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“Our Nixon” – CNN SPECIAL

I was wrong! I was certain that this documentary was going to be more of the Nixon bashing from the media that we have been fed for 40 years.  Generations have been spoon-fed the “Nixon Monster” hype from the knees of the media elite year after year. I knew there was not going to be a fair view of Nixon from this CNN show. I was wrong. The producers created a masterpiece. Instead of using media commentators or political apparatchiks- the whole thing consisted of primary sources, not soiled by the nattering nabobs.

This show presented the good and bad. It also hit on some key points that are always ignored by the media. If this film was shown 30 years ago- the views on Nixon would be a tad bit different. Why was much of  the video used locked away for so long? Was it because it shows a more honest view of Nixon?

The first thing that stunned me was a phone call that was played. The media never plays this tape. It concerns a huge rally against the war and Nixon is clear that troops are not to be used or even considered. He says, “No! God! No!”  This is quite a contrast to Neil Young’s ominous “Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming” line from “Ohio.”  Guess which one of the two scenes I described forms opinion today?

The next thing that hit me was when Nixon announced the end of the Vietnam war. The media reaction was stunningly indifferent as they looked to “get him” on something else. Nixon promised to end the war and he did. That really made a lot of folks mad.

Some say he could have ended the war earlier. These things are not that easy.  As Nixon came into office half a million men were tied down in Mr. Johnson’s war. 1968 was the bloodiest year and the nation had been rocked by campus and street riots- race and war riots.  Nixon was the first president in over a hundred years to take office with both houses of Congress against him. The press was hostile to say the least.

Starting with the election of Nixon we saw a slow withdrawal of troops and lower casualties. By the end of Nixon’s first term all troops were headed out of Vietnam and the POWs were headed home. Nixon did what could not have been done until after all of these things were done- end the war with honor and from a position of strength.  As former Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan pointed out- all of the provincial capitals were in the hands of our allies.

How about the Pentagon Papers? The media and textbooks often portray this episode as Nixon under attack! The CNN show correctly pointed out that these “papers” showed the laundry of JFK and LBJ- not Mr. Nixon. Nixon was acting to protect the office.  Look how many in the press today love Dan Ellsberg yet demonize Edward Snowden. Wonder why?

The documentary showed the homophobic side of Nixon. Shocking to see a man of his time with that mindset? No. Nixon made a lot of mistakes like all presidents- only Nixon’s were on tape. Nixon had no knowledge of Watergate but he got bad advice (or lack of) and got too involved after. Everyone with an interest in history should read the book by Doug Caddy- lawyer for the Watergate burglars.  He tells a media ignored story that offers an excellent counterpoint to Woodward.

We have been so bombarded with the dark side of Nixon that the light is too much for many to handle. For 40 years our textbooks and media have ignored the massive shift towards peace started by Nixon. We go from saving Israel to Vietnam, China and Russia.  “Our Nixon” can help balance the record and wipe off the media dirt.

The “Our Nixon” primary source documentary is revolutionary. Many will not like it- seeing an effective, smiling, joking, popular, with-it Nixon. David Gergen called Nixon, “… the best strategist I have seen in the presidency- someone able to look 30 years into the future.”  He also noted how inner demons took over.

Gergen is correct to point out this dichotomy but it exists in many politicians. For too many years the “Age of Nixon” has been distorted.  “Our Nixon” starts us down a road that is closer to the truth and legacy of Nixon.  He really is “our” Nixon.  We are all far from perfect and struggle on different levels. Nixon is our best and worst but he is ours.

Soon after the show ended tonight, reporter Roger Simon sent out a message about Nixon being a coward for not being able to fire aides in person. I know of other presidents who acted the same way. Are they cowards too Mr. Simon?  Simon’s comments got me thinking that HE is why we need this documentary. We need balanced views not touched by the kennel-fed boilerplate that Simon and those like him have served us for years. Simon ignored the touching call between Nixon and Haldeman on the night of the firing. This documentary will not let media types get away with selective sniping.

As a teacher of history for nearly 30 years, I find this documentary sets a new standard. We now need a discussion. We need a discussion of OUR NIXON- not some madman.

I hope the folks at CNN will publish this so we can move forward.  It is now 2:10 AM. I was so moved by this documentary as a watershed event that I had to finish this paper on “Our Nixon.”

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