GOP Incumbents' Senate Sweep; Walsh Out in Montana; Nixon's Parting Words

GOP Incumbents' Senate Sweep; Walsh Out in Montana; Nixon's Parting Words

By Carl M. Cannon - August 8, 2014

Good morning. It’s Friday, August 8, 2014. Forty years ago today, President Nixon spoke to the American people for -- as he noted himself -- the 37th time from the Oval Office. It was to be his last such address.

“I have never been a quitter,” he said. “To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body.”

Richard Milhous Nixon said many things in his political life that were untrue, but this wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t a quitter, and he loathed stepping down during the crucible of the Watergate scandal. But his support had eroded, as he acknowledged, and it was resignation or impeachment. Nixon chose the former.

“As president, I must put the interests of America first,” he said on August 8, 1974. “America needs a full-time president and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.”

That was true, too, and 24 hours later, Americans would have just such a chief executive, Gerald R. Ford of Michigan. Nixon would give one more speech as president, farewell remarks that are as evocative now as when they were made.

Much has been written and aired this week about those extraordinary days four decades ago, some of it by the principals in that historic drama. But I’ll make an observation of my own in a moment. First, I’d direct you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which aggregates stories and columns from across the political spectrum. I’d also point you to a complement of original material from our reporters and contributors, including the following:

* * *  

GOP Senate Incumbents Complete Primary Sweep. Lamar Alexander’s win in Tennessee yesterday wrapped up the “undefeated season” amid concerns about Tea Party challenges. Scott Conroy has the story.

Walsh Drops Out of Montana Senate Race. Caitlin Huey-Burns has the story. 

Is Washington State’s Primary a 2014 Harbinger? Sean Trende examines Tuesday’s results in light of those from past years, which often have been predictive of November’s national outcome. 

Reince Priebus Responds to ‘War on Whites’ Comment. The RNC chairman chats with Tom Bevan in this installment of “Changing Lanes.”

Immigration Paramount in Tight Arizona Governor Race. Adam O’Neal explores the contest between GOP contenders as the Aug. 26 primary approaches. 

CDC Head: Ebola Outbreak Unprecedented But Beatable. Adam has details from Tom Frieden’s testimony at a special congressional hearing about the disease Thursday afternoon.

NASA’s Impossible Space Engine. In RealClearScience, Tom Hartfield casts a skeptical eye on the space agency’s concept for an engine that produces thrust without burning fuel.

 * * * 

“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over,” Jerry Ford told his countrymen on August 9, 1974, minutes after taking the oath of office as the 38th president of the United States.

“I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers,” Ford said in a grace note at the beginning of his remarks from the East Room. “I hope that such prayers will also be the first of many.”

Two-and-a-half hours earlier in that same room, Richard M. Nixon said goodbye to an American public weary of scandal. Ostensibly, Nixon was bidding adieu to a small cadre of loyal staff members who’d stayed with him until the bitter end.

“Mistakes, yes, but for personal gain, never,” he said, speaking for his aides -- and himself.

“You did what you believed in,” he added. “Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. And I only wish that I were a wealthy man -- at the present time, I have got to find a way to pay my taxes -- and if I were, I would like to recompense you for the sacrifices that all of you have made to serve in government.”

The 37th president also had nostalgic words for his parents, calling his father “my old man” and noting sadly that no one would ever write a book about his mother, whom he called “a saint.”

Nixon spoke fondly about the White House itself, the very symbol of self-government in this world, a house with “a great heart.”

“This isn't the biggest house,” he said. “Many, and most, in even smaller countries, are much bigger. This isn't the finest house. Many in Europe, particularly, and in China, Asia, have paintings of great, great value, things that we just don't have here and, probably, will never have until we are 1,000 years old or older. But this is the best house. It is the best house, because it has something far more important than numbers of people who serve, far more important than numbers of rooms or how big it is, far more important than numbers of magnificent pieces of art.”

Nixon seemed to lose his concentration momentarily at that point in his speech. But he knew what he wanted his parting words to be. “Always give your best,” he said near the end. “Never get discouraged, never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”

The elaborate taping system that Nixon installed secretly in the White House -- and new transcripts and books about those tapes are still coming out, 40 years later -- showed that Nixon often ignored his own advice, destroying his presidency in the process.

But his admonition not to hate echoes through the decades, followed too infrequently by the practitioners of politics in this city and around the world, reminding us constantly of the steep cost exacted by the incivility and violence unleashed by hate.


Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau Chief
Twitter: @CarlCannon

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

Carl M. Cannon

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter