Was Richard Nixon That Bad?

In light of similar threads relating to George W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson I will ask: was Richard M. Nixon that bad a President as some people claim. If you look at Richard Nixon’s presidency objectively (without the “Watergate EVIL EVIL EVIL” bias) he was not that bad a President and even a good or (dare I say this) a great President who issued forth far more concrete improvements than JFK or Bill Clinton.

A quick look at the Wikipedia article on Richard Nixon shows the following accomplishments:

-He withdrew the US from Vietnam while still trying to secure a peace where South Vietnam could fight on and survive
-He took the US off the gold standard and his economic policies helped allevate the '70s recession.
-He established the EPA, OSHA, Office of Management and Budget, and Consumer Safety Product Commission.
-He signed the Clean Air Act of 1970
-He oversaw the final desegregation of schools in the South.
-He opened up China and established diplomatic relations.
-He pursued detente with the Soviet Union

All in all Richard Nixon had an overwhelming number of accomplishments which easily exceed whatever mistakes Nixon made in Watergate. He is a President liberals ought to admire (he supported UHC for instance) yet liberals hate his guts for not being a radical like McGovern.

I was there in the 60s, and yes Nixon was that bad. He ran and won against two opponents of the war who presumably would have gotten us out of there faster. In the end the Communists won anyway and now they make our shoes; the soldiers who died are still dead. Watergate was no little thing. He established a shadow govt that spied on Americans and used blatantly illegal acts that made a mockery of the Democratic process. Nixon also morphed the Republican party into what it is today by courting the southern racists.

McGovern wanted to get out even before the POWs were released by the Vietcoms and as I had said in the LBJ thread had we actually did what we threatened during the Paris Peace Accords North Vietnam wouldn’t have dared invade South Vietnam.

He actually strongly supported civil rights.

Do you even know what Watergate refers to? And that Watergate stands for far more than simply Nixon having his plumbers break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters and then covering it up after it had been bungled? Watergate represents a vast array of paranoid, overly-secretive, arrogant abuses of power by Nixon and his inner circle. Nixon is the original imperial president, obsessed with secrecy (despite leaving reams of tapes of his own oval office conversations with staffers) and willing to employ almost any means, legal or illegal, to silence his critics and opponents. Such as having his plumbers break into the Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office to try and find anything to discredit him after he leaked the Pentagon Papers (in the end, the burglars couldn’t even find his file).

Nixon’s infamous quote that “if a president does it, then it’s not illegal” is pretty scary and has paved the way for future abuses of presidential power. We elect an executive, not a king or emperor. The notion that “Caesar can do no wrong” belongs firmly in the ancient past.

What about the deliberate lawbreaking by Nixon and his aides? You haven’t mentioned any of that, only some vague “mistakes in Watergate.”
What do you think the mistakes you’re willing to forgive him were, and which of his actions were actually criminal?

You forgot Nixon’s #1 accomplishment too. Bringing inflation under control by instituting federal wage and price controls. http://www.econreview.com/events/wageprice1971b.htm

Well he covered up an attempted break-in and stop an FBI investigation.

And if we had supported Vietnam’s legitimate desire to end colonization by the French then they wouldn’t have been communist at all. Neither of those has fuck-all to do with Nixon.

Listen to the tapes. He was a bigot.

It was a break-in, not an attempted break in. A break-in on behalf of a sitting president to help throw an election. We real Americans like the idea of Democracy.

If you think about it, there are few things worse than having the President of the United States use criminal acts to influence an election. The only worse thing I can think of is to lie about the nature of a threat to justify putting our military in harms way.

Read the Church committee reports. While they cover a time span and abuses far earlier and greater than Nixon alone, Nixon certainly oversaw and benefited from many of these abuses during his tenure. Namely using CIA operatives in domestic operations (targeting domestic political opponents), treating the FBI and the Department of Justice in general as his own private fiefdom (by seeking to control and direct FBI investigations and firing special prosecutors whose own investigations got too close to him and his cronies), having FBI and other government agents open people’s mail and wiretap phones without warrant or any kind of responsible oversight, obstructing justice by withholding and tampering with key evidence such as his oval office tapes, secretly expanding the Vietnam war into Cambodia (which would eventually cause the rise of the Khmer Rouge) and then lying about it, and keeping an illegal slush fund from his re-election effort to bankroll the illegal activities of the plumbers.

Let’s be clear - these aren’t simple “mistakes” that Nixon made. These are abuses of power and crimes to such an extent that he resigned rather than face an almost certain impeachment and removal from office.

He was a bigot, but it was something that never affected his actions. As VP he supported Civil Rights, and that cost him quite a bit.

