By Robert Capehert
IF a sound defense exists, 39 years since Watergate forced President Nixon’s resignation from the presidency, it is proffered cogently by Conrad Black—one time newspaper tycoon, and author of “Nixon: A Full Life.”
Black, 68, free from a stint in prison, wrote a blistering attack in National Review Online aimed at Bob Woodward mostly, but also at Carl Bernstein, both icons of journalism—both men part of The Washington Post’s dual engine, responsible for Richard M Nixon’s political demise.
Black is the apologists’ apologist for Nixon. But capable. In a recurrence of 1968, Nixon has come back under gilded stage lights—beyond the grave, enjoying a renaissance of stately respect.
According to Black,
Nixon’s handling of Watergate was sleazy and uncharacteristically inept, but the first article was a stretch, and the second and third were an outrage. But such was the sense of presidenticidal righteousness confected by the Woodward-Bernstein revelations and their media echo chamber that Richard Nixon resigned. Thus ended an administration that must be ranked — with Lincoln’s time in office, Washington’s first term, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first and third terms — as one of the most successful presidencies in American history. Woodward, Bernstein, Bradlee, and others have jubilated about it ever since.
What of Woodward, freshly pruned from a new controversy involving the Obama White House and the sequester brouhaha?
According to Black—Woodward’s out of time, even while not yet out of breath.
Now, it is all unraveling. There were not grounds to remove Nixon from office, shabby and neurotic though the tone of the administration’s response to its enemies often was. What occurred was a tragedy that wounded the country and the presidency and facilitated the Democratic desertion of the anti-Communists of Indochina — which led to the massacres of the South Vietnamese resisters, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, and the Boat People. Woodward and Bernstein are conducting an inelegant and unpersuasive rearguard action, with an implausible claim that Nixon was guilty of “wars on the anti-war movement, the Democrats, the media, justice, and history,” and was more odious even than they had suspected 40 years ago. In fact, finally, without the veneer of sanctity in which almost two generations of aspirant investigative journalists cloaked them, Woodward and Bernstein are naked to posterity, Woodward a mendacious, journalistically incontinent hack, Bernstein a burned-out tabloid journeyman, and both silent partners even in an antique book business of questionable ethics (Glenn Horovitz Books, which gives new warmth and depth to the old warning “caveat emptor”).
Quite the refreshing invective. Let it be said, one will not see this author embracing the wisdom of the Vietnam War. It’s a tough sell, for anyone. It is true the left through the years of fog erected an immense superficiality about the war—but still, no reason sits well with me, even said admission, for the war’s occurrence.
With William F Buckley, Jr.—who knows where Beilstein is on this—I confess to thinking Vietnam was a large error. This is not outside my paleo-conservative temper, but importantly, I do not blame Nixon for the war in Indochina, which 10 years into the sump, claimed some fifty-eight thousand American lives.
Nixon handled a bad situation about as good as could be expected. Even still, the 37th President, soon to be disgraced by a “third-rate burglary” at the Watergate Hotel Complex, came out of Vietnam’s hell with foreign policy successes, still impressive years later. Black might be too impressed with Nixon—it’s a subjective call. For me, Nixon just was not Goldwater-ian enough—increasing the size and scope of government too much for my blood.
But I do think Nixon was impressive. And Conrad Black, if anyone could, makes an impressive case that Nixon’s handling of Watergate put his political life to death—not the incident itself. And, subsequently, Watergate proved an irresistible power play congressional Democrats could not resist. Riding a cavalry of horses, pitchforks held high, under moonlight, Democrat’s looked to bugger Nixon’s political life, rousting him from the Oval Office with all the charms of adultery.
As a libertarian, I would say—that’s exactly why government needs to be reigned in. It is clear, or should be, what happens in corridors of power in Washington, D.C., is often not of virtue or political principal. Some will say, tell us something we don’t know.
Oddly, as commonsensical as it sounds, the American people continue to hand off more power to an institution quite past insane.
Being drunk with power reigns in Washington, it appears, and it might be prudent if such a premise were the a priori consideration when voting for political candidates—Republican and Democrat.
Conrad Black makes an excellent case for Nixon’s restoration, fairly underway. And Nixon, however sloppy he handled Watergate’s napalming effects, should not have been impeached, and so on, says Lord Black. But what Nixon should teach the American conservative is the limitations of government—and the intoxicating aroma of power—it’s ravaging effects on the better foliage of the American nation.
Nixon was better than leftist Democrat’s have understood him. Though misguided, Nixon fought against allegiances harmful to America during his tenure. And for what it is worth, Nixon was far better than some conservative’s rate him.
Still, Richard M Nixon was not past being perfectly imperfectly, human. A lesson, sadly, all wise classical liberalism submits too.