Remembering Richard Nixon

On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned. The night before, he addressed the nation on television. I remember that time clearly. I had just concluded my clerkship with Judge Ross. The judge was a Nixon confidante. The judge shared many insights about the President. As a result, I was particularly fascinated with the developments in Washington and the enigma that was Richard M. Nixon.

Do you know the actor Harry Shearer? Well, you should. He is wonderfully talented.

For a sadly funny and poignant skit on Nixon preparing to give his nationally televised resignation speech and then giving that speech, I encourage you to watch the six-minute YouTube video that is attached. Shearer provides us a penetrating insight into a brilliant, awkward, and complex man.

After the speech is over, Shearer, as Nixon, looks at those assembled in the Oval house. He wishes them a “Merry Christmas” with all the fake of bonhomie of child used to enduring playground beatings. It is August of 1974 but the raw winds of winter are evidently on Nixon’s mind.



3 responses

  1. Judge:
    First, I have never seen this YouTube video with Harry Shearer. There is something so sad at the center of it all: a great, but tortured, man forced to humiliate himself in public by announcing the loss of the thing he had worked for his entire life. I swear that neither a Hollywood screenwriter nor ancient Greek dramatists could have thought up something like this. Second, for me the most prominent memory of this event was the day before when the president spoke to a group of assembled staffers in the White House. On that day President Nixon spoke without a script and was as credible and sincere as I ever remembered him. He invoked his mother without appearing (to me) maudlin; mentioned a bereft Theodore Roosevelt when that president, as a young man, felt his life was over after the death of his young wife in childbirth; and warned never to hate your enemy because, when you do, you lose because in the end you destroy yourself. Finally, President Nixon said words that I have never forgotten: “It isn’t until one has walked in the deepest valley that one can know what it’s like to stand at the highest mountain top.” A man capable of such wisdom, yet incapable of heeding it, was–for all of his intelligence and talent–a strangely tragic figure. That is why I never quite understood the vitriol directed at the man: he was, in the end, a figure worthy of pity rather than hatred.

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