them and has talked directly to the country by TV whenever possible. He has used the press and not let the press use him. . . . This is a remarkable achievement.
‘The time has come for us to recognize that violence and terror have no place in a free society,’ he said. ‘Whatever the purported cause of the perpetrators may be. . . . No cause justifies violence.’
‘There are those who protest that if the verdict of democracy goes against them, democracy itself is at fault—who say that if they don’t get their own way the answer is to burn a bus or bomb a building. Yet we can maintain a free society only if we recognize that in a free society no one can win all the time.’
‘It is time for the great silent majority of Americans to stand up and be counted,’ he shouted back. ‘And I’ll tell you how you can be counted—on November 3 in the quiet of the polling booth. If a candidate has condoned violence, lawlessness and permissiveness, then you know what to do.’
As the entourage approached the civic auditorium, about a thousand demonstrators greeted the politicians with screams, howls, and roaring chants, many obscene. Safire, who was there, called it ‘an orgy of generalized hate.’
‘The time has come to take the gloves off and speak to this kind of behavior in a forthright way. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly cannot exist when people who peacefully attend rallies are attacked with flying rocks.’