Tuesday, August 12, 2014
The Unwarranted Rehabilitation Of Richard Nixon
All of these charts were made from information contained in a recent YouGov Poll (conducted on August 6th and 7th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of about 4 points).
Richard Nixon became the first (and only) president to resign that office on August 9, 1974 -- forty years ago last Saturday. He really had no choice. The House had already impeached him, and with the criminality that had already been exposed at that time, it was a foregone conclusion that the Senate would find him guilty of "high crimes and misdemeanors" and remove him from office. He left office in a well-deserved aura of humiliation (which considering his personality, was probably the worst punishment he could receive).
So I was a bit surprised when I saw the results of this survey. It looks like time is rehabilitating the perception of Nixon. Note in the charts above that back in 1999 about 72% of the population still thought Nixon's actions were serious enough to warrant his resignation, but by 2014 that percentage had dropped to 59%. Frankly, I don't understand that. Have too many young people just ignored this bit of history?
But it gets even worse. The chart below asked people if Nixon's actions were more serious, less serious, or about the same as the actions of many other presidents. Amazingly, only 33% of the current public says Nixon's actions were more serious than those of other presidents, while a majority of 51% said they were about the same. That's outrageous!
I have been unhappy with the actions of some other presidents, and personally think Ronald Reagan and George Bush were terrible presidents who did a lot of damage to this country (and I can understand how conservatives would be unhappy about some Democratic presidents) -- but I would never put any other president in a class with Richard Nixon. There is a huge difference between instituting bad policies (domestic, foreign, or economic) and criminal behavior.
Richard Nixon was a criminal. He ordered others to commit criminal acts (felonies), and then went to great lengths to cover those criminal acts up (which is also a felony). Bad policies may make us think less of a president, but Nixon's actions could have sent him to prison. There is no way that the actions of any other president (Republican or Democrat) were as bad as the criminal actions of Richard Nixon. His actions weren't just wrong, but brought shame to the office of the president.
Anyone who thinks the actions of Richard Nixon is no worse than the actions of other presidents is a fool, and is letting his/her politics get in the way of their good sense.