Nixon: Shafted. Can You Dig It?

 

It was March 31, 1973, two months after Richard Nixon’s second inauguration, after the biggest reelection victory in history. The American Film Institute’s very first Lifetime Achievement Award live broadcast, honoring greatest of all time American director, John Ford, took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the very place where Nixon famously said “Gentlemen, you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”. That was only ten years before. Now, what a difference. Nixon, at the dais, was basking in glory. The guests of honor were former POWs in full dress uniform, filling the best tables, applauding as John Ford gave a speech about the power of movies, the responsibilities of Hollywood, and the honor of having had the co-workers that he’d had over a half century. Then the president presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

At the climax of his speech, John Ford said that when he heard the POWs were coming home, “I said a prayer, a simple prayer, not an original one but one that is one spoken in millions of American homes today. God bless Richard Nixon.” And what amounts to the supreme ruling council of Hollywood rose to its feet in a standing ovation, acknowledging the seemingly final triumph of their longtime cultural opponent. Can you imagine? It really happened

Voters already knew the outline of what happened at the Watergate and re-elected Nixon anyway. He had taken some damage. Nixon already had to fire John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman, as well as a lesser couple of officials. But he also got the POWs home at last, a time of national celebration. On March 31, 1973, there was nothing, nothing to suggest that he’d be gone in a year and a half. 

Some comments by @OccupantCDN and others on the Screwtape propaganda post suggested that the Watergate era on screen might be worth a look. Silent Coup (1991) by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin is the book that I’d guess comes closest to Occupant’s point of view. I buy that an actual deep state feared and resented Nixon; I don’t buy that the CIA did it or made him do it.

All the President’s Men appeared just in time to influence the 1976 elections. It is still regarded as the definitive mainstream story of Watergate. The drama is structured like a who-done-it, but right from the start it’s more like a he-done-it. A very well crafted film, it still looks modern 48 years after it opened. It just doesn’t look as truthful, now that we know who Deep Throat was. Not a world-weary disillusioned patriot protecting the Constitution; just a hack FBI man, angry that he didn’t get J. Edgar Hoover’s job. The whole aura of threat and paranoia was made up. Woodward was never in any danger.

If you want to see at least halfway intelligent modern anti-Nixon propaganda, take a gander at The White House Plumbers.  Made with little of the resources or prestige of All the President’s Men, this HBO mini-series is satirical (one critic called it “Coen brothers lite”) but unusually accurate in locations and historical detail. People who should know say that the portrayal of Gordon Liddy is dead-on, capturing some of the good side of someone who was tough to like. The series, for all its sardonic humor, has respect for Nixon’s achievements and a real sense of regret, even tragedy at seeing it set itself up for destruction. 

The congressional Watergate hearings of the summer of ’73 were entertaining. Without them, we would never have discovered the Nixon tapes. But the public didn’t turn against Nixon until later, when the economy tanked, removing his Teflon. Nixon erred by allowing the process to turn into a striptease. He could have disclosed everything early. It would have hurt a little, but he would certainly have survived. Once things got to the point where the tapes were revealed, he could still have burned the tapes and gotten away with it. He was convinced he could ride it out. 

Impeachment is a political, not a legal matter, so if Nixon had retained his enormous post-’72 election popularity in the country, he would have been criticized by Congress and that would have been that. But he lost that popularity. Nixon did what the public craved so much in 1968: he got us out of Vietnam. His policies about Russia and China were popular. The oil crisis of October 1973 was one of the few times in that era where the outside world slapped us upside the head, and it lingered. The postwar stock market finally crashed. As we’ve seen ever since, the public will forgive a lot if the economy is booming, but it turns sour pretty quick when the economy does. 

As a pop culture snapshot of that earlier era of TV, ABC’s Dick Cavett was the middle-to-highbrow liberal alternative to NBC’s overwhelming king of late night, Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. He was briefly, in effect, the Jon Stewart of his era. It was no surprise when Cavett was an early herald of bad news for Nixon.

