With Stalinist zeal, the latter-day American Right, elevating wage and price controls and Watergate above all else, has airbrushed Richard Nixon from postwar history. And yet, as today’s GOP wonders how to adapt to changed demographic realities and appeal to new voters, its leaders could do worse than to regain their vision of Nixon and his crucial role in the rise of the Right. His capture, in 1960, of 32 percent of the black vote stands as the modern record for a Republican presidential nominee. And the ’72 landslide was accomplished before the advent of the religious Right or the conservative commentariat. Nixon hadn’t been president 60 days when he began hounding Haldeman to get busy on building a national conservative infrastructure.
Wants list re: building new establishment [March 19, 1969]
Need to build a new estab.
build our kind of people — intellectuals
do this all thru [society] –
i.e. business community etc. [May 1, 1969]
Try to mobilize 8 like [Ross] Perot –
to buy [a TV] network [August 5, 1969]
develop a money group for the future
expand our lists –
don’t just keep asking the same people
develop our own establishment
across the country [February 4, 1970]
build our establishment –
press, acad, business, labor [Aug- ust 8, 1970]
have to build our own estab.
we’re in a deadly battle w/ estab. on many fronts
press, civil rights, education, political . . .
E[hrlichman] shld shape policies . . .
to move our way [August 9, 1970]
Nixon, in short, saw the future, the need for a kind of counterculture to the counterculture, and he did much to create it.
Yes, besides declaring himself a Keynesian, Nixon joined the Watergate cover-up. But it should be noted that Nixon’s involvement in Watergate commenced much later than is commonly recounted; that his actions were predicated on false information fed to him by John Dean, his deeply complicit and inherently untrustworthy counsel; and that the conspiracy was one whose origins Nixon never fully grasped and whose byzantine layers and players he never mastered.
Indeed, Nixon’s ineptitude in Watergate spoke to his inexperience in such grimy precincts. “Maybe,” he shrugged, during a typically desultory discussion of money laundering, “it takes a gang to do that.” Paradoxically, this justified his removal from power: Any chief executive who cannot accomplish the necessary rounding up of a relatively trivial sum of cash, for the benefit of former and current CIA men whose silence would greatly benefit the national security, is simply not up to the job. One imagines Bill Clinton dispensing with the task in minutes, pausing only to inquire as to the desired denominations.
Even Dean, the president’s chief accuser, ventured during his often dishonest testimony before the Senate Watergate committee that the American people would eventually take a “balanced” view of Nixon’s legacy.
Now more than ever! And the means are freshly at hand: Easton Press has teamed with the Nixon Foundation in Yorba Linda, Calif., to reissue all ten of RN’s books — from Six Crises (1962) through Beyond Peace (1994) — in handsome leather-bound editions. They make a fine addition to any library, but those who would profit most from reading them, one suspects, are Nixon’s successors at the helm of the Republican party.
— Mr. Rosen is the chief Washington correspondent of Fox News and the author of The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate.