Source Of Countless Phrases
Richard Milhouse Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, was, is, and undoubtedly will be a political lightning rod. Even today, this week as I write this, new political "revelations" about Nixon are bruited about as significant for today's world. There are very, very few politicians who leave a mark as deep and lasting as Dick Nixon.
Everybody knows the basic Nixon story: served in the US Army despite having a legitimate out as a Quaker, elected to Congress, gained reputation as a big anti-Communist, then VP, went through a period as a political outcast, then a return as President, then a tragic downfall with Watergate causing his resignation, then a return as a respected elder statesman. Whew.
However, that is just the start. There is much, much more to the Nixon legend. For starters: every human being who has ever left earth's orbit in the history of the world did so during Richard Nixon's Presidency.
Nixon has gained the reputation of being this, that and the other thing, but he managed to guide the United States through an extremely difficult time in its history: the end of the Vietnam War. This required extremely sensitive handling of Soviet relations.
Many of the world leaders with whom Nixon hobnobbed are still very much with us. Fidel Castro, for instance, met Nixon when he was Vice President. Castro and his brother Raul stils rule Cuba to this day.
John Kasich just made a lot news with a run for the Presidency. He's currently the Governor of Ohio. There he is, shaking hands with Richard Nixon in 1970.
Toward the very end of his life, Nixon advised new President Bill Clinton. Clinton's wife, of course, is a big Presidential hopeful in 2016.
Nixon spent a day with Queen Elizabeth II - the same Queen who sits on the throne today.
However, Nixon sat at a unique crossroads in history. Many of the great figures of the World War II were still around during his time as Vice President in the 1950s, such as Winston Churchill, above.
Walt Disney also got to know Richard Nixon. Above, they are together in one of the new rides at Disneyland.
Nixon, of course, owed much of his success to "The General," as he called him: President Dwight David Eisenhower. Above, Nixon introduces The General to his daughters.
The 1970 visit by Elvis Presley to the White House on the spur of the moment has become one of the most recognizable moments of the Nixon years. The picture above has for many years been the one that is most requested by the public from the National Archives - out of every picture ever taken of anything or anyone.
At heart, Nixon always was the overachiever from Whittier. He was a three-letter man in college and good at all of his sports.
Nixon's run for the President in 1960 was one of the closes losses in Presidential history. Above, he greets a crowd during the campaign.
Richard Nixon has the distinction of being the last President to visit Iran. Above, some Iranian weavers create an awesome portrait of Nixon in honor of his visit.
Nixon's unexpected 1972 visit to China was a turning point in US relations with Asia. It spawned, among other things, an opera and the phrase "Nixon goes to China" to depict a completely unexpected, but successful, decision by a President.
Nixon wasn't a classical war hero. He was a bureaucrat supporting the troops invading nearby islands. However, he became a hero to many in the sense that he could have taken a conscientious objector pass, but didn't because he wanted to serve his country.
Part of the Nixon mystique is that he always bounced back. Even after he resigned the Presidency, he remained the former President with the greatest mystique.
Nixon also played a peculiar role in race relations. He came up with the "Southern Strategy" which flipped the political calculus and made the south a Republican bastion. In some ways, he may have saved the Republican Party. This is one of many of his cynical decisions which many will never forgive him for, but it worked and made him President.
Nixon never took himself too seriously. He became a part of the cultural milieu after he left office in a less partisan and more archetypical way than during his Presidency (though he did get a pointed reference in the Broadway hit "Grease" at the time). Aside from posing with Robocop, his character has starred in (and not just made cameo appearances) films such as the 2007 "Watchmen" and 2014's "X-Men: Days of Future Past." I am not trying to make a political point here when I say that it will be a long time coming before you see Jimmy Carter or George Bush (either of them) as meaningful characters in a fictional Hollywood blockbuster.
If you go through the political lexicon, Nixon created (either himself, or having it said about him) more memorable phrases than just about anyone:
- "I am not a crook."
- "The coverup is worse than the crime."
- "The new Nixon."
- "Peace with honor."
- "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more."
- "Tricky Dick."
- "I gave them a sword."
- "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."
- "Let me make one thing perfectly clear."
- "Only Nixon could go to China."
- "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
- "Expletive deleted."
- "I have lost my base of support in Congress."
Richard Nixon scaled the highest heights in American political history - he won 49 states in 1972, the most in history and only matched by Ronald Reagan in 1984. He also became the only President who was forced to resign "because I have lost my base of support in Congress." Throught it all, and while many people hated him then and hate him now, he survived with a good sense of grace and dignity until his passing in 1994.
There is much, much more to Richard Nixon, but that will wait for another day. However, Nixon once again topped them all by making the most dramatic exit in Presidential history, so let's let him say goodbye himself.