Today, 99 years ago, Richard Nixon was born in California, and went on to become the most complex, most controversial, most divisive President we have ever had.
There is so much that is negative about Richard Nixon, and more is coming out from the Nixon Library itself, with the Watergate exhibits, and the constant revelations from the Watergate tapes, and the research being done by scholars in political science and history, and by veteran White House journalists, including a recent book in October on his judicial appointments (Kevin J. McMahon) and a scathing attack on his ethics and policy making (Don Fulsom), due out at the end of this month.
So Nixon will never be able to rest easily in the afterlife, so to speak, but since it is his birthday, can we find anything decent to say about his time in office, in the midst of the mountain of evidence of negativism?
Richard Nixon continued to expand on the New Frontier of John F. Kennedy and the Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson, even while claiming to cut back on the economic and social programs of both Democratic Presidents. After all, he signed into law many initiatives that are now opposed by Republicans who would like nothing better than to repeal what he signed into law.
Nixon accomplished the following in domestic policy:
The Environmental Protection Agency
The Consumer Product Safety Commission
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Affirmative Action for Women and Minorities
Appointed Associate Justice Harry Blackmun
Supported the Equal Rights Amendment for Women
Initiated Wage and Price Controls in a time of inflation
He also had the following successes in foreign policy:
Negotiated Detente with the Soviet Union
Began Economic and Diplomatic Ties with China
Supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War
This list of ten accomplishments in no way makes up for the many negatives of the Nixon Presidency, and the damage he did long term to the institution itself.
This post is NOT an attempt to whitewash the Nixon record of horrible abuse of power, just a recognition that the 37th President did have a positive impact in ways worth remembering, a year before the Centennial of his birth, which will NOT be celebrated quite the same as Ronald Reagan’s centennial in 2011, or the future centennial of John F. Kennedy in 2017, or the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln in 2009!