Nixon was his own liability, thanks to the anti-war movement Nixon realized that he could not continue his Vietnam policy without the support of the public, so he had to undermine that growing movement. And so we got an incident with some Joe the Plumbers :slight_smile: of those days.

According to the former chief of staff to Nixon. Robert Haldeman said that “Without the Vietnam War there would have been no Watergate,”

The Nixon tapes also showed that in reality Nixon was full of prejudice, in the end what counts is action, Nixon did good with some items here, but his bigotry also showed with the use of the southern strategy.

In my opinion, Nixon is the second worst President of the United States ever, after GW Bush. And Nixon had some positive accomplishments, such as on the environment and opening China, which are huge good accomplishments. He didn’t start the war in Vietnam, but he was one of those “who lost China” jerks that “forced” Johnson’s hand. He continued the war for his entire term of office without getting a “peace with honor” or better terms, he wiretapped relentlessly, did break-ins, was an anti-Semite and racist, ramped up nuclear alerts for political gain and was generally a paranoid, drunken nut. Also brilliant mind. And he gave Dick Cheney his political start. He was such a bad President that Republicans turned on him.

So for bad Presidents, Bush II is first and Nixon second.

Nixon was an extraordinarily smart man, and sometimes he used his intellect to benefit the American people and the whole world. However, most of the time, he was powerhungry paranoid son of a bitch (no offense to any dogs out there) who abused his power and authority to further his mad schemes.

He had enormous potential, and possibly he had SOME good intentions. However, he did things that greatly harmed the US.

So you and I agree that GWB gets the Worst Ever ranking, uncontested?

I think this is an important point. Many people have flaws, even Presidents.

I don’t have a clear idea how Nixon, with modest background, lack of charisma and obvious character flaws, rose to power as he did. (I do know he accumulated a lot of “political markers” during the mid-60’s.)

A friend of mine, whose views are very far to the left, insists that Nixon was the best President since FDR! I think of Nixon as a Jekyll and Hyde, with the Jekyll and Hyde each too extreme to come to a single verdict on the man.

To this day the peoples of Laos and Cambodia love the guy. Can’t get enough of him. Millions of them enjoyed the illegal bombing that made him a de facto war criminal and from which they still suffer every day now.

In South American - even during his Vice-Presidency - local populations in Peru and Uruguay and Venezuela adored his visiting support of their dictatorships.

In the Middle East, his support of the murderous Shah of Iran paid huge dividends for policy in the region.

Et cetera, et fucking cetera in most corners of the world.

But lets concentrate on a visit to China, and the ‘peace deal’ that culminated in the helicopter airlift from the roof of the Saigon embassy. Genius foreign policy guy.

Nixon was the anti-war candidate in 1968. Humphrey campaigned on continuing Johnson’s policies, i.e. increased support to South Vietnam until a negotiated peace guaranteeing free elections can be carried out.

1968 Democratic Platform:

1968 REpublican Platform

The Democrats were running on a platform to stop bombing and negotiating to withdraw our troops. Kissinger, who was involved in the Paris peace talks fed information to Nixon about the South’s willingness to sign a peace treaty. Nixon surreptitiously encouraged the South to wait until he was in office when they would get a better deal. So to call Nixon the ant-war candidate is simple untrue. He characterized the Democrats at settling for “peace at any price” rather than continuing the war to reach a more ideal conclusion. Nixon did not end the bombing, he expanded it. He ended the draft because he thought it would weaken the anti-war protests.

The doves and the hawks knew which candidate to support. The hawks went with Nixon and the doves reluctantly backed Humphrey after Eugene McCarthy failed to get the nomination.

In so many cities desegregation led to white flight to private schools. You could plan to bus in white students, but sometimes they just didn’t come.

Now in Nashville, the new zoning plan has whites zoned to white neighborhoods and blacks zoned to black neighborhoods. Amazing.

At any rate, the South wasn’t the only area of the country to need desegregation.

Nixon was a liberal, BTW. And it wasn’t just liberals who “hated his guts.” He was a corrupt and whiny man who tried to use the powers of the presidency for his own purposes. His own party was about to throw him out of office. Nobody liked Richard Nixon by August 1974. For two years he had kept the country in a state of constant turmoil.

By the time he left office, he was losing his mind. He wandered around the White House at night mumbling to the portraits on the walls.

His Enemies List was a big deal back then. It got to be so ridiculous that it even listed the names of Paul Newman and Bill Cosby. The man had become totally paranoid and he was still in power.

Was he for civil rights? How many women and non-white men were in positions of counsel on his staff?

You might enjoy the movie All the President’s Men. I think it may have won the Oscar for the Best Film the year it came out. It will give you a quick and entertaining overview of how the story of Watergate was hushed up and then finally broken.

You say that as if this thread is meant as a response, but one of those threads was also started by you.