But it rightly bothered the White House a great deal when they started to lose Johnny Carson. He was basically a moderate Democrat, who didn’t like to hit audiences over the head with it. For the first year of Watergate, he did no more than make justified fun of White House foul-ups that all but begged for late night laughs. But Carson was canny enough to hold off until he sensed that his audience was turning against Nixon.  

When Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor, on October 20 (the famous ‘Saturday night massacre’) for the first time he seriously miscalculated his degree of public support. A real, if hard to define tipping point had been crossed. We’d re-elected him, but a year later we were no longer willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. 

Looking back, one White House staffer said wistfully that the glowing evening of AFI’s John Ford tribute on March 31 was “the last happy time”. She didn’t have to spell that out. By the end of the year, one of the country’s best-selling bumper stickers was “Nixon is a Cox Sacker.”

For the next two decades, there were lots of Watergate re-creations. It was retold as a satire with nuns (Nasty Habits), and as solemn national drama (Blind Ambition). John Ehrlichman’s version, Washington: Behind Closed Doors, occupied a whole week of ABC’s 1977 season premieres. The Nixon imitation could be skillful (Beau Bridges in Kissinger and Nixon, Frank Langella in Nixon/Frost, or Lane Smith in 1989’s The Final Days.) Or it could be low and dumb comedy (Dick (1994), and Martha (2019). Even diehard Nixon fans have a sneaking appreciation for his “portrayal” in Futurama.

Although some of these were more balanced than others, the verdict is almost entirely negative, not matching up with the memories of American voters. If you’ve read @navyjag’s great post about Nixon’s firm, just handling of a racially explosive case of military justice, you know that plenty of people knew a different side of Nixon.

When it comes to skillful, open use of directorial technique to advance a persuasive case, once again as so often we’ll turn to Oliver Stone. His 1996 Nixon was a portrait of a flawed but brilliant man, brought down by his refusal to be a puppet for the warfare state. The movie, itself flawed but brilliant in parts, shocked film reviewers who expected that famed lefty Stone would set a new level of excoriating Nixon. Yet Stone treated his subject with sympathy and respect, as did New York Times writer Tom Wicker (“One of Us”) and later, Conrad Black (“A Man in Full”)

I don’t want to leave the subject of our martyred 37th president without a happier note: the one time I ever got to see the man in person. It was a big luncheon outdoors at the Nixon Library in Orange County, California. July 15, 1992.

As I drove down to Yorba Linda, an FM station played Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s dirge-like “Ohio”, about the Kent State shootings in 1970. “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, we’re finally on our own/This summer I hear the drumming. Four dead in Ohio…” Those days, once so vivid, were now in the distant past. By now, even leftist writers like Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times were saying we all might owe our lives to Richard Nixon breaking the back of the Cold War. Things had changed.

The president was always a sports fan, and this summer event was baseball-themed. One of the featured guests, former Dodger Maury Willis, was one of the top base-stealing champs of the 1950s. At the microphone, his slightly uninhibited story about his Cadillac convertible and bringing a pair of his girlfriends to Blair House to meet the Vice President had the crowd in stiches. Nixon, as guest of honor, wasn’t supposed to speak yet, but he couldn’t help himself. He leaned into his microphone, grinning, eyebrows waggling, consciously and obviously “doing a Nixon impression” and declared,

“The lesson is: If you want to win, steal!”

The crowd all but fell apart laughing. Take that, Dan Aykroyd!

 

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  1. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Quibble:  I thought Dan Hedaya was great as Nixon.  He doesn’t look like him, but he really captured something.  I would have liked to see him in a serious portrayal.

    Which was the one with Rip Torn?  That was on the weird end.

    • #1
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Quibble: I thought Dan Hedaya was great as Nixon. He doesn’t look like him, but he really captured something. I would have liked to see him in a serious portrayal.

