Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Last Lunch

The lunch President Richard Nixon ate on 8/8/1974 before going on television to announce his resignation that would be affective the next day.

The silver plater. Silverware on a finely folded napkin. Beige plate. Presidential seal. A humble scoop of bright cottage cheese on top of pineapple slices. A glass of milk. The meal of a powerful man before he meets exile.

What would it be like to strive for something for so long, achieve it, and then have it destroyed by your own doing? That is the main story of President Richard Milhous Nixon. From poor beginnings, he worked harder than most and achieved the goals he set in his sights. But power comes at a cost when you are as paranoid and insecure as he was. His covering up of the Watergate Scandal cast a shade over the outstanding work he did during his 2027 days in the White House.


"I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so. But the interest of the Nation must always come before any personal considerations."
 
Despite the calm behavior before the broadcast, doing this was eating him alive. If Nixon fought for anything, it was to win. The days leading up to his resignation were pretty hard on him, with some aides worrying he may even do harm to himself. You can read an excellent piece by Anthony Bergen about that here. (Anthony runs the outstanding blog Dead Presidents. It is a long time obsessive read of mine. Check it out!) He told his aides Alexander Haig and Ron Ziegler, “Well, I screwed it up good, real good, didn’t I?”

He was resilient and a real son of a bitch, but that was in part what made him so successful. It is hard to feel sympathy for a man who authored his own demise, but when I look at his final meal it causes a pang in my heart. Cottage cheese (sometimes with ketchup, which is disgusting) was one of his favorite meals. One can only imagine the thoughts racing through his head as he ate something as he did regularly, this was no regular day.

In his final address to the White House staff (one of my favorite speeches in all of American history, which I'll write a post on soon) he spoke of the downfalls of men: Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself." It doesn't get much more self aware.



Monday, August 22, 2016

President Nixon and Pat


Going to be doing some posts about my favorite Presidents in the weeks leading up to the election! To start we will cover the 37th President. Welcome to Nixon week!

Within the small fraternity of United States Presidents, he is high on the list of most interesting. Many things drove him to be as competitive and resilient as any politician history has ever seen. He was a brilliant man, though deeply flawed. His downfall was of his own doing. Among the many things I enjoy about President Nixon, his love for his wife Pat ranks right up there. He told her he would marry her on their first date. Despite her stating that politics "was not a life I would have chosen" she supported her husband every step of the way. Many times in the face of the hardships that came along with Nixon's political career (losing to JFK, Watergate) she could be found misty eyed but right by his side. President Nixon was considered 'unabashedly sentimental' with her. Their love was something that inspires me.



This quote from a letter he penned to her reminds me of my sweet wife:

 "Every day and every night I want to see you and be with you. Yet I have no feeling of selfish ownership or jealousy. In fact I should always want you to live just as you wanted -- because if you didn't you would change and wouldn't be you. Let's go for a long ride Sundays; let's go to the mountains weekends; let's read books in front of fires; most of all, let's really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours."