Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Nixon and Bush Come Into a Bar...

A decade and a half after he died, the ghost of Bad Presidents Past keeps reappearing, rattling his chains to remind us that, as George W. Bush leaves, he did not invent bad behavior in the White House.

The latest batch of released Nixon tapes provokes a headline: "Ruthless, Cynical, Profane."

In contrast to the President Present, Nixon was never someone you would want to have a beer with, more like the weird guy who comes into the bar and inspires everyone to move to the other end.

With Nixon we are beyond politics, deep into the personal pathology of a man who saw himself surrounded by a world of enemies yet hungered for their approval even while hatching plots against them and, throughout it all, secretly recording every word in the Oval Office that would come back to destroy his presidency and, beyond that, haunt and puzzle generations to come.

By contrast, in his farewell media tour, starting this week with Charlie Gibson, we get a genial, somewhat befuddled Bush, prompting us to speculate about when he is lying to himself as well as us.

In one of the new Nixon revelations, he orders an aide to make sure that pictures of all previous presidents are removed from White House Offices, only to discover that an employee of 41 years still has a signed photo of JFK on her wall.

The episode has a happy ending when the Leader of the Free World receives a memo: "On January 14th, the project was completed and all 35 offices displayed only your photograph."

Mission Accomplished.


Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Nixon was a brilliant albeit paranoid man. He also, I believe, had a criminal mindset. Bush? I don't know, I think with him that it was much more an allegience to some grander (and, yes, highly naive) philosophy. Dogmatism over nefariousness, in other words. Still, though, a catostrophic outcome, whatever the motive.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Nixon and George W are in a bar. A few moments later, a horse walks in and the barkeep asks the horse: "Hey, Buddy, why the long face?"

Anonymous said...

Maybe the most trubling part of the Nixon story is the 1972 election. The Watergate break-in happened June 17, 1972. Hunt and Liddy and others were indicted in September. In November Nixon won 49 states in a landslide over George McGovern, a very decent man.