I finished volume 2 of Richard Nixon’s memoirs. Nixon’s memoirs actually end with Nixon leaving the Presidency, even though they were written a few years after that. I wonder if that is a pattern with presidential memoirs: to cover the events in a President’s life from birth to the end of his Presidency, without talking much about what happened after the Presidency. I suppose that I could overturn my room and find the memoirs of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan just to find out, but I don’t want to do that!
I have two items for today’s post:
1. Although H.R. Haldeman (who was no longer Nixon’s aide in an official capacity) recommended that Nixon pardon those who were involved in Watergate while also granting amnesty to those who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, Nixon chose not to do so. Regarding amnesty for draft dodgers, Nixon did not explain his opposition to that in my latest reading, but I did read somewhere that he was opposed to granting them amnesty because he thought that would be a disservice to the Americans who did go to Vietnam to fight. On Nixon’s refusal to pardon those who were involved in Watergate, Nixon justifies his position by saying that he was hoping that his resignation would be healing to the country, and that pardoning those who were involved in Watergate would have the opposite effect due to its potentially controversial nature. One could argue that Nixon was saving his own skin, while leaving those who were involved in Watergate in jail to rot. But, at this point, at least, Nixon was aware that he was not home free, for he could still be prosecuted after leaving office. But Nixon said that perhaps he could get some good writing done in jail, as Lenin and Gandhi did!
2. There were a lot of tears in my latest reading. Some did not particularly care that Nixon was leaving office, but there were others who cared deeply. The Speaker of the House told Nixon that he was not happy to see him go, and Nixon reflected that the two of them actually entered the Congress in the same year, in 1947!
Nixon quotes from his farewell speech to his staff. I especially liked the part where Nixon said that he was lucky to have passed the bar, since the examiners thought that his writing was so poor! Even if that was the case, I’d say that his writing improved vastly by the time that he wrote Six Crises, for his writing is quite clear and engaging.
You can watch Nixon’s farewell speech to his staff here, and the moving dramatization of that event in Oliver Stone’s Nixon here. I remember this speech being in TV Land’s top 100 TV moments, and one lady on that said (as I remember) that this was one of the few times when Nixon opened up. It’s a good speech about Nixon’s family, about keeping up hope even when things are going badly, and about not giving in to hate. While the movie dramatization has powerful music, the real footage of the event is even better, in my opinion, on account of the tears in Nixon’s eyes as he says good-bye.
The next book that I will read and blog through will be anti-Nixon. Stay tuned!