I saw at the end of my daily e-mail from the NYT that this is the 34th anniversary of Richard Nixon announcing his resignation. I remember exactly where I was when watching his speech and that the owner of the place bought beers for the house at its conclusion.
Nixon was an essential player in my formative years: Vietnam, the 1972 presidential election (not the least of which was George McGovern’s candidacy), Watergate, and the role of the press (influencing not only my decision to pursue a journalism education but part of the future of that career). The press served an admirable and beneficial function for America but, in hindsight, perhaps it initiated too much “gotcha” investigative journalism and a political cynicism that remains today.
The anniversary also brings today into sharp contrast. Today’s press not only failed its function in the the run-up to the Iraq War, it essentially kowtowed to the Bushies. Nixon avoided impeachment by resigning for what were undoubtedly impeachable offenses. Today’s Congress doesn’t have the cojones to take the Bush Administration to task for its actions. Set aside the lies prior to the war and just consider torture and extraordinary rendition, illegal detentions of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, or the NSA spy program. Of course, Congress made sure it showed its lack of will lask week when it (including our supposed Democrat Rep. Herseth-Sandlin and, of course Sen. Thune) endorsed warranteless spying on U.S. citizens.
Thus, it’s a bittersweet anniversary. It recalls a day when the rule of law and the Constitution not only meant something, they prevailed. Yet in my wildest imagination, I never thought I would look back and think that Tricky Dick looked good in comparison to another president.
Nixon was a professional politician, and I despised everything he stood for — but if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush-Cheney gang, I would happily vote for him.
Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004“