"The sound alone was worth the $24 billion!"
So said fellow Nixon speechwriter Ray Price as the mighty Saturn V rocket lifted Apollo 11 and Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins off the launch pad, three miles away, on the start of their voyage to the moon.
It was a splendid moment in that first year of the Nixon presidency, a year that had gone remarkably well for a minority president who had come to office with both houses held by the opposition.
Within weeks of taking office, Nixon had taken a grand tour of the European capitals. He had proposed a Family Assistance Plan, cooked up in Pat Moynihan's shop, to wide applause. He had announced a withdrawal of 100,000 troops from Vietnam.
He would greet the astronauts on the aircraft carrier in the Pacific on their return, travel to Guam to announce the Nixon Doctrine, journey on to Vietnam and visit the troops, thence to Romania -- the first U.S. president to travel behind the Iron Curtain.
Returning in triumph, Nixon departed for his August vacation.
When he returned to D.C., the storm clouds had gathered.
In mid-October, hundreds of thousands of protesters surrounded the White House demanding an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, egged on by a media establishment that had cheered JFK and LBJ all the way into liberalism's war.
With David Broder writing of the "breaking of the president," Nixon went on national television to implore the "great silent majority" to stand with him for peace with honor in Vietnam.
The networks trashed the speech. But Vice President Spiro Agnew launched a counter-attack on media power and prejudice. By December, after another 500,000 had marched on Washington, Nixon was at 68 percent approval and Agnew, after Nixon and Billy Graham, was the third most admired man in America.
Though elected in November 1968, it was November 1969 that made the Nixon presidency and produced the New Majority Republicans would rely on for decades. Obama is approaching such a moment of truth.
The universal health insurance plans being advanced all appear too complex, costly, and non-credible to pass both houses. The cap-and-trade carbon emissions bill, with its huge costs to be passed on to U.S. producers and consumers, as China opts out, seems an act of national masochism.
The $787 billion stimulus bill has done zip to stimulate the economy. Less than 10 percent of the money has gone out the door, which makes one wonder why it was called a stimulus package. Unemployment is at 9.5 percent, well above what the Obamaites predicted, and rising.