Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lest Nixon nostalgia overcome us...

I do think Bush & Co. are worse than the Nixon Gang. But that should mean something.
Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power
From The New York Times Book Review
But fundamentally, Dallek shows, the two were remarkably alike. Both wanted desperately to leave a deep imprint on history. Both were ruthless pragmatists who disregarded decorum, principle and sometimes the law to get what they wanted. And both were insecure loners who distrusted, deceived and abused just about everyone, including each other. For these troubled men, Dallek writes, politics offered “a form of vocational therapy” — an arena where they could exercise control and find approval.

Shared neuroses led to jealousy and hostility. Kissinger privately assailed Nixon as “that madman” and “the meatball mind.” Nixon returned the favor, demeaning Kissinger as his “Jew boy” and calling him “psychopathic.” He fretted incessantly that Kissinger was getting too much credit for the administration’s accomplishments and repeatedly considered firing him. Still, Dallek writes, their common characteristics did even more to bond the two men, who formed “one of or possibly the most significant White House collaboration in U.S. history....

Nixon and Kissinger’s cynicism and unreasonable fear of defeat interacted to produce some of the administration’s ugliest moments. Above all, the two men needlessly prolonged and expanded the Vietnam War in a disastrous attempt to stave off a Communist victory at a moment when most Americans and most of the world wanted the fighting to end. ... Their fear that a leftist government in Chile might inspire radicals throughout Latin America was, Dallek charges, “nothing more than paranoia.”

What’s more, Dallek presents a devastating account of irresponsibility and dysfunction within the White House as the Watergate scandal unfolded. Desperate to save their careers, Nixon and Kissinger schemed to manipulate foreign policy to distract attention from the deepening domestic crisis. ...

The ideas of Nixon and Kissinger, not just their characters, have languished in disrepute ever since.

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