Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

History No Match for Richard Nixon

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

History No Match for Richard Nixon

Article excerpt

It is difficult not to imagine that the last 20 years of his life had been leading up to this week, this day, this moment. And as he had so many times before, against all odds, with many setbacks, Richard Nixon won.

On Wednesday he was laid to rest amid a wave of revisionist history that has rendered him almost unrecognizable, like one of those pastel portraits done by street artists, all the harsh features smoothed away, designed to flatter and to sell.

He had read his own obituary once, in the newspapers of Aug. 9, 1974, and it was not nearly so nice. Smart as he was, perhaps he set about to alter it. In two decades, he succeeded.

So in the days after his death, politicians, commentators and ordinary citizens were full of praise.

They spoke of his detente with the Soviets and the opening of China to the West. They somehow forgot the bombings of North Vietnam and Cambodia, the thousands upon thousands of Americans and even more Vietnamese who died in the senseless war he had promised to end and instead prolonged.

They spoke of his ability to come back after crushing defeats and his wise counsel as an elder statesman. They somehow forgot how he tried to destroy Daniel Ellsberg by digging up dirt on the man who had leaked the Pentagon Papers; and they forgot how his rigidity and demagoguery helped widen rifts in the deeply divided nation he had pledged to bring together.

They spoke of how indomitably he had worked his way back from disgrace; they somehow forgot how very much he had to expiate.

They forgot how he ordered a halt to the FBI investigation just days after the Watergate burglary, how he privately suggested paying hush money to the burglars but publicly denied any involvement in a cover-up.

They forgot his attempts to subvert due process in the Saturday Night Massacre, to stonewall investigators seeking the tapes he'd made of his Oval Office conversations.

They forgot the unexplained 18-minute gap on one of those tapes.

"When the president does it," he said afterward, "that means it is not illegal."

And they forgot how his actions fomented a cynicism about government that endures to the present and has transformed the American character, perhaps forever. …

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