I remember it being hot. Later, when I was in the 8th grade I performed a skit in a school talent show where I impersonated a number of celebrities, but I was known throughout Marshall Simonds Middle School for my Richard Nixon. I was good. Can still do it, arms upraised in twin peace signs, “I am not a crook!” But that was later. By the 8th grade Nixon was in exile.
But in August of 1974, in the pre air conditioned living room of my youth in Burlington, Massachusetts, my family were Republicans who had voted for the President, and I watched the unfolding Watergate drama, and the collapse of the presidency and of the man who held it with rapt attention.
Politics can eat up a person. Watch any president age over his, perhaps, hopefully soon, someday her, tenure. Barack Obama is my age, but my genteel schedule in comparison is kinder. I make payroll and I fret over it as a business owner. My employees rely on their paychecks. This is stressful to me. But can anyone truly understand the stress of the decisions of a president, regardless of party?
To watch Nixon’s farewell address from the East Room of the White House on August 9th (he announced he would resign in a televised address from the Oval Office on the evening of August 8) just before the room was transformed for the swearing in of the new president is stunning. And to watch it 40 years later is even more disturbing.
If you live every day with a person slipping into a unstable mental state I can understand it might be hard to recognize how far they have dropped over a period of time, the day to day changes being incremental. This is what it was like, increasingly toxic day after day, the noose of Watergate tightening around the political neck of the country, with all of us struggling to keep focus.
The resignation was a relief, the air rushing back, for everyone, and eventually for Nixon himself. But watching that clip, now, is alarming. Standing there, he is still the man with his hands on the nuclear codes.
Before the Civil War, Senator Charles Sumner from Massachusetts was clubbed, almost to death, on the Senate floor by a congressman from South Carolina. Yet, It is widely believed that we are in the most ineffective legislative environment in our history. I don’t disagree.
But the partisan posturing, the bickering over Tea Parties and origins of calls for impeachment and dueling fundraising appeals crowing blame on inaction are juvenile, and not a real crisis.
I have lived through and watched a constitutional crisis. A real one, where the Supreme Court of the land, unanimously, ordered the Executive Branch to obey a court order called for by the Congress of the United States, and he did so. And because he complied with that order, had to resign, because he was likely guilty of high crimes. No talk of coup or civil war.
The view, tonight, from the Blue Lab is one of celebration, not of the demise of a Republican president, but for the written words in the Constitution we hold higher.
Scott Ferson, 2014