Richard Nixon on Government Reform
President of the U.S., 1968-1974
As a special assistant, this writer urged President Nixon to veto the bill. For presidents take an oath to defend the Constitution, and Nixon himself believed the 18-year-old vote could not be accomplished by statute. As Nixon wrote:
"As passed, the bill contained a 'rider' which I believe to be unconstitutional: a provision lowering the voting age to 18 in Federal, State and local elections. Although I strongly favor the 18-year-old vote, I believe--along with most of the Nation's leading constitutional scholars--that Congress has no power to enact it by simple stature, but rather it requires a constitutional amendment."
This hyperbolic treatment of Fox News recalls nothing so much as former president Richard Nixon's enemies list--a collection of 20 journalists and public officials the administration saw as especially biased against them. In 2009, Obama's staff said the White House would treat Fox News "the way we would treat an opponent. As they are undertaking a war against Obama and the White House, we don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations Those on Nixon's list found themselves audited by the IRS and harassed by the federal government. Some even were wiretapped by the FBI. The list included nationally syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, whose reputation for exposing corruption in both parties and at all levels of government was without parallel. It also listed Pulitzer Prize winners.
The first confrontation erupted in July 1969. Nixon's choice was a solid southern conservative: Clement Haynsworth. Several civil rights groups declared their intention to oppose him, charging that Haynsworth had contrived to undercut the mandates of Brown v. Board of Education when the law required him to expedite school desegregation. His confirmation was rejected.
The Senate's repudiation of the president's chosen candidate was a game changer. A president's nominees would no longer be rubber-stamped by a compliant Senate.
Under Warren Burger, whom Nixon named to succeed Earl Warren, the Court in some respects became more liberal than ever. It was under Burger that the court approved the use of school busing, expanded free speech well beyond Sullivan, forced Nixon himself to turn over the Watergate tapes, and even, for a time, ended all executions in the US. Roe v. Wade, the abortion rights decision that still defines judicial liberalism, passed by a 7-2 vote in 1973, with three of the four Nixon nominees in the majority.
As a congressman in 1947, I voted for the 22nd Amendment limiting Presidents to 2 terms. Pres. Eisenhower, who under no circumstances would have sought a 3rd term, thought the amendment was a mistake. Since leaving office, President Reagan, who probably could have been reelected to a 3rd term, has campaigned for its repeal. I was wrong, and they were right.
The problems facing the country at home and abroad are so great today that we cannot afford weak congressional government. We need strong Presidential leadership. Arbitrarily limiting the President's tenure, either by imposing a 6-year term or retaining the 22nd Amendment, reduces the President's power enormously.
Watergate, too, it now seems clear from reading the 1,254 pages of Nixon transcripts, was regarded by the President and his most trusted advisers as essentially a PR problem. Traumatic and troubling, yes, but basically a problem to be handled by seizing the initiative, by minimizing the public impact, by bold and vigorous counterattacks. The Nixon men had a phrase for it: getting out in front. If successful, they would put the President "on top" and out of reach.
As the drama slowly unfolds inside the White House, the Nixon men continually debate their PR and political strategies. They weigh the consequences of each possible move, rehearse their public statements, and constantly changing "scenarios," draft imaginary news accounts to determine the public reaction, check and counter-check.
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George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Past Vice Presidents:
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