Yesterday Ben Stein offered high praise for Pat Buchanan’s speech at the Richard M. Nixon Centenial dinner Wednesday night in Washington. The video is now up at CSPAN (or you can read the text over at The American Conservative), and it’s every bit as good as Ben said it was. For Buchanan, Nixon was hard-hitting…
By 1948, he was an American hero, so popular the Democratic Party did not field a candidate against him. In 1950, he captured a Senate seat with the largest majority in the history of California.
Yet the same people who just loved Harry Truman’s “Give ‘Em Hell” campaign of 1948 whined that Nixon played too rough.
As the presidential limousine came up Pennsylvania Avenue after the inaugural, it was showered with debris. As Shelley and I were entering the White House reviewing stand for the inaugural parade, the Secret Service asked us to step off the planks onto the muddy lawn, as the president was right behind us. As he passed by me, he looked over, and in the first words I ever heard from Richard Nixon as president of the United States, words I shall always remember, the president said,
“Buchanan, was that you throwing the eggs?”
…and a determined peacemaker:
By the end of his first term, all U.S. troops were out of Vietnam, our POWs were on the way home, every provincial capital was in Saigon’s hands. He had ended the war with honor, as he promised.
He had negotiated and signed the greatest arms limitation treaty since the Washington Naval Agreement of 1922: SALT I and the ABM Treaty.
He had ended the implacable hostility between the United States and People’s Republic of China that had endured since Mao’s Revolution and the Korean War.
In his second term, he would order the strategic airlift that saved Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Israel never had a better friend, said Golda Meir.
Moreover, he was a central (perhaps even the central) figure in post-War Republican politics:
The president’s memoirs begin, “I was born in a house my father built.” Well, the Republican Party in the last third of the 20th century was the house that Nixon built.
In domestic policy, he was the first environmental president, creating the Council on Environmental Quality and EPA.
To battle the scourge of cancer, the created the National Cancer Institute.
To close the widening chasm between the generations and professionalize our military, he ended the draft.
He made six nominations to the Supreme Court. Four made it. Not a bad average, when you consider the Senate he had to deal with.
As for our Southern strategy, when Richard Nixon first took the oath of office, 10 percent of Southern schools were desegregated. When he left, it was 70 percent.
As Bob Dole said in his eulogy at Yorba Linda, it was the Age of Nixon. While Nixon was a dominant figure on the national stage in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, his influence lived on through the 20th century and into the 21st.
Whatever your opinion of the 37th president, Buchanan’s speech is well worth reading.
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