    Which was the one with Rip Torn? That was on the weird end.

    I stand corrected. Dick was a silly story, though it was fun to see Woodward and Bernstein treated with a comedian’s lack of respect for a change. But Hedaya was good. You’re right. And those girls were cute. It’s been thirty years, but my memory is utterly reliable in certain areas. 

    Torn is one of a couple of real oddballs to take on the role. Even Gene Barry played Nixon, onstage in “Watergate: the Musical”. 

    • #2
  3. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Quibble: I thought Dan Hedaya was great as Nixon. He doesn’t look like him, but he really captured something. I would have liked to see him in a serious portrayal.

    Which was the one with Rip Torn? That was on the weird end.

    I stand corrected. Dick was a silly story, though it was fun to see Woodward and Bernstein treated with a comedian’s lack of respect for a change. But Hedaya was good. You’re right. And those girls were cute. It’s been thirty years, but my memory is utterly reliable in certain areas.

    Torn is one of a couple of real oddballs to take on the role. Even Gene Barry played Nixon, onstage in “Watergate: the Musical”.

    Ha!  I just remembered Saul Rubinek as Kissinger.  LOL

    • #3
  4. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Gary McVey: As I drove down to Yorba Linda, an FM station played Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s dirge-like “Ohio”, about the Kent State shootings in 1970. “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, we’re finally on our own/This summer I hear the drumming. Four dead in Ohio…”

    Even in Yorba Linda (A Rush Limbaugh reference?) the line was a lie. It got the song banned off many radio stations for being propaganda. Its one of the reasons I started a dislike of Niel Young, and in the feud with Lynryd Skynyrd, I’d take Skynyrd all time…Its a shame, because the song as such a great opening riff.

    • #4
  5. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Another excellent post, thank you Gary!  It is surprising to recall how fast it all went down. I remember the hearings being on TV in restaurants, offices, everywhere.

    And Yorba Linda is the Orange County city that is home to the Richard Nixon Library.

    • #5
  6. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Gary, I have to admit I was disappointed not to see/hear “Theme From Shaft” in your post. Especially after you quoted it in the title!

    • #6
  7. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Gary McVey: Impeachment is a political, not a legal matter, so if Nixon had retained his enormous post-’72 election popularity in the country, he would have been criticized by Congress and that would have been that. But he lost that popularity. Nixon did what the public craved so much in 1968: he got us out of Vietnam. His policies about Russia and China were popular. The oil crisis of October 1973 was one of the few times in that era where the outside world slapped us upside the head, and it lingered. The postwar stock market finally crashed. As we’ve seen ever since, the public will forgive a lot if the economy is booming, but it turns sour pretty quick when the economy does. 

    As you can see, adjusted for inflation, oil gradually declined from about $30 to $25/bbl from the 1950s through 1973, then more than doubled to the $60-65 range, and then spiked even higher in the 1979 oil crisis.

    For the record, folks, this was a small part of the price of American support of Israel.  The event that caused the 1973 oil crisis, and contributed strongly to the inflation of the 1970s, was the Yom Kippur War, Oct. 6, 1973.  The Arabs launched that one, but it was aimed at reconquering territory seized by Israel in the 1967 war.

    I remember the reverberations of the 1970s oil shock when I was studying economics in the late 1980s.  My faculty advisor had a paper arguing that the productivity slowdown that started in the early 1970s was the result of the obsolescence of much of our equipment, especially gas- and diesel-driven equipment, which was designed for lower oil prices and was less economically efficient at a higher oil price.  Eventually, we switched to more fuel-efficient equipment and alternative energy sources, but this takes time.

    • #7
  8. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Gary, I have to admit I was disappointed not to see/hear “Theme From Shaft” in your post. Especially after you quoted it in the title!

