Friday, 08 May 2009 00:00In May of 1977, just three years after Richard Nixon left the presidency in disgrace, David Frost interviewed Nixon for a TV series. Frost convinced Nixon to tape four 90-minute programs with Nixon being compensated some $600,000 plus ten percent of the profits.
Most people seeing the videos felt that the results were not totally unfavorable to former President Nixon. In spite of beads of sweat, digressions and clear agony, in the actual interview, the interview received tremendous viewer attention getting very large audience shares. But, the videos were much different than the movie. I felt the movie was not fair to Nixon.
The current very popular movie, based on the original 1977 tapings, brought me back to the days in which I actually served on Nixon’s staff. First, I served in the 1960 Presidential election, and then in 1964 and 1965 when I traveled with him all over the country. My final involvement was in the 1968 election. Watergate, in 1973, caused me to turn away from politics. I could not believe that the president had participated in the cover-up of the Watergate break in.
At the same time, I appreciated the good things accomplished by President Nixon during his five and one half years in the White House. And I wanted to lay out the major ones for you in this piece.
Probably, his most important action was to build a bridge to China. Remember, it was the height of the “Cold War.” Nixon stunned the world by going to China and holding direct talks with Chairman Mao. As a result, the Soviet Union, afraid of a China – U.S. alliance, started to talk about arms limitations with the Nixon Administration. Those talks led directly, in 1972, to the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks with the SALT I treaty a result.
Next, were the efforts taken by the Nixon Administration to wind down the Vietnam conflict. The result was the end of our involvement in the Vietnam War. Had Presidents Kennedy and Johnson listened to the policies of President Eisenhower, we could have never entered that conflict in the first place.
On the domestic side, President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency on December 7, 1970 – almost 40 years ago. That was certainly ahead of the curve. He then established the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Office of Minority Business Enterprise. Finally, he led the way in starting the Space Shuttle program.
Because of Watergate, most Americans feel today that Richard Nixon was not a popular president. Wrong. In the 1972 election, President Nixon defeated George McGovern. In that election, he received over 60 percent of the popular vote and only lost one state – Massachusetts.
Based on these facts, I have to conclude that in spite of Watergate, President Nixon left some indelible impressions on the United States. It is too bad that he did not out the people responsible for the break-in instead of participating in the cover-up.