Friday at the Nixon Library was wonderful — but that was before the President appeared on C-Span from Chicago.
Up very early, before dawn, to prepare for the trip from Beverly Hills to Yorba Linda for the Pat Nixon Centenary celebration at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace.
It was a dreary, overcast morning. My wife looked great, though, and that lifted my mood. We had our usual great driver and I slept almost the entire way. You cannot imagine how well I sleep in a moving car. It is my favorite place to sleep.
At the Library, there was a big crowd of wholesome men and women waiting for a serenade by a group of little girl singers from the Patricia Nixon Elementary School in Cerritos, which is what Mrs. Nixon’s home town, Artesia, has become. (Renamed for some reason I don’t know.) The little girls sang “My Wild Irish Rose” and sang it very well indeed.
Then another group of cute little Girl Scouts cut a ribbon and the exhibit was opened. There were many photos of Pat Ryan as a beautiful young girl, doing hard work as an X-Ray technician, a retail clerk at Bullocks-Wilshire (one of the great buildings in Los Angeles, now Southwestern Law School), driving a car. Then lots of love letters from Mr. Nixon to Pat Ryan. They were touchingly imploring and vulnerable.
He was madly in love with her. When they married, they had no wedding photographer because they were so poor.
My wife and I were startled to see that the engagement ring and wedding ring were in a little ring box from the late great Julius Garfinckel, the premier department store in the Washington, D.C. area (where I spent a lot of my youth reading books, waiting for my mother to shop). But it turned out that Mrs. Nixon had kept the rings in that box but they had been bought at Bullocks-Wilshire.
At the lunch, my wife and I mostly talked to David Eisenhower. He was full of stories about World War II. We talked especially about The World at War, which has become my obsessions. David said it was the standard in war documentaries and altered the way historians thought about war. That’s because the documentary talked so much about how the war affected civilians and how important politicians were in war decisions.
David talked about a day in early 1945 when his grandfather was extremely unhappy because American forces had been making slow progress against greatly outnumbered German forces. He was also disgusted by American desertions and self-inflicted wounds and compared them adversely with the Germans’ fanatical determination to fight. Also that day, “Ike” had signed the death warrant for Private Slovik, the only American executed for desertion in World War II (or maybe in Europe). Ike was downcast.
A British general literally grabbed Eisenhower by his lapel and said something like, “Look, General, the Germans are fighting on their home territory. The Americans are four thousand miles from home and half of them have no idea why we’re in the war at all. Considering that, they’re doing miracles.”
David said that Ike perked up and felt much better after that. Private Slovik, not so much.…
The lunch was surprisingly good. Fresh salmon. We were served by a breathtakingly beautiful young woman named Ivonna from the former Yugoslavia. Wow. She was a knockout.
But still David was a brimming pot of stories of World War II (not surprising when you think that his father fought in World War II and his grandfather was Supreme Allied Commander). The bombing of St. Lo, the desertions of Americans in Paris. I feel happy just to know someone who knows as much as David. He gets very animated when he talks about it, too.
David spoke to the luncheon very briefly. Julie spoke briefly. Then I spoke the speech that’s already been published here. Hint to whoever the GOP candidate might be: I got wild applause when I talked about people who worked for a living rather than organized their communities to get more from the taxpayers. That business about working really resonates with middle-class working people for some reason. Also, lots of applause for talking about spending billions on solar power projects that go nowhere.
Tricia Nixon was there, too, and was very cordial. For some reason, she had to go back to New York before the lunch but still she was very pleasant.
Marge Acker was there, who had worked with Rose Woods. So was Dwight Chapin, who had a limp from tripping over his dog. So was Jon Hoornstra, who helped get out the stupendous daily news summaries we all marveled at day after day back in White House days. How they did that is still a mystery. A miracle wrapped in a mystery.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?