Friday, January 9, 2015

Richard Nixon: King Lear on the Helipad

"Remember, always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you. But those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself." - Richard Nixon


If ever a man — if not a politician — was in the wrong job/wrong place/wrong time, it was Richard Milhous Nixon, the 37th President of the United States.

Sweat it out baby
Today, he could be Bill-O’Reillied as a brilliant right-wing strategist, destroying reputations, dispersing dirty cash, ignoring some basic statutes of a democratically-elected government. Not to say that liberals might be a little more wholesome — but none of them would be in Nixon’s league. He was a burnished pro with dark ambition hardened by self-pity, towering intelligence strangely devoid of conscience, and a deep cynicism for the system he was elected to serve.

Nixon needed draft-dodging hippies as much as they needed him. Bereft of an enemy, both sides would lose direction and purpose.

To think  Richard Nixon was president at the time of Woodstock helps put the inevitability of his demise into an understandable perspective. He became increasingly irrelevant, an opinion strengthened by the surprise election of Jimmy Carter, a man diametrically different than his predecessor (yes, let's overlook G. Ford, a passive Nixon appointee).

Oddly, it was never clear why Nixon wanted the job, who he was striving to impress, or the validity of his vision. For the smartest guy in the room, he made some terrible errors in judgment. Some of his friends were terrifying.

His core contribution to popular culture comes to us through Greek-drama fueled fatalism. His career is a dire, cloaked warning.

King Lear on the Helipad/Heath
Nixon was born to be disgraced and ridiculed; his prodigious gifts splintered under character deficits so aggressive and persistent that any chance of redemption has been ceded to deities. How else could he have left the White House — except hunched and wounded and on the run? Fate.

Nixon had  qualities that prevented him from being a decent man. He knew that, so carefully constructed his image. At one
Nixon on the Beach
point, early on, he believed a wife and a daughter and a dog would help do the trick, but by the end he was half drunk and sick, King Lear confused on the helipad, blaming all on others. Watch his forced smile, his distracted demeanor…the restlessness of a fugitive, the cold sweat of a liar. Certainly, those he trusted betrayed him, but the co-dependence was unwholesome and deranged.

His favorite writer was Leo Tolstoy, who believed, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."

Heraclitus, a Greek who also knew something about people, believed "character is destiny."

Few fools have ever been as brilliant as Richard Nixon.