In my great unfinished novel, one of the main characters is the psychologically flawed Nixon McCarthy; there are so many things he simply can't do without a knife in his hand...
Richard Milhaus Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, and the only one to ever resign from office. It probably wouldn't happen now. It seems to me that subsequent Presidents have behaved equally as shamelessly as Nixon, maybe more so, often to be so cynical as to campaign on their miscreant behavior like it was a good idea. Had Nixon been booted for secretly bombing hundreds of thousands of peasants that might have been one thing, or perhaps his lapse in judgment in appointing Elvis as an honorary DEA agent. But for loyalty to his staff members? Even if they were thieves? That's a trifle isn't it, these days.
Obviously we're not taking on the Nixon career and legacy here. As ever we'd recommend wikipedia for a Nixon overview and the Stephen Ambrose triography for excruciating and critically acclaimed detail. Our concern here is a day out at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace (now incorporating an East Room replica) and how that can be fun for the whole family. We recommend 'Nixon in China' the opera for easy listening in the car on the way over.
The Nixon Library has a lot to compete with for your entertainment dollar in Southern California. 15 minutes from Disneyland, 20 minutes from Knott's Berry Farm and further north of course, is the Reagan Library, which itself will be pretty amazing once Air force One is installed on a hill side overlooking the freeway. Wow!
So, how do they do it? How the hell do they get anyone to go over to the library and birthplace of a shamed dead President? Actually, it's quite a fun place. Far more fun than say Disney's California Adventureland. Look at what you get. Polished brass, everywhere. You get the great Hall of Bronze dead "Did they make a difference?" world leaders - selected by Nixon himself, ten life-sized bronzes of the likes of Khrushchev and Zhou Enlai. Your get the Berlin Wall Freedom Presentation with an enormous chunk of the wall itself, provided to the library by Carl (Carl's Jr) Karcher. The you get to wander around, through the hall of peace, (Nixon ended the Vietnam war), Area 37 - Nixon put Neil Armstrong on the moon in '69; You get the road to the Presidency, which includes his 1960 road from the Presidency defeat by JFK.
Did you know, Nixon coincidentally was in Dallas (at the Coke plant) when Kennedy was assassinated?
My favorite is the interactive display where you can actually ask Nixon a questions about his policies, say perhaps his normalizing of relations with China or establishing the Environmental Protection Agency or the SALT Anti-Ballistic Missile treaties or kicking off the Space Shuttle program.
The library is jam packed with some of the most epoch making history of America's 20th century. And then there's the gift shop. Damn, that place probably pays the entire rent on the Elvis meets Nixon paraphernalia. And for the younger generations Nixon meets Arnie key rings. You can have a little piece of the Nixon legacy for your own home.
Hero or villain. The Nixon Library is big enough to let you draw your own conclusion. It remains an incredible life and an incredible Presidency. Just one week of his Presidency in July 1969 was summed up in his own words like this... "This is the greatest week in the history of the world since the Creation, because as a result of what happened in this week, the world is bigger, infinitely."
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