October 01, 2007

Robert D. Novak may have thought of him as a fraud, as did Jackie Onassis, who was an expert—after all, she did look at the mirror daily—but in my mind he was the real deal and a very good president to boot. Richard Nixon came to mind when reading about the pain certain Brooklynites are still going through fifty years after the Dodgers left town for the wide open spaces of Los Angeles. Here’s Rabbi Kushner talking to a hack in a Noo Yawk weekly: “There’s nothing uniting us now. When a traditional Jew dies, they sprinkle some soil from Jerusalem over him. In addition to that, this goes into a casket with
me. Sacred soil from Ebbets Field. One can be a Brooklyn Dodger fan eternally. The defection was the Watergate of American sports – not just a local betrayal but evidence that the entire system was incurably corrupt.”

Oy veh! Watergate as a metaphor for the greatest betrayal in history.  A bit over the top, as they say in merry old England. Watergate was a fraud all right, perpetrated against the American people who had re-elected Nixon in 49 states out of fifty. It was an artificial scandal, a trumped-up constitutional crisis, whipped up for the purpose of bringing down a strong and effective president who had the smarts not to take journalists nor politicians too seriously. He led from the front although his party was a small minority in both houses of Congress, so something had to be done.

Mind you, his people helped quite a lot in his downfall. (Speaking of frauds and traitors, what about that John Dean?) There was a half-baked break-in at the Democratic Party national headquarters, the purpose of which no one to this day has ever been able to figure out. The break-in was unsuccessful. No wiretaps were laid. No one has ever come up with a shred of evidence linking Nixon to the break-in. The charge of cover up was also a fraud. Everyone knew all there was to know about the “scandal” before there was anything to know.

Journalists like to play judge and jury, however selectively.  JFK’s closest adviser was his brother Bobby. One must assume that he appointed Bobby to run the Justice Department precisely in order to have any and all government investigations firmly in control of the White House. Nixon did have brothers, but by that time the law had been changed, although I doubt he would have appointed one of them Attorney General even had he the power. That wasn’t how he worked.

(Where, incidentally, does it say in the U.S. Constitution that a president cannot pressure a government agency, of which he is head, to curtail or not to curtail an investigation?)

Poor Richard Milhaus Nixon. He lacked charisma a-la-the Kennedys, and was born dirt poor and had done his military service during the war, and these things combined made him a hate figure to the elite inside the Beltway.
These bums were planning to impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors, which means he had harmed or betrayed the interests of the Republic. But had Nixon falsified intelligence reports? Had he gone to war on behalf of another power’s interests? Had he assassinated a political leader who was a U.S. ally, as in the case of South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem? Had he invented an attack on U.S. warships off the Gulf of Tonkin?

But let’s look at it another way. Suppose the Watergate cover-up had succeeded? How would America have been harmed? Sure, some pompous asses inside the Beltway will say that it would mean evil had triumphed. Some evil.

Almost as evil as interning 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. Almost as evil as threatening to pack the Supreme Court with rubber stamp political hacks. Probably almost as evil as squeezing Japan in order to force the Japanese to attack us. (An attack which FDR most likely knew was coming. So what’s a couple of thousand dead sailors?)

As Cheney the war hero would say, sailors and soldiers have other priorities, like getting killed. George W. Bush is a decent man who will go down in history as a hated president as well as a failed one. His neocon supporters will survive by accusing him eventually of not doing enough. As I write they are busy trying to convince him that bombing Iran will save the day as well as his reputation. The neo-cons always hated Nixon for his alleged anti-Semitism. (The operative word here is alleged. The moment Nixon did not foster Israeli interests, his name was mud. Ditto George Bush I.)

JFK was the ultimate friend of DC insiders. He supposedly ordered the assassination of Dominican president Rafael Trujillo and Congo president Patrice Lumumba. We all know what he tried to do to Castro’s beard. And about his Mafia connections.
But it’s Nixon who is the bad guy, the man whose suits did not fit and who could not play touch football and who didn’t even try to bed Marilyn Monroe.

Is Rabbi Kushner looking for a good word to evoke shame and betrayal? From now on I suggest he forget about “Watergate” and instead invoke “Wolfowitz.”


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