    I don’t blame you for feeling that way, Dawg, but Shaft is MGM’s intellectual property–therefore, Amazon’s. I’d hate to set us up for Jeff Bezos’ “IP all over your conservative website!”

    • #8
  9. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: Impeachment is a political, not a legal matter, so if Nixon had retained his enormous post-’72 election popularity in the country, he would have been criticized by Congress and that would have been that. But he lost that popularity. Nixon did what the public craved so much in 1968: he got us out of Vietnam. His policies about Russia and China were popular. The oil crisis of October 1973 was one of the few times in that era where the outside world slapped us upside the head, and it lingered. The postwar stock market finally crashed. As we’ve seen ever since, the public will forgive a lot if the economy is booming, but it turns sour pretty quick when the economy does.

    As you can see, adjusted for inflation, oil gradually declined from about $30 to $25/bbl from the 1950s through 1973, then more than doubled to the $60-65 range, and then spiked even higher in the 1979 oil crisis.

    For the record, folks, this was a small part of the price of American support of Israel. The event that caused the 1973 oil crisis, and contributed strongly to the inflation of the 1970s, was the Yom Kippur War, Oct. 6, 1973. The Arabs launched that one, but it was aimed at reconquering territory seized by Israel in the 1967 war.

    I remember the reverberations of the 1970s oil shock when I was studying economics in the late 1980s. My faculty advisor had a paper arguing that the productivity slowdown that started in the early 1970s was the result of the obsolescence of much of our equipment, especially gas- and diesel-driven equipment, which was designed for lower oil prices and was less economically efficient at a higher oil price. Eventually, we switched to more fuel-efficient equipment and alternative energy sources, but this takes time.

    Thanks for reads, Jerry! Usually, when you mention Israel, we tangle, but in this case, there’s no controversy because everyone agrees: OPEC was absolutely sanctioning us for taking the Israeli side in the Yom Kippur war. 

    That doesn’t answer the question of whether we did the right thing, only that the consequences are certain. 

    • #9
  10. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Some random details of the Nixon Library lunch: Nixon rarely appeared at the place, so his being there was a bigger deal than you’d think, making me wonder if the radio DJ was making a deliberate reference.

    In 1992 I was less political than I am now. I was always pro-Nixon, but I have to admit that I wasn’t culturally an Orange County-type Republican; a fifty-to-sixty year-old upper middle class golfer. Table talk of these bankers and car dealers wasn’t what I expected, and it taught me a lesson: this establishment stiffs were, in their own ways, more natural and original than the arts types I worked with. They knew each others’ families, and asked sympathetically about their wives’ health. As human beings, they were miles above the occasional downtown creeps that called me a “breeder” behind my back. I never forgot that lunch.

    There were about two dozen TV cameras on a riser. The riser should have been higher, because some of the taller guests blocked the camera view when they got up to move around. To my shock, the TV crews started shouting curses to get people to sit down. You hear of stuff like this happening, but I’d never seen anything like it. Nixon handled it beautifully. He stopped speaking, stared down the press, then said “You know, our dear friends have their job to do”, and the crowd laughed at “dear friends”. Situation defused.

    • #10
  11. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Another excellent post, thank you Gary! It is surprising to recall how fast it all went down. I remember the hearings being on TV in restaurants, offices, everywhere.

    And Yorba Linda is the Orange County city that is home to the Richard Nixon Library.

    Many thanks, Clavius! Were you still living in Washington at the time?

    • #11
  12. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Richard Nixon was famously fond of Patton, and it’s not hard to see why: a great man tripped up by the press. Nixon deserved his own Patton, and it’s a damn shame no one was able to make that film. (Stone’s Nixon is an interesting “nice try” but lacks a strong heroic aspect.)

    In today’s terms, he deserves his own Oppenheimer, a serious biographical work, history with public appeal. It’s one of my lingering regrets that the last living generation with clear memories of Nixon–mine–never stepped up.

