Another 8 January, another year without Nixon to kick around. I’m going to be lazy and reprint mostly what I said last year. I have a lot of outside work to do. But also, there are some articles that I just don’t think got read. That’s especially true of birthday posts where, when they were good, they tended to be very long because I was talking about a number of people. I just want to add to what follows with this: I’ve got to go through my files and see if I can find my old Nixon White House puppet plays. They are some of my favorite writings. Maybe by next year, I can post one of them.
Richard Nixon was born on this day in 1913. Look, the man was imperfect. He had a real paranoia problem — but not without cause. And his foreign policy was a disaster. But was it worse than Johnson’s? Well, I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t a lot worse. And he did eventually decide it was time to pull the plug. He also wasn’t bad on domestic issues. But the reason that I love him is that he is the most successful loser in the history of humanity. Even at the peak of his fame, I think he still felt like a loser. And, as mentioned, there are my puppet plays about the Nixon administration. So in a sense, Nixon is no longer a person to me; he’s a character. And in that group, he’s an okay guy. Kind of a Caspar Milquetoast compared to the rest of the cast.
And another thing. Here’s what Nixon said after he lost his election to become the governor of California:
How do you not love that man? He’s angry. He’s sad. But he thinks he’s being funny. And do you know what? I think he was funny! I present the video because when people quote it, they get the tone all wrong. That’s understandable. There’s a lot going on inside him at that point. But it isn’t an angry denunciation the way people usually say it, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore…” He wasn’t just talking about the media there either. He was talking to the world generally. It’s poignant.
One thing I definitely think: Richard Nixon was not bad for this country in the way that Reagan, Bush the Younger, and even the New Democrats have been. That’s not to say that he wouldn’t be a crazy Tea Party guy if he were in politics today. But even in his own time, the conservative Republicans didn’t much like his liberal social policy. If Nixon had been more of an economic conservative, his party mightn’t have abandoned him so willingly over Watergate. I for one am damn sad that we don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.
Happy birthday Richard Nixon!
The title is a reference to the David Frye comedy album, Richard Nixon Superstar, which I thought was hilarious as a child, even though I didn’t get a lot of it. The one bit I remember is the obstetrician who delivered Nixon saying, “He was the only baby I ever saw with a five o’clock shadow.” Or something like that.