Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday Question for Conservatives

Here's one I've never asked: what do you think of Richard Nixon? As I read it, the party line on Nixon has been all over the place since 1974: sometimes he's an almost pure victim of the liberal establishment who didn't do anything that LBJ, JFK, and FDR had done and will attack any conservative regardless of what he does, while sometimes he's a straight-up liberal either on foreign policy (most often during the Ford, Carter, and Reagan years) or domestic (most common now). I've heard other things, too...what do you think of Nixon?


  1. This always seemed like the definitive account to me:

  2. Even some on the left have lauded Nixon's progressivism on domestic issues. (Some MA Democrats tried to do the same for Coolidge... it never caught on.)

    I see Nixon as a leader who used dirty and divisive politics to benefit himself and enhance government power at every opportunity.

  3. I see him as by far the worst Republican President since Harding, arguably even worse than Harding. I say this as someone who cast his first vote for Nixon over McGovern as a 21 year old in 1972. He is unique among Republican Presidents since Theodore Roosevelt in having no interest at all in limited government. His worst domestic policy initiative was the imposition of wage and price controls in 1971, which struck at the heart of the free market economy. He also is responsible for starting affirmative action with his Philadelphia Plan for construction industry employment. He never attempted to repeal any major LBJ Great Society programs, or even to winnow them down by cutting their appropriations. Since Republicans controlled at least 43 Senate seats and 180 House seats during the entire 1969-1974 period, and most southern Democrats were fairly conservative during that time, the potential was there to cut funding for Great Society programs if Nixon was willing to push Congress to do so. He never criticized the 70% top tax rate that prevailed during his Presidency. I recognize that pre-Reagan the Republican Party was not as economically conservative as it is today, but both Eisenhower and Ford used their vetoes to hold down domestic federal spending in a way that Nixon did not. So, from a small government conservative perspective, Nixon was by far the worst Republican President of the last 75 years.

    1. Southern Dems weren't small government conservatives, though, and the liberal wing of the Dem party had made major inroads by Nixon's second term (in terms of controlling the party and committees). Those Southern Dems were racial conservatives, and would have gone against the expansion of federal power as it benefitted blacks (or restricted whites). But, they were generally big fans of things like public works spending and a lot of the New Deal stuff.

  4. He was before my time but I have read a lot about him and his times.

    I have a lot of sympathy for him because the country was such a mess when he took office. People were sick of Vietnam but didn't want to admit failure in war. Post WWII prosperity was ending and would be destroyed by oil prices. I don't think any leader could have dealt with these two problems to most people's satisfaction.

    I don't approve of Watergate but don't see it as worse then prior acts like the treatment of ML King or Wilson actions in WWI. War is bad for civil liberties no matter who is President.

    I think one reason he was elected was because he always supported civil rights but showed no sympathy for black crime. Most politicians were either soft on civil rights (Thurmond, Goldwater, Wallace) or were soft on crime like John Lindsey and the Kerner commission. I think establishing affirmative action is his worst legacy.

    I wish the GOP had more of his realism in foreign policy rather neocon utopianism.

  5. IANAC, but just for the record, a historical note on the comment above "Post WWII prosperity was ending and would be destroyed by oil prices."

    My dad was a business person with excellent connections to the oil industry and the Republican Party. In 1971, well before it happened, he told me in very certain and graphic terms to expect huge increases in the price of oil.

    When it finally occurred in 1973, it did play a strong role in ending the post-World War II prosperity ... yet certainly at least some Republicans knew it was coming and did nothing to either warn or prepare the public, or to "deal with the problem" in any way (besides, no doubt, scooping up oil stocks while they were relatively cheap). No, I can't directly pin it on Nixon, yet also you can't say it was anything that tool top Republicans by surprise.

  6. Of course that should be "took top Republicans by surprise" in the last sentence.

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  8. Nixon's administration created Hispanics out of a bunch of people with no discernible connection other than having someone who spoke Spanish in their family trees. Thus Matthew Yglesias (like Elizabeth Warren) adds diversity points for the purpose of hiring, etc. Liberals think this is funny because it allows non-Hispanic whites to pay for the sins of their fathers. Collective punishment is pretty cool. Nixon: just another Progressive.

  9. What is the idiocy? From wikipedia:

    "This definition has been adopted by the Small Business Administration as well as by many federal, state, and municipal agencies for the purposes of awarding government contracts to minority owned businesses"

    "The 1970 Census was the first time that a "Hispanic" identifier was used and data collected with the question. "


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