This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the 37th president of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon, a man that for better or worse had a huge impact on mid-20th century America and the world.
Mr. Nixon began his political life in his native California by running for congress in 1948 from his hometown of Whittier, California. In that election, Mr. Nixon ran as a strong, anti-communist Republican.
By the time Mr. Nixon left the presidency in disgrace in 1974, he began a policy known as detente and that essentially acceded to the ascendancy of the then communist Soviet Union and to live with them and not defeat them.
With political stops in the aforementioned House of Representatives, the senate, the vice-presidency and eventually the presidency, Mr. Nixon was always hard-nosed and perceived to be some sinister, right-winger when in fact and indeed, Mr. Nixon was nothing of a sort.
As John Fund over at National Review put it in this article, Mr. Nixon was a liberal. A liberal, not a conservative Republican at all.
Mr. Nixon did nothing to roll back the excesses of the so-called Great Society programs of Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact as Mr. Fund notes Mr. Nixon added to these programs.
Here are just three government agencies that Mr. Nixon implemented in his five plus years as president:
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
And trust me, all three are behemoths that will never, ever go away. And between the three agencies, there are nearly 20,000 employees that are setting forth national environmental policy. Never mind that this probably is best left to the states, but it is the inclination of Mr. Nixon to put the federal government involved.
And, sadly, it did not stop there.
Again, let Mr. Fund explain one horrible day in 1971 for context of just how liberal, domestically, Mr. Nixon was:
In a single day in 1971, Nixon famously imposed wage and price controls in a naïve attempt to curb inflation, ended the U.S.’s last ties to the gold standard, effectively devalued the dollar, and imposed a 10 percent import surcharge.
Good lord, FDR, Harry Truman, JFK and Lyndon Johnson must have been stunned to see the turn of events in which a supposed conservative Republican, Nixon, implemented policies that they just could fantasize about.
Now Mr. Nixon did conceded that he did set bad precedents that successive presidents tried to follow.
Thanks a lot Tricky Dick!
And even on foreign policy, Mr. Nixon went from strident cold warrior to one that made a fateful decision in implementing detente with the Soviet Union.
As I noted, it meant that the United States, and thus the West, accepted the Soviet Union and its communist form of government.
There was no more talk of defeating the expansionist communist regime but accommodation.
And of course there is Mr. Nixon opening the door to beginning relations with Red China. Eventually, the United States ended formal recognition of the Republic of China on Taiwan. We recognized that there is only one China and we sided with the communists.
So again, my fellow conservatives, what is it exactly do you like and think Mr. Nixon was a good conservative president?
To be fair, also at National Review, James Rosen does give this counter balance here.
But I find Mr. Rosen's defense of Nixon the conservative to be very weak at best.
Where Mr. Rosen bases much of his praise of the conservative Nixon, it is almost strictly on so-called social issues. Here is a telling aside sentence in building the case for the conservative Nixon:
After all, they championed law and order, and stood against amnesty, abortion, and acid, as well as media bias, when it was least fashionable to do so — the age of Radical Chic — and carried 49 states.
Yes, that maybe true.
However, if one cannot govern as a fiscal and small government conservative, then what is the point of the above? It has to be taken in its totality. And in reality, because of the paranoia that was one Richard Nixon, Watergate did occur and while I find it a minor tale in the grand scheme of things, it was the cover-up and sustaining that what drove Mr. Nixon to resign office.
For all the tough-talk that was Mr. Nixon, he did not fight when in fact today a Democrat would do so with gusto.
Mr. Fund makes the righteous case that the Watergate affair did some very serious damage to the Republican party in general and conservatism in particular. Mr. Rosen pretty much dismisses that.
Again, I am with Mr. Fund.
I have long believed that the Watergate affair has ushered in an age of corruption that has afflicted both political parties.
But Republicans are almost always more hurt by corruption because they run against it. And when a said Republican is caught, it continues the sorry precedent of one Richard Milhous Nixon.
Now Mr. Nixon did not do all wrong.
Mr. Nixon ended the armed services draft and that has been a great thing for the United States. The all-volunteer armed forces has done a spectacular job in all military actions that have been taken since the end of the Vietnam war.
Speaking of which, Mr. Nixon did end the war that he was inherited with by Democrat President Johnson.
Mr,. Nixon did support the armed forces and always wanted to maintain higher spending than many believed he should.
And yes, many believe that today Mr. Nixon's law and order stand considering his own dalliances on the borders of legality was kind of a fraud. But it was not. Mr. Nixon believed in an imperial presidency, no doubt about that. But he saw the overall breakdown of society that the 1960s hath wrought as a direct result of the breakdown of law and order.
At best, Mr. Nixon was a conflicted politician.
He sought approval from the very people he ran against, the Establishment. Yet as Mr. Rosen notes, he wanted to set the stage for a conservative counterweight against the Establishment and their liberal allies.
Mr. Nixon went from anti-communist hawk to defender of the status-quo in regards to Soviet communist expansion.
Mr. Nixon went from anti-New Deal conservative to without a doubt a pretty damned liberal president.
In short, I do not get the conservative love for Richard Milhous Nixon.