Forty years ago yesterday Richard Milhouse Nixon resigned from the presidency. The man who encouraged subordinates to firebomb the Brookings Institute, employed CIA hacks like Howard Hunt who were ordered to poison columnist Jack Anderson, and whose attorney general listened as men described plans to “deploy an array of electronic and physical surveillance, including chase planes to intercept messages from airplanes carrying prominent Democrats,” use a yacht to entice important Democrats with hookers and drugs, among other delectables (John Mitchell: the plan was “not quite what I had in mind”).
Deep into reading The Invisible Bridge, which devotes a full third to the Watergate denouement, I’ll write little else about Nixon that I haven’t already; besides, Hunter S. Thompson’s obit exists:
Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man — evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him — except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship.
…Nixon was no more a Saint than he was a Great President. He was more like Sammy Glick than Winston Churchill. He was a cheap crook and a merciless war criminal who bombed more people to death in Laos and Cambodia than the U.S. Army lost in all of World War II, and he denied it to the day of his death. When students at Kent State University, in Ohio, protested the bombing, he connived to have them attacked and slain by troops from the National Guard.