Paul Greenberg

"I want everyone to like me
That's one thing I know for sure
I want everyone to like me
Cause I'm a little insecure."

- Randy Newman

  "Tell him the truth, Loretta, they find out anyway."
Cosmo Castorini's advice to his daughter in the final scene of the movie, "Moonstruck"

Americans of a certain age will remember the procession of New Nixons that once marked American politics. Richard Nixon, it turns out, was the original Comeback Kid. He was about to be dropped as the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 1952 because of an overrated and now forgotten scandal (the Nixon Fund) but just about forced Ike to keep him on the ticket by delivering a televised appeal that shamelessly exploited every red-blooded American's love for man's best friend (the Checkers Speech).

Anybody who could outmaneuver Dwight Eisenhower - a savvy general staff officer who as Allied commander in Europe had managed the likes of Patton, Montgomery and De Gaulle in his time, and who as a politician had mastered the art of only looking simple - surely deserved the sobriquet Tricky Dick.

Having lost a razor-close election for president in 1960 to John F. Kennedy, Nixon was then decisively defeated when he ran for governor of California two years later. What a comedown. After that, even Richard Nixon must have thought Richard Nixon's political career was over. ("You won't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.")

But by 1968, Nixon had become the Comeback Middle-Aged Man. He would be elected president that year over Hubert Humphrey by a hair.

Then came the whole agglomeration of White House follies, scandals and crimes collectively known as Watergate, and in 1974 Richard Milhous Nixon would became the only president of the United States ever forced to resign that high office in utter and deserved disgrace.

At the time surely no one could have envisioned Richard Nixon's making still another comeback - except Richard Nixon, who by dint of sheer persistence proceeded to transform himself yet again, this time into a respected foreign-policy guru. Call him the Comeback Geezer.

When he died in 1994, Richard Nixon would be given a state funeral attended by five presidents and their first ladies. In his funeral oration, the wry,quirky but insightful Bob Dole would declare: "I believe the second half of the 20th century will be known as the Age of Nixon." His words now begin to sound prophetic. Maybe because every time Richard Nixon looked finished, he was just starting all over again.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.