December 21, 2008
How Low?

This was Hunter S. Thompson’s last dispatch from the presidential campaign of 1972. Try substituting George W. Bush for Nixon and John Kerry for McGovern. It isn’t a perfect fit, but it’s close enough for government work.

This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms about killing anybody else in he world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his imprecise talk about ‘new politics’ and ‘honesty in government,’ is really one of the few men who’ve run for President of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.

McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose, as a matter of policy and a perfect expression of everything he stands for.

Jesus! Where will it all end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?

It all ended on November 4 of 1972, when our nation of used car salesmen relected Richard Nixon in a landslide, George McGovern carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

This in spite of the fact that almost a month before election day the Washington Post had led the paper with a story that began as follows:

FBI agents have established that the Watergate bugging incident stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of President Nixon's reelection and directed by officials of the White House and the Committee for the Re-election of the President.

That’s how low you have to stoop.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at December 21, 2008 09:38 AM
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I remember that election well. My husband and I were walking to the polling place after work, and we had a screaming fight in the middle of the street when he said he was voting for Nixon.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on December 22, 2008 1:25 AM

I understand the analogy you're trying to make here, but Bush and Cheney were ten times worse than Nixon so as much as I'd like to make the analogy fit, I can't. And Nixon didn't get away with his crimes. So far Bush and Cheney have. Let's hope that will change.

Posted by: Buck on December 22, 2008 9:32 AM

Nixon did get away with his crimes. Ford pardoned him and he went on to make millions writing and lecturing.

Posted by: Nugatory on December 22, 2008 10:19 AM

Not terribly long ago, I re-read Valis by Philip K. Dick. Dick - or the books narrator - seemed to think the rise and subsequent disgrace of Nixon represented the defeat of some sort of transcendant evil. "How quaint," I thought as I read it. "How quaint. Perhaps it's just as well that he didn't live to see the Bush administration."

Nixon, bad as he was, believed that no one but he should control the machinery of government. His successors, on the other hand, believed the machinery of government should have its gears stripped and its control levers yanked out like the handbrake in a Keystone Kops car chase. That's a damn big difference.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on December 22, 2008 3:57 PM

Roddy's right.

But there's another correlation as well. The reason the Cheney set wanted to destroy the mechanisms of government is that the Nixon era showed their teeth.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on December 23, 2008 11:57 PM
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