Sunday, August 10, 2014

Downfall II: Oval Delirium

Watched NIXON BY NIXON: IN HIS OWN WORDS on HBO. If you need a reminder of what criminals presidents are, check it out.

I remember Nixon in real time. He resigned when I was 14, my liberal stepmother choking up and feeling sorry for him as he quit in self-pity.

Fuck him, I thought. I knew little about politics then, but I recognized nastiness when I saw it. (Plus, my mother and stepfather were big fans, as were their friends, so that added to the indictment.)

As American politics verged to the right, with Clinton and Obama appropriating and implementing reactionary policies, Nixon seemed in retrospect almost benign. But his taped conversations reveal him for the venal piece of shit he was.

Anti-Semitism. Misogyny. Racism. Queer bashing. A complete disregard of and active hostility to political pluralism. And perhaps most distasteful of all, bloodlust for the Vietnamese.

The blood on Nixon's hands hardened into crust. Kissinger's too; listening to his banal endorsement of carpet bombing is particularly sickening. But it was Nixon who set the bar.

He berates his generals for not being savage enough. He openly wishes he could wipe out Vietnam altogether -- "level it," as he repeatedly says. None of his aides dissent. All go along with the slaughter.

None of this brought down Nixon. However weary the country was with Vietnam, it was regarded as standard, if misguided, policy. Only when Nixon attacked a powerful target did his political career collapse.

Unlike antiwar dissidents, the Democratic Party had serious mainstream pull. It was one thing to spy on the Black Panthers and the Yippies; it was quite another to wiretap people connected to corporate and private wealth.

Early on, Nixon brushes off Watergate. At best it'll be a footnote. But after his re-election, more and more emerges about the operation. Nixon can't believe it. He rails like a madman in his bunker, seeing enemies everywhere.

They did exist. Nixon had baited powerful people for too long, and this was their revenge.

Of course, Nixon was never punished for his crimes. US presidents never are. He was allowed to retire and write books about grand strategies. His apologists appeared throughout the media, scolding us for destroying a great man.

Nixon destroyed himself. He became a cautionary tale for future presidents. (Iran/contra was much worse than Watergate, yet Reagan survived untouched. Appropriately enough, they named an airport after him.) Still, imagine how Nixon would enjoy Obama's NSA and drone wars.

He'd be right at home, along with the rest of us.