    • #12
  13. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Another excellent post, thank you Gary! It is surprising to recall how fast it all went down. I remember the hearings being on TV in restaurants, offices, everywhere.

    And Yorba Linda is the Orange County city that is home to the Richard Nixon Library.

    Many thanks, Clavius! Were you still living in Washington at the time?

    No, I was splitting time between Marquette, Michigan and Los Angeles.  Out here in LA, I went into my dad’s office with him and there were TVs set up around the office showing the hearings.

    • #13
  14. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Gary McVey:

    I don’t want to leave the subject of our martyred 37th president without a happier note: the one time I ever got to see the man in person. It was a big luncheon outdoors at the Nixon Library in Orange County, California. July 15, 1992.

    As I drove down to Yorba Linda, an FM station played Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s dirge-like “Ohio”, about the Kent State shootings in 1970. “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, we’re finally on our own/This summer I hear the drumming. Four dead in Ohio…” Those days, once so vivid, were now in the distant past. By now, even leftist writers like Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times were saying we all might owe our lives to Richard Nixon breaking the back of the Cold War. Things had changed.

    The president was always a sports fan, and this summer event was baseball-themed. One of the featured guests, former Dodger Maury Willis, was one of the top base-stealing champs of the 1950s. At the microphone, his slightly uninhibited story about his Cadillac convertible and bringing a pair of his girlfriends to Blair House to meet the Vice President had the crowd in stiches. Nixon, as guest of honor, wasn’t supposed to speak yet, but he couldn’t help himself. He leaned into his microphone, grinning, eyebrows waggling, consciously and obviously “doing a Nixon impression” and declared,

    “The lesson is: If you want to win, steal!”

    The crowd all but fell apart laughing. Take that, Dan Aykroyd!

     

    Well done as always Gary. However, I just want to talk a bit your story above regarding the interaction between Nixon and Maury Wills. Nixon was a lifelong and knowledgeable baseball fan which was well known during his political career. In 1972, he was asked to select his all time baseball teams by era and league and the selections he made are reasonable. He didn’t have Wills on any of his teams, but he did list him as the best base-runner during his years as a baseball fan.

    I’ve not heard the story you cite about Wills meeting Nixon in the Blair House so thanks for that. 

    Angels 2B Bobby Grich pouring beer on President Nixon after Angels clinch division title in 1979

    Giants CF WIllie Mays & Vice President RIchard Nixon in Giants clubhouse before the 1st major league game at Candlestick Park April 1960

    Former President Nixon with Phillies coaching staff 1989

    Finally, his letter to Yankee pitcher Dave Righetti congratulating him on his no-hitter in 1983 which President Nixon witnessed in person at the game.

    Richard Nixon letter to Yankees P Dave Righetti congratulating him on his no-hitter 1983

     

    • #14
  15. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Those are great pictures, Tigerlily, thanks! 

    By that point in Maury Willis’ life, his voice and overall style was a mix of Redd Foxx, Garrett Morris, and Tim Meadows’ “Ladies Man” character.  The contrast between him and the straitlaced Nixon was hilarious, even to Nixon. 

    • #15
  16. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    Gary McVey:

    I don’t want to leave the subject of our martyred 37th president without a happier note: the one time I ever got to see the man in person. It was a big luncheon outdoors at the Nixon Library in Orange County, California. July 15, 1992.

    As I drove down to Yorba Linda, an FM station played Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s dirge-like “Ohio”, about the Kent State shootings in 1970. “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, we’re finally on our own/This summer I hear the drumming. Four dead in Ohio…” Those days, once so vivid, were now in the distant past. By now, even leftist writers like Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times were saying we all might owe our lives to Richard Nixon breaking the back of the Cold War. Things had changed.

