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Aug. 9, 1974: “It’s Nixon Resignation Day! Remember when we thought nobody could ever be worse?"

… “which, my fellow Americans, is frightening””

In 1974, I had left a job in which I had seen a number of Watergate criminals enter the prison doors. The location was Allenwood Federal Prison Camp, and I had been there just 18 months as I prepared to enter the field of education — not criminology.

Most of the people in Allenwood were lower-level crooks: Magruder and Krogh, for instance. The bigger names like Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Mitchell were elsewhere.

Nevertheless, there was a feeling that justice had done its job. By August of 1974, Richard Nixon had resigned, and the country sighed in collective relief.

The scales of justice had not been tipped over in the quest to win an election.

But, as former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and current Ivy League professor Dick Polman notes, while a crooked low-life, Nixon at least did not attempt to subvert democracy in the end.


In his column on his website, Polman makes clear that the decision by Nixon almost a half-century ago showed that our system of justice worked,

On this date 47 years ago, Richard Nixon quit the presidency in disgrace and flew away. My girlfriend and I marked the happy occasion by playing hooky from work and binging carb-heavy breakfasts at our favorite diner – secure in our belief that democracy was safe forever and that no future president would ever be as evil.

Ah yes, the naivete of youth.

Say what you will about Nixon – the Watergate coverup exposed his mendacity and his obsession with enemies, both real and imagined – but at least he never plotted a coup, put his own veep in mortal danger, incited goons to lay waste to the U.S. Capitol, or behaved like a Russian mole. Indeed, when it became irrevocably clear that Nixon had stressed our institutions to the max, he agreed to go. Voluntarily! With no blather about a monarchist restoration!

Dick Polman, “It’s Nixon Resignation Day! Remember when we thought nobody could ever be worse?” Dick Polman’s National Interest, August 9, 2021

Polman now teaches journalism at the University of Pennsylvania as its “Writer in Residence,” but he believes that what happened in 2020 is much worse than Watergate ever was.

And believe me, as a person who just finished re-reading “The Final Days” by Woodward and Bernstein, that duo who helped bring down Nixon, he was very much a criminal.

New York Times August 2021 bombshell about Georgia

Flash forward to another “bombshell” about the 2020 election, a story yesterday about the U.S. Attorney in Georgia,

Byung J. Pak, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, told congressional investigators on Wednesday that his abrupt resignation in January had been prompted by Justice Department officials’ warning that President Donald J. Trump intended to fire him for refusing to say that widespread voter fraud had been found in Georgia, according to a person familiar with his testimony.

Mr. Pak, who provided more than three hours of closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, stepped down with no notice on Jan. 4, saying that he had done his best “to be thoughtful and consistent, and to provide justice for my fellow citizens in a fair, effective and efficient manner.”

While he did not discuss Mr. Trump’s role in his decision to resign at the time, he told the Senate panel that the president had been dismayed that Mr. Pak had investigated allegations of voter fraud in Fulton County, Ga., and not found evidence to support them, according to the person familiar with the statements.

Mr. Pak testified that top department officials had made clear that Mr. Trump intended to fire him over his refusal to say that the results in Georgia had been undermined by voter fraud, the person said. Resigning would pre-empt a public dismissal.

Katie Benner, “Former U.S. attorney in Atlanta says Trump wanted to fire him for not backing election fraud claims,” New York Times, August 11, 2021

Nixon did some very good things

Polman, who jumped with joy the day Nixon resigned, said that as crooked as he was, he has some redeeming qualities and did some “productive governing,” like started the Environmental Protection Agency,

it’s fair to say – dare I say it – that Nixon may not have been so bad after all. Yes, I’m grading on a curve here. And yes, perhaps I’m letting Nixon off the hook a bit too easily, mindful of what a craven character in the film Chinatown said many years ago: “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” But at least he leveraged his long public sector experience to do some productive governing, which is more than we can say about the failed casino owner.

Consider this quote: “(We need) a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe. I think that 1970 will be known as the year of the beginning, in which we really began to move on the problems of clean air.” So said Nixon when he hailed and signed the bipartisan Clean Air Act, which created the Environmental Protection Agency.

And this quote: “(With this law) the old, the unemployed, the underprivileged, and the largely forgotten people of our Nation may seek help. Perhaps it is an eviction, a marital conflict, repossession of a car, or misunderstanding over a welfare check – each problem may have a legal solution. These are small claims in the nation’s eye, but they loom large in the hearts and lives of poor Americans.” So said Nixon when he signed the law that created federal legal aid for the poor.

He successfully persuaded Congress to outlaw sex discrimination, and signed the legislation that created Title IX – the provision that bans sex discrimination in “any educational program or activity” that receives federal money.

Dick Polman, “National Interest,” August 9, 2021

Nixon lowered the voting age

In a tremendous irony, Polman explained that Nixon actually did something that could have hurt him in the polls: He allowed young people who were likely to vote against him — to vote,

Instead of supporting plots to suppress the vote, Nixon expanded the franchise by supporting the constitutional amendment that lowered the voting age to 18.

Dick Polman, National Interest, August 9, 2021

Polman’s point is well taken. As nefarious and criminal as Nixon was, he was not nearly as bad as the 45th president — who has avoided all censure and criminal charges for his behavior in trying to overthrow democracy — and an election.

Which, my fellow Americans, is frightening.

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