Sunday, April 05, 2015

Nixon Saw What We See

I love those surveys of current Americans ranking of former presidents. It does not reveal anything about the presidents. It does tell a great deal about media management of ex-presidents' legacies as well as about the people replying to the surveys. Seeing JFK anywhere near a top 10 always makes me laugh. The hagiography and beautification are never-ending despite all the slime we know about him now. Nixon never makes those lists. If I could pick the brain of a former president, it is Nixon. He saw what we see, cathedral and all, and understood the problems not just of our society but of the rotten elites in charge of it.

This is not a defense of Nixon. He had his faults, and as Jim stated on his blog, was not right wing enough for Jim. No one ever is except men who last breathed their last breath centuries ago. When I wrote my post on the why behind Watergate, it was based on Nixon's words and seeing the interconnected pieces of the USG system. Nixon knew he was going to win in 1972, and he knew with his new coalition, which Reagan would ride to success, the presidency could be under his control for years if not decades. I will quote liberally from his memoirs.

Nixon's general view of government, and what had happened to America in FDR's shadow sounds familiar. When discussing in 1972 the reforms he wanted to make to the federal government he said the following.
"The reforms that we are instituting are ones which will... diffuse the power throughout the country and which will make government leaner but in a sense will make it stronger. After all, fat government is weak, weak in handling the problems."
That sounds a lot like the small but powerful government that many writers in these parts of the alt right wish for. Not the toothless small government of the libertarians, this is a strong, lean government that could shed off the awful, bloated USG bureaucracy. He did not stop there.
At the beginning of my second term, Congress, the bureaucracy, and the media were still working in concert to maintain the ideas and ideology of the traditional Eastern liberal establishment that had come down to 1973 through the New Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society... As I noted in my diary, "This is going to be quite a shock to the establishment, but it is the only way, and probably the last time, that we can get government under control before it gets so big that it submerges the individual completely and destroys the dynamism which makes the American system what it is.
When I read this, I cannot help but think of how fraudulent the anti-establishment types are now. The left has been in control for decades, and all the rebels were was just another shade of red. The best trick the media and academia pull is to consistently send the message out that they are not part of the power structure and that the power structure is still center-right. Nixon notes in his memoirs a note from Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1969 that states, "Since about 1840, the cultural elite in America have pretty generally rejected the values and activities of the larger society". Analysis that sounds familiar.

Nixon was a lawyer like our two recent Democrat constitutional law scholars that occupied the White House, but not a child of the New Left, so his comments on our institutions sound familiar, too.
My reading of history taught me that when all the leadership institutions of a nation become paralyzed by self-doubt and second thoughts, that nation cannot long survive unless those institutions are either reformed, replaced or circumvented.
Nixon did not live to see the horribly inept women we have as a foreign policy team, but Nuland, Powers, Harf, Rice, and whomever are all products of the affirmative action infusion into the American Empire's organs. As Jim stated in his post "The Stupid Elite", the only competent members of our elite are much much older now, remnants of that power structure of Nixon's day. The crop coming up now have been selected not for pure skill and intellect but for their extracurricular activities, gaming the admissions system, conformity, polishing progressive apples, etc. An elite paralyzed by second thoughts and slouching will be usurped and replaced by eager beavers that want power and prestige. They will not know how to do anything, but they want the levers of power. After all, with all the cozy work and Wikileaks revelations about talks between Google and the State Department-White House, who is running who?

Nixon's three main goals were grand in scope, and make sense, but were doomed. First, reform the budget and terminate wasteful and ineffective programs. Second, a massive reorganization and reduction of the federal bureaucracy and White House staff. Third, in his words, "revitalize the Republican Party along New Majority lines". This last one was Nixon seeing the Reagan coalition, which was the Northern/Western business interests sucking in ethnic and working class whites combined with Dixiecrats, before it was named. Nixon knew the media would come after him, and he was ready to fight. Some actual quotes from reporters: "What Richard Nixon contemplated doing was actually running the government, something no president in seven decades has attempted" (Nicholas von Hoffman) and "Cynics who never believe that anyone is committed to anything, have had a hard time grasping the seriousness that Mr. Nixon accords these goals" (Eileen Shanahan). That last quote plays on the idea that elites had lost all drive as it was unbelievable that anyone was committed to anything.

