Nixon: Half Way to Mount Rushmore
His full term was amazingly successful.


Conrad Black

The latest drop from the interminably repetitive and rather innocuous Nixon Tapes has caused the customary outburst of confected indignation against Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger as anti-Semites, and, in the case of Kissinger, as effectively a self-hating Jew. This is the final spluttering of the Nixon demonology movement and its subcommittee for the smearing of Kissinger. Nearly 40 years after Watergate, it is long past time that the Nixon presidency be seen as the imaginative and generally successful administration that it was. Throughout that time, the myth has been imposed that Nixon was a deranged and morally depraved man who inexplicably outwitted the presidential screening process and was exposed only when Bob Woodward pulled back the president’s White House shower curtain and discovered a cloven foot. For good measure, the Left has gone to unheard-of lengths to debunk Kissinger, one of the country’s greatest secretaries of state.


When Richard Nixon was inaugurated in January 1969, America had 550,000 draftees at the end of the earth in an inadequately explained war; 200 to 400 body bags a week were coming back from Vietnam; there were constant anti-war and race riots; the country was in shock from the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy; the skyjackings were beginning; and there were no relations with China or the major Arab powers, nor any talks under way with the USSR to de-escalate any aspect of the Cold War.

Richard Nixon was the first president since Gen. Zachary Taylor in 1848 to be elected to office without his party being in control of either house of the Congress. Despite the fact that the Democrats had plunged the country into Vietnam without any proper authorization, mismanaged the war, and lost control of domestic opinion, they, with the eager complicity of the national media, abandoned their former leaders and became anti-war agitators, and the entire Democratic establishment except Scoop Jackson set out to inflict defeat on the U.S. while Nixon and Kissinger worked with great skill and often courage to extract America from the war while salvaging a non-Communist government in South Vietnam, in obvious conformity with the wishes of most of the people of South Vietnam.

The Democrats failed to prevent Nixon and Kissinger from negotiating out of the Democrats’ war after South Vietnam successfully repulsed the Communists on the ground on their own in April and May 1972. They did this with no American ground support, though with heavy American air support, and after Nixon and Kissinger, with surpassing diplomatic agility, had recruited China and Russia to help pressure North Vietnam into a settlement. After having thus failed to prosecute the war they started, or to force an outright surrender from the succeeding Republican administration, the Democrats and their partisans in the national media approved the administration’s Vietnam peace treaty in the Senate (which was a formality Nixon did not have to seek), in which treaty it was implicit that anticipated North Vietnamese violations would be replied to with U.S. air power as they had been in 1972.

When the North Vietnamese assault came, the Democrats prevented the Nixon and Ford administrations from providing the South Vietnamese any assistance, dooming the mission for which 57,000 Americans had died. This outright betrayal of the South Vietnamese anti-Communists, which condemned millions to gruesome fates in the Cambodian killing fields and among the Boat People on the high seas, and to the insatiable execution squads of the Viet Cong, was covered by, in Napoleon’s phrase, the “lies agreed upon” that Nixon and Kissinger had known all along that a non-Communist Vietnam had no chance of survival and had deliberately sacrificed tens of thousands of American servicemen in order to masquerade as patriots and true-grit Cold Warriors. This was not just a shameful traduction; it was an egregious act of partisan transvestism.

In his one full presidential term, in addition to extracting America undefeated from Vietnam and opening relations with China, Richard Nixon negotiated and signed the greatest arms-control agreement in the history of the world with the Soviet Union, started the peace process in the Middle East, abolished the draft that had so vexed the hordes of supposedly conscientious anti-war demonstrators, ended school segregation while avoiding the court-ordered lunacy of compulsory busing of children all around metropolitan areas in pursuit of “racial balance,” and founded the Environmental Protection Agency.