    The president was always a sports fan, and this summer event was baseball-themed. One of the featured guests, former Dodger Maury Willis, was one of the top base-stealing champs of the 1950s. At the microphone, his slightly uninhibited story about his Cadillac convertible and bringing a pair of his girlfriends to Blair House to meet the Vice President had the crowd in stiches. Nixon, as guest of honor, wasn’t supposed to speak yet, but he couldn’t help himself. He leaned into his microphone, grinning, eyebrows waggling, consciously and obviously “doing a Nixon impression” and declared,

    “The lesson is: If you want to win, steal!”

    The crowd all but fell apart laughing. Take that, Dan Aykroyd!

     

    Well done as always Gary. However, I just want to talk a bit your story above regarding the interaction between Nixon and Maury Wills. Nixon was a lifelong and knowledgeable baseball fan which was well known during his political career. In 1972, he was asked to select his all time baseball teams by era and league and the selections he made are reasonable. He didn’t have Wills on any of his teams, but he did list him as the best base-runner during his years as a baseball fan.

    I’ve not heard the story you cite about Wills meeting Nixon in the Blair House so thanks for that.

     

    Angels 2B Bobby Grich pouring beer on President Nixon after Angels clinch division title in 1979

     

    Giants CF WIllie Mays & Vice President RIchard Nixon in Giants clubhouse before the 1st major league game at Candlestick Park April 1960

     

    Former President Nixon with Phillies coaching staff 1989

    Finally, his letter to Yankee pitcher Dave Righetti congratulating him on his no-hitter in 1983 which President Nixon witnessed in person at the game.

     

    Richard Nixon letter to Yankees P Dave Righetti congratulating him on his no-hitter 1983

     

    Huh. I always knew Nixon was a football fanatic; his knowledge of the game was deep and wide. His sworn enemy Hunter S. Thompson attested to this.

    Had no idea he was just as much a baseball fanatic!

    • #16
  17. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Some random details of the Nixon Library lunch: Nixon rarely appeared at the place, so his being there was a bigger deal than you’d think, making me wonder if the radio DJ was making a deliberate reference.

    In 1992 I was less political than I am now. I was always pro-Nixon, but I have to admit that I wasn’t culturally an Orange County-type Republican; a fifty-to-sixty year-old upper middle class golfer. Table talk of these bankers and car dealers wasn’t what I expected, and it taught me a lesson: this establishment stiffs were, in their own ways, more natural and original than the arts types I worked with. They knew each others’ families, and asked sympathetically about their wives’ health. As human beings, they were miles above the occasional downtown creeps that called me a “breeder” behind my back. I never forgot that lunch.

    There were about two dozen TV cameras on a riser. The riser should have been higher, because some of the taller guests blocked the camera view when they got up to move around. To my shock, the TV crews started shouting curses to get people to sit down. You hear of stuff like this happening, but I’d never seen anything like it. Nixon handled it beautifully. He stopped speaking, stared down the press, then said “You know, our dear friends have their job to do”, and the crowd laughed at “dear friends”. Situation defused.

    Hugh Hewitt ran the Nixon Library for a number of years early in its existence. I wonder if he was at this event.

    • #17
  18. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    There’s a straightforward path between a book being published and a movie company buying the rights. Few people know that this isn’t what happened with All The President’s Men. Simon and Schuster top editor Michael Korda relates the story in his autobiography, Another Life.

    Robert Redford got involved with the project before the book was even written, and played a major role in shaping what it would be. So in this case, Hollywood’s “faithful adaptation” was a cheat–the story had been Hollywoodized before anyone got to see the book. No wonder it seemed so cinematic. 

    Forties film producer Val Lewton, unable to afford convincing costumes for 1942’s Cat People, famously came up with the idea of never showing them, just shadows and people’s horrified reactions. It was what you didn’t see that was scary. 

    It’s effective in ATPM, no denying it. All that spooky meeting in garages, signaling secret meetings with a flag on Woodward’s balcony, Woodward running from an unknown, but no doubt, malevolent force; he knew better the whole time. 

