For my entire lifetime, the figure of Richard Milhous Nixon has been an almost cartoonish Left-liberal hate object (second only to Adolf Hitler in this regard.)
Predictably, the Left hates Tricky Dick for all the wrong reasons.
Nixon’s presidency was certainly a failure (if not a disaster), but this was hardly due to the botched caper at the Watergate hotel or his fabled “enemies list” of Beltway pundits. In his five years plus in office, Nixon added whole new departments to the welfare state, ended the gold standard, and implemented forced busing and Affirmative Action in the name of racial integration. He was the last president to openly call himself a “Keynesian.” (Liberals might, indeed, want to rethink their antipathy towards Nixon, much as they have reason to embrace the social reforms of George W. Bush.)
In the foreign realm, however, Nixon’s policies were quite admirable: he eased tensions with the Soviet Union and, most brilliantly, shattered the Cold War paradigm by opening diplomatic relations with China.
With “Watergate” fading in memory, one might think that Nixon would begin to be looked back upon fondly as a hard-nosed statesman and peacemaker. Unfortunately, the 265 hours of Oval Office recordings released this week by the Nixon Library—which include the president’s disparaging comments about Blacks, Jews, and American “ethnics”—will, no doubt, cement his status as a bête noire.
For me at least, the offending remarks have raised my own estimation of the man.
Nixon believed that peoples have inherited traits. And he voiced “stereotypes” about Jews and Blacks that men around the world have held for centuries in one form or another. (Briefly, Nixon thought that Jews can be pushy and obnoxious and African-Americans are incapable of civilization, save their complete genetic absorption into the White population.1)
The tapes also reveal that Nixon, bolstered by his chief advisor Henry Kissinger, was perhaps the last president to view foriegn policy as matter of competing interests and not as a means of social work and world improvement. The most telling lines in this regard come in an exchange between Nixon and Kissinger in 1973 over regarding Jewish migration to Israel out of the Soviet Union.
Kissinger: The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.
Nixon: I know. We can’t blow up the world because of it.
Apparently, one is supposed to find these words extremely offensive. And Nixon’s unwillingness to jeopardize the lives of hundreds of millions in response to a potential “Second Holocaust” is yet more evidence of his “anti-Semitism”—or, according to Slate, “something worse than anti-Semitism.”
Putting aside the Israel issue, one might want to speculate whether Nixon’s HBD realism (so to speak) was intimately connected with his foreign-policy realism—and whether the two might reinforce one another.
In the egalitarian mind, the notion that “All Men Are Created Equal”—that any perceived difference between or within races must be the result of irrational prejudice or yet-to-be vanquished tradition—is partnered with the view that all men deserve the same egalitarian form of government. (Whether it’s called “socialism” or “democracy” is immaterial; both are imaged a bringing about equality and “true freedom.”) In this view, a nation that has deviated from the One True Political Way is not simply a rival or potential enemy but an outright foe that must be liberated and transformed … or else annihilated.2
Those of us who believe that there are profound differences between the human subspecies are usually depicted, by our liberal or egalitarian Christian opponents alike, as crazed fascist who, if given the chance, would promptly pursue genocidal policies around the globe.
In reality, our foreign-policy program is fairly laid back. (In contrast to those of the neocons and humanitarian interventionist, it’s quite pacific.)
I don’t think that, say, the Chinese or the Iraqis have the same innate expectations and predilections as Europeans; it thus doesn’t surprise me that they’d arrive at political arrangements other than Anglo-Saxon republicanism. I don’t hate them for it, nor do I want to bomb or invade them until they love America, duly elect public officials, and ensure that all women receive an undergraduate education. To the contrary, the racial and foreign-policy realist seeks to find ways to get along with other civilizations—much as Nixon did with Beijing—and not blow up the world in the name of some “humanitarian” cause.
The egalitarian creationism of David Frum, John Hagee, and Richard Holbrooke, on the one hand, and their commitment to endless wars for democracy, on the other, are not unrelated. Such a righteous cause as “equality” can justify almost any means.
- The tapes also add credence to the view that Nixon supported Affirmative Action as a cynical gambit, or as a way of securing Blacks a small slice of the diminishing economic pie, and not as a means of acheiving a "color blind" society.
- In his book Crisis and Critique, German historian and theorist Reinhart Kosseleck viewed Soviet Communism and American “democracy” as equally messiahnic and totalizing forces; the Cold War itself was in danger of reviving the all-or-nothing bloodshed of the Wars of Religion.)