by John Schachter
Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Richard M. Nixon, the 37th president of the United States – and the only one to resign the office in disgrace. Despite his long and well-documented record of criminality, vile language and behavior, racism, anti-Semitism and consistent efforts to obstruct justice and violate the Constitution (as well as the rules and accepted norms of political and personal behavior), a loyal cadre of deluded holders-on still cling to the notion that Nixon was a great, albeit misunderstood, man and president. As none of his friends might say, Oy!
Nixon apologists held a gala celebration at Washington D.C.’s storied Mayflower Hotel to fete the discredited former president. Perhaps the setting was coincidentally appropriate; the hotel is home to some of the political world’s most infamous indignities. Of course, these past scandals – Gov. Elliot Spitzer’s dalliances with prostitutes, Monica Lewinsky hiding out, and JFK mistress Judith Exner waiting there for rides to the White House – all had a connection to sex. But perhaps there’s more similarity here after all; Nixon certainly screwed the American public time and time again.
Of course, when Patrick Buchanan is one of your keynote and most spirited defenders, you know you’ve got some hell of a record. Buchanan called Nixon “a statesman, a profile in courage and an extraordinary man we are all proud to have served.” Looking at Buchanan’s almost equally noxious record on race and religion, among other issues, that sentiment makes sense.
Billy Graham sent a tribute via his son. The Reverend Graham, you may remember, was immortalized on White House tapes lamenting Jewish domination of the media, a “stranglehold” that he feared would be responsible for “this country's going down the drain.''