08 August 2008

Nixon's resignation

It was thirty-four years ago today that Richard Milhous Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, spoke to the nation and explained that he was resigning that office effective noon the following day.

It is sometimes said, vacuously, that there are no second acts in American lives. That is nonsense. The example of Richard Nixon shows that American lives can and do have a multiplicity of acts. Ineed, the "first act" might well be said to have been over by 1962, when he lost his campaign to become Governor of California and angrily told the press that it wouldn't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more.

But of course he couldn't stay out of the limelight, and made a comeback within a party that was shellshocked by finding itself on the losing side of a landslide just two years after that outburst. Nixon became President -- a heck of a second Act.

The Watergate scandal, the Judiciary Committee vote, the decision by a Supreme Court largely consisting of his own appointees yet unanimous against him -- all these facts brought down the curtain on that second act.

Yet there was a third. Nixon returned to public life, and was playing the traditional elder statesman by 1981, when he attended Anwar Sadat's funeral.

Reagan had just survived an assassination attempt when Sadat was killed. So Reagan understandably didn't go on that trip himself. He sent all the living ex-Presidents inhis stead.

Nixon was very much in the public eye, usually in terms he was able to structure himself, from that time until his death in 1994.

Lesson: only death determines when there will be no additional "acts" in an American life.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.