    • #18
  19. Jason Rudert Coolidge
    Jason Rudert
    @jasponrudert

    . People who should know say that the portrayal of Gordon Liddy is dead-on, capturing some of the good side of someone who was tough to like. 

    I found him easy to like. (Unlike that rat bastard John Dean.) He was my drive time companion for years and is the source of everything I know about Nixon and Watergate. Born in 1976, I haven’t seen any of those movies, and have no memory of Nixon doing anything, even post-presidency. So this is a nice post. Thanks Gary McVey

    • #19
  20. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Jason Rudert (View Comment):

    . People who should know say that the portrayal of Gordon Liddy is dead-on, capturing some of the good side of someone who was tough to like.

     

    I found him easy to like. (Unlike that rat bastard John Dean.) He was my drive time companion for years and is the source of everything I know about Nixon and Watergate. Born in 1976, I haven’t seen any of those movies, and have no memory of Nixon doing anything, even post-presidency. So this is a nice post. Thanks Gary McVey

    The aforementioned book Silent Coup has some great material against Dean, who John Ehrlichman considers to be one of the villains of Watergate. The story about Liddy holding his hand over a flame was told so often, became such a cliche, that it’s actually a refreshing bit of wit when White House Plumbers deliberately undercuts the cliche with a twist. 

    I doubt that the real Howard Hunt looked or acted much like Woody Harrelson, but he’s a likeable and effective Hunt. It may be the only Watergate movie that gives you a hint of why many people were on Nixon’s side. Of course, White House Plumbers has its flaws. At five hour-long parts, it’s too long. There are a few whoppers. Hunt and Liddy had nothing to do with JFK’s assassination. The Miami Cubans weren’t a bunch of airheads (in fact, I can’t think of another context where blatantly anti-Latino “humor” would get on HBO). William F. Buckley wasn’t a right-wing fanatic who all but kidnapped Hunt’s son. If the screenwriter thought that today’s conservatives worship at the graveside of Buckley, he ought to get out of Malibu more often. 

    • #20
  21. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    What a great historic post Gary. Now I know what you were working on.  Never a fan of his. Until Nov. 7, 1972 and we crossed paths indirectly. But never uttered the thanks I should have given him: God bless Richard Nixon. Only 51 years and 4 months late. 

    • #21
  22. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    navyjag (View Comment):

    What a great historic post Gary. Now I know what you were working on. Never a fan of his. Until Nov. 7, 1972 and we crossed paths indirectly. But never uttered the thanks I should have given him: God bless Richard Nixon. Only 51 years and 4 months late.

    It’s a great story, Navyjag, and I would never have heard it if you hadn’t put it on Ricochet. That’s the Nixon that the country knew. 

    • #22
  23. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Speaking about the contributions of Ricochet members, Jim Kearney properly corrected a mistake of mine:

    Jim Kearney Sent 2 minutes ago 

    “A Man in Full” was a Tom Wolfe novel.

    The Conrad Black book is “Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full”  https://www.amazon.com/Richard-M-Nixon-Life-Full/dp/1586485199

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  24. MoFarmer Coolidge
    MoFarmer
    @mofarmer

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Those are great pictures, Tigerlily, thanks!

    By that point in Maury Willis’ life, his voice and overall style was a mix of Redd Foxx, Garrett Morris, and Tim Meadows’ “Ladies Man” character. The contrast between him and the straitlaced Nixon was hilarious, even to Nixon.

    That would be Maury Wills from 60’s not 50’s. Great Post. I spent alot of time listening to those hearings in the summer of 73. 

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  25. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Another excellent post, thank you Gary! It is surprising to recall how fast it all went down. I remember the hearings being on TV in restaurants, offices, everywhere.

    And Yorba Linda is the Orange County city that is home to the Richard Nixon Library.

    Since there was a recent post on Rush Limbaugh, he’s been in my mind recently.

