Richard Nixon, the 36th Vice President and 37th President of the United States, was born 103 years ago today on January 9th, 1913.
Nixon is an interesting case, making him one of my personal favorite Presidents. While most people tend to despise Nixon, I look at him differently, and through my research I’ve yet to find sufficient enough reasoning for him to go down in history as despicable. Most people, if you go around asking, can only say one thing about Nixon’s presidency: Watergate. I’m sorry, but if you’re only historically aware of Nixon’s position in Watergate, then you really aren’t qualified to judge a five-year political reign.
Just to get it out of the way, I don’t agree with everything Richard Nixon did in his time as President. I’m incredibly against war, and Nixon’s continuation of Vietnam (although he did in fact end it) is despicable, even more so than the over-hyped mediocre “scandal” of Watergate. His policies with Cambodia were inhumane, and his domestic hatred towards “lefties, loonies, hippies, and gays” led to obvious tension and violence in an era literally defined with movements dedicated to change. And Nixon, the era’s symbolic representation of government establishment, found himself in peculiar positions throughout his campaign.
But when it comes to Presidents, you can’t focus on the bad aspects of any Presidency. You can’t really blame Herbert Hoover, for example, for the Great Depression when he did everything he possibly could and wasn’t at fault to begin with (thank you, Roaring Twenties). You can’t really focus only on Abraham Lincoln’s lack of capability in commanding his generals when he had no experience at the beginning of the Civil War. You can’t really focus on Richard Nixon’s old-fashioned way of thinking when he literally came from a different era in American History. And, continuing on with Nixon, most people tend to forget the good he did for our country in a very significant five-year period of time.
There were two types of diplomatic skills the Nixon administration held — the cutthroat Kissinger strategies of “bomb now, question later” we saw in the later stages of Vietnam and the very powerful tongue-in-cheek relationship strategy which smoothed tensions (albeit temporarily) between America, China, and the Soviet Union.
Nixon ended America’s involvement in Vietnam in 1973, successfully ending the military draft. His visit to the People’s Republic of China in 1972 finally opened diplomatic relations between the two nations, something no other President would have done in the tense Cold War era. His Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union came the same year, creating better relations between the global superpowers of America and Russia.
His administration transferred power from Washington to the states. He imposed wage and price controls for a period of ninety days, got us off the gold standard to reduce stagflation (overall, the Nixon Shock did more good than bad for our financial situation), enforced desegregation in Southern schools despite his own personal 20th-century beliefs (of course, he was pressured), and established the Environmental Protection Agency.
Nixon was also President over the Apollo 11 moon landing, signaling the end of the moon race and playing a key milestone in the overall space race. In 1972 he was reelected by the largest landslide in United States History against George McGovern.
Leading America through the Oil Crisis, the end of Vietnam (once again, his Vietnam stance was atrocious. Had Nixon not interfered at the very beginning the war would have ended under Johnson), the end of the Moon Race, and countless other milestones in American History during his five year reign as President, he seems to get an overly hyped bad image for Watergate. Something somewhat insignificant compared to the NSA today and several other political scandals, Nixon probably got too much of a negative ending for his overall interesting, if not successful, Presidency.
I might end up doing a series of posts on Richard Nixon in the future, but this post is just a bare bones, basic version of it all.
While I don’t agree with everything Nixon did as President, I feel like he gets too much hate from people who only know about Watergate. Personally, I count Richard Nixon has the most successful Cold War President, putting him on a level even higher than Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. So, Happy Birthday to Nixon, the face of “what’s wrong” with politics in a society that’s also known for electing idiots like George W. Bush and cutthroat, Kissinger-esque warmongers like Dick Cheney over 30 years after the end of Nixon.