Richard Nixon, that name again. The reminder of him provokes a fugitive thought: how would Woodward, or for that matter Caro, compare Nixon and Johnson? Nixon labored to end the war that John Kennedy created and Lyndon Johnson bungled at massive expense in lives and treasure. Nixon was on track to save South Vietnam before he was driven from office. Nixon did save the state of Israel even as he was fighting off impeachment. He and Kissinger played the Soviet Union and China like a Stradivarius, ending the performance with China as a virtual ally. All and all, it was not a bad record.
Then there is Johnson. Among Caro's many infelicities, lazy research is not one of them. He faithfully records how President Johnson turned the purchase of a $17,500 radio station into a vast media fortune through the manipulation of such federal agencies as the FCC. By middle age, he, a lifelong government employee, was a millionaire. He stole his first election -- in high school! -- his Senate seat in 1948, and the state of Texas for his running mate in 1960. That last race was against Nixon, who would not contest the contest. Then there is his psychological makeup. He was insecure, unstable, often a wreck. As vice president, he was an emotional ruin from run-ins with the Kennedys until that sad day in Dallas, when in a car ahead of him, John Kennedy was shot.
Almost eerily within minutes of the president's death, Johnson underwent a kind of emotional epiphany, rising to his former bluff, albeit phony, self. Very rudely, within a half hour of Bob Kennedy's discovery of his brother's death, President Johnson called to conduct business. The insensitivity is shocking.
Yet ever since Nixon was driven from office, we have been led to believe Nixon was squirrely and a threat to our democratic ways, and Johnson was...well, what was Johnson? We are on the road to national bankruptcy because of his poorly funded policies today. I say, wherever he is, bring back Nixon. Nixon's the one.
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