    I was thinking of Rush’s fondness for Rio Linda..

    https://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2007/11/30/rio_linda_explained_for_those_in_rio_linda/

     

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  26. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    he ought to get out of Malibu more often. 

    Yeah, him and the Dude.

    • #26
  27. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Here’s a couple of my posts about Nixon, and different aspects of his impact:

    This one is seemingly about something else–Robert Redford’s movie about the 1950s Quiz Show scandal. But there are some ironic coincidences that involve memory, the past, and the early years of coast to coast television. 

    Like every postwar White House, Nixon’s staff had to refine a bewildering variety of funding requests for science and engineering. The administration tried, and worked, to ensure a sane process of evaluating economic feasibility and cost/benefit analysis. Fifty years later, it’s interesting how the decisions worked out

     

    • #27
  28. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    I remember my elementary teacher, it must have been 1969, teaching us about Nixon’s daughter and her marriage to Eisenhower’s son or grandson(? I’m not sure that’s right).  

    I don’t have much of an opinion of Watergate and his resignation.   But I do know that the 55mph speed limit gets blamed on him, and of course he linked us with China.  I think that was a huge mistake.  

    His biggest mistake was messing up and resigning and condemning us to Jimmy Carter and his failed presidency.  

    But that led to Reagan, the only good president in my lifetime.  

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  29. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    Gary McVey:

    I don’t want to leave the subject of our martyred 37th president without a happier note: the one time I ever got to see the man in person. It was a big luncheon outdoors at the Nixon Library in Orange County, California. July 15, 1992.

    As I drove down to Yorba Linda, an FM station played Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s dirge-like “Ohio”, about the Kent State shootings in 1970. “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, we’re finally on our own/This summer I hear the drumming. Four dead in Ohio…” Those days, once so vivid, were now in the distant past. By now, even leftist writers like Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times were saying we all might owe our lives to Richard Nixon breaking the back of the Cold War. Things had changed.

    The president was always a sports fan, and this summer event was baseball-themed. One of the featured guests, former Dodger Maury Willis, was one of the top base-stealing champs of the 1950s. At the microphone, his slightly uninhibited story about his Cadillac convertible and bringing a pair of his girlfriends to Blair House to meet the Vice President had the crowd in stiches. Nixon, as guest of honor, wasn’t supposed to speak yet, but he couldn’t help himself. He leaned into his microphone, grinning, eyebrows waggling, consciously and obviously “doing a Nixon impression” and declared,

    “The lesson is: If you want to win, steal!”

    The crowd all but fell apart laughing. Take that, Dan Aykroyd!

     

    Well done as always Gary. However, I just want to talk a bit your story above regarding the interaction between Nixon and Maury Wills. Nixon was a lifelong and knowledgeable baseball fan which was well known during his political career. In 1972, he was asked to select his all time baseball teams by era and league and the selections he made are reasonable. He didn’t have Wills on any of his teams, but he did list him as the best base-runner during his years as a baseball fan.

    I’ve not heard the story you cite about Wills meeting Nixon in the Blair House so thanks for that.

     

    Angels 2B Bobby Grich pouring beer on President Nixon after Angels clinch division title in 1979

     

    Giants CF WIllie Mays & Vice President RIchard Nixon in Giants clubhouse before the 1st major league game at Candlestick Park April 1960

     

    Former President Nixon with Phillies coaching staff 1989

    Finally, his letter to Yankee pitcher Dave Righetti congratulating him on his no-hitter in 1983 which President Nixon witnessed in person at the game.

     

    Richard Nixon letter to Yankees P Dave Righetti congratulating him on his no-hitter 1983

     

    Huh. I always knew Nixon was a football fanatic; his knowledge of the game was deep and wide. His sworn enemy Hunter S. Thompson attested to this.

    Had no idea he was just as much a baseball fanatic!

    According to legend, Nixon designed a football play for his friend George Allen who was coach of the Washington Redskins. The play lost 13 yards.

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  30. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

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