For anyone disgusted by the modern Republicans and their penchant for folding even before he fight starts, Nixon agreed with you. He knew they were gunshy. He wanted to change everything with the historic opportunity that the Left was giving the right in the early years of the post-'68 American political landscape. In his words,
It was one thing for the Democrats to hold all four aces in Washington - the Congress, the bureaucracy, the majority of the media, and the formidable group of lawyers and power-brokers who operate behind the scenes in the city. It was another thing to give them the fifth ace of a timid opposition party.
Yes, Boehner, McConnell, Pence and the rest of you professional Republicans, you are timid. You play weak, but hey, donors might slide money away from you and you might have to dirty your hands for once instead of cashing that consistent, grifter check. The left and tastemakers will hate you anyway, and the best you can hope for is a somewhat nice obituary or rehab of your legacy to make current republicans look worse.

Nixon's mistake was that he thought he could overpower his opposition because he held the presidency and had the voter's approval. He miscalculated that resting your status on the branch of public opinion is always subject to a break. Nixon saw his branch simply chopped off by the incredibly powerful media. He was not a perfect president. He had a mind that could see the big, the small and how his situation on the right would always be a problem for selling ideas. He would understand our opponents today because they were the same opponents in his day. I will take him any day over the entire crop of politicians working in America today.

5 comments:

Peter Blood said...

Hear, hear!

R. Wilbur said...

I picked up Nixon's memoirs and some related books following your earlier Nixon posts (and, honestly, to no small credit to the @dick_nixon twitter account!).

I think it's difficult for the post WW2 / post 60s generation (under 40, let's say) to pick up on the whole "well, McCarthy was right / John Birch Society was right" line of thought. The society is too distant, the thought processes are too distant.

But I think a new look at Nixon, what he understood, and what he tried to accomplish -- well, that world is close enough to understand. And through that line of thought (Nixon saw what was happening, but perhaps didn't go far enough), I think it easier for the under 40 crowd to comprehend the Cathedral.

If only because our media organs have painted such a vivid picture of the 60s-70s. That view is so prevalent, so dominant, that it is ready for some hard revisionism.

I came away overwhelmed with respect for Nixon as a man, and as a president, after reading his memoirs and several related volumes. His presidency was really a tragedy, in the older sense of the word.

nikcrit said...

Nixon's three main goals were grand in scope, and make sense, but were doomed. First, reform the budget and terminate wasteful and ineffective programs. Second, a massive reorganization and reduction of the federal bureaucracy and White House staff. Third, in his words, "revitalize the Republican Party along New Majority lines". This last one was Nixon seeing the Reagan coalition, which was the Northern/Western business interests sucking in ethnic and working class whites combined with Dixiecrats, before it was named.

@SOBL,
So how do you view Reagan as Nixon legacy bearer?
It seems to me that in their growin posthumous legacy revisionism and analysis, Nixon is slowly starting to usurp Reagan as the ideal Republican in the second half of the 20th-century, while the latter's burnishment is becoming more and more scoffed and dented. Many contemporary rightist pundits hate Reagan.
I don't know; i've read a few books on Nixon, and he was clearly the more refined intellect. Perhaps his improved image is just a result of his unprecedented tragedy just becoming more and more distant a memory, allowing for a more objective assessment of his political deeds.

Portlander said...

Good stuff, SoBL. You're making me wonder about my prior opinion that Nixon was the original RINO.

That would be ironic -- that Nixon intended to be the small government reformer, but was taken down by the Cathedral, then as salt in the wound, had his intentions rewritten so that among what should be his future supporters he is only remembered for things like the EPA and fiat profligacy.

I'm not totally settled mind you, but I'm softening my judgement. Any enemy of the Cathedral is a friend of mine. :)

Robert What? said...

I agree with your thoughts about Nixon. The current White House occupant looks like a cartoon in comparison.

Yet, in one instance, Nixon did the bidding of the Banksters by taking us off the Gold Standard, and I don't know why. But that's the reason the dollar is today worth about 10% of what it was in Nixon's time.