Any visitor to the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace is likely to be wowed by the amazing tale of a poor Yorba Linda kid who rose to ultimate power, told through exhibits such as the Lincoln Sitting Room re-creation and such kid favorites as the Domestic Affairs Gallery and Air Force One playsets. There's even a Watergate Gallery that, with surprising frankness, admits the scandal was all John Dean's fault.
Still, laudable as the latter's truthfulness is, there is nary an inclusion in the Library of how a whole lot of people thought Nixon was the lamest president ever, a fact that seemed to cry out for its own gallery, say, the Lamest President Ever Rotunda, perhaps.
Now, fortunately for Nixonites, the current White House resident has made such an exhibition unnecessary. A deadly, protracted and costly war, Constitutional shenanigans and gas at $2.30 per gallon have in just three years pushed George W. Bush well past Nixon in terms of presidential lameness. The Nixon Library website (www.nixonfoundation.org) acknowledges as much in a recent link tabbed "John Dean Testifies Again: Bush Worse Than Nixon."
The link is to the left-leaning Salon online magazine and an article—headlined "Creepier Than Nixon"—that includes quotes from Dean's book, Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush.In his book, Dean calls the Bush administration "the most secretive presidency of my lifetime" and adds, "To say that the [Bush-Cheney] secret presidency is undemocratic is an understatement. I'm anything but skittish about government, but I must say this administration is truly scary and, given the times we live in, frighteningly dangerous."
Boo-yah! Who's your lame presidential daddy now?
There are other lame links. Oh, yes, there are others. In fact, even though most links on the site are to right-leaning publications, their pages offer Bush no rest. There's a National Review article that intimates Bush's lameness allowed former national security adviser Richard Clarke to outmaneuver him and blame Bush for the Sept. 11 attacks. And there's a 2003 Pat Buchanan piece, "Bush Virtually Unbeatable," that fawningly suggests Bush's re-election was all but assured. But that thesis now seems to taunt Bush: given the raging patriotism of 2003, only an idiot could blow the 2004 election. In saying Bush was assured electoral victory "absent celestial intervention," Buchanan is basically telling us that God Himself has deemed Bush to be far more lame than Nixon.
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That Bush is taking the heat off Nixon, lameness-wise, is no doubt welcomed by those who feel personally invested in the former president who died 10 years ago. But it is also vindication for Nixon Republicans who believe the GOP has strayed from its moderate center to a neo-conservative right that identifies with Ronald Reagan. Though the Library site seems to acknowledge Democrats' hostility toward Nixon as simply the rough-and-tumble sport of politics, it seems clearly more hurt by Republicans who either ignore Nixon or run from his legacy at top speed.
The Library published a piece not long ago decrying that the Republican National Convention, while rife with Reagan iconography and verbiage, did everything it could to disappear Nixon. The Library didn't see the slight in terms of Watergate, but as a slap at the moderate wing of the party. Of course, in 2000, when a Library article asked the question "Who's the Nixon Republican?" in the crowded presidential candidate field, the answer was not George W. Bush but John McCain.
Of course, Bush was elected and became the lamest president ever. But he's still the best thing that ever happened to Richard Nixon.