By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
But mostly Nixon drove around in a big black 1967 Lincoln Continental powered by a .462-cubic-centimeter, 340-horsepower V-8 engine. The $500,000 car, on display in a room making minimal reference to Nixon's domestic agenda, boasted amenities like a fold-down rear bumper for Secret Service agent ride-alongs, run-flat tires, glass that could stop a .30-caliber bullet and 2 tons of armor plating.
Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign was the culmination of his years in and out of power. Sophisticated buttons appealed to groups usually excluded from American politics: Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Poles, Cossacks, Byelorussians and "pretty girls"—there is actually a button that reads "Pretty Girls for Nixon." As for the Watergate-inspired cover-up and hush-money payments—both authorized by Nixon—the library takes pains to explain that Nixon did nothing wrong. Since the library doesn't explain why Nixon resigned after doing nothing wrong, visitors can treat the whole Watergate exhibit as a fun-filled mystery.
Other library exhibits show the toll Watergate took on the increasingly paranoid president. Somewhere between the 6-by-5-foot blowup photograph of Nixon and wife Pat making a large snowman on the White House lawn and the glass case featuring a silver Christmas card from Liberace in which a color photo of Liberace pops out of the card when it's opened, it becomes irrefutable that Nixon lost touch with reality.
But then curators go in for the kill, revealing that on Jan. 15, 1973, during the depths of the media's Watergate feeding frenzy, Nixon wrote a rambling letter to Ray Kroc, then-president of McDonald's, describing how he recently discovered the Golden Arches. Calling the restaurant "probably one of the best food buys in America!" Nixon told Kroc how the "Big Mac" was almost as good as his wife's burgers and that in the future, he would patronize a McDonald's in the Washington area.
After his exit from the White House, Nixon wrote books on foreign policy and generally wasted what time he had left on Earth by writing self-serving letters to other famous old people, like Jackie Kennedy and Helen Hayes. In 1982, Nixon hand-wrote a note to President Ronald Reagan, offering this advice: "Stay steady in the buggy." The exhibit is ambiguous as to whether Ron—or Nancy—ever took the advice, but Reagan did use the word "stay" in subsequent political campaigning, and people have since noted that the president was clearly buggy even while in the White House.
In 1994, Nixon died. He and his wife are buried outside, between the tiny house he grew up in and a Pepsi machine situated near the library's reflecting pool.