Presidents and Protesters: Political Rhetoric in the 1960s

By Theodore Otto Windt Jr. | Go to book overview

difficult as possible to get information and witnesses. A behind-the- scenes media effort would be made to make the Senate inquiry appear very partisan. The ultimate goal would be to discredit the hearings and reduce their impact by attempting to show that the Democrats have engaged in the same type of activities."79 That these aides were reflecting Nixon's own strategies became apparent as the president sought every means possible to avoid giving information to the committee or allowing his aides to testify, including: claims to executive privilege and executive confidentiality, legal battles in the courts, the firing of the first special prosecutor, rhetorical attacks on journalists for being biased, and so on and on.80 The dichotomy between the public statements and private resistance demonstrates once again the dichotomy inherent in the Nixon psyche.

In the end these strategies did not work. Nixon was forced to resign. But even in the resignation Nixon felt compelled to moralize about his administration:

But I want to say one thing: We can be proud of it--5½ years. No man or no woman came into this Administration and left it with more of this world's goods than when he came in. No man or no woman ever profited at the public expense or the public till. That tells something about you.

Mistakes, yes. But for personal gain, never.81

Self-righteous to the end. That was one of the reasons for Watergate. The moralists in the White House thought their goals were so important and inherently moral that they justified any means necessary to achieve them, which is typical of strident moralism. And yet, one of the great ironies of the American presidency is that Richard Nixon, who built his career on words and on several occasions saved it through words, was finally brought down by his own words meticulously recorded on his own secret recording system. Public words created Richard Nixon, the politician; private words destroyed Richard Nixon, the president.


Conclusion

In Act IV Hamlet has a remarkable revelation. On his way to England he meets Fortinbras en route to Poland "to gain a little patch of ground / That hath in it no profit but the name." Upon learning Fortinbras's mission, Hamlet imagines twenty thousand dead "for fan

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