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Richard Milhous Nixon was born a hundred years ago, on January 9, 1913 in Yorba Linda, California. Ever since he left office in 1974, Nixon, the only native Californian ever to make it to the Oval Office, has for many Americans been a symbol of all that’s wrong with our politics: divisiveness, cynicism, and abuse of power. Despite a brief period of second looks and tributes to Nixon’s achievements as president—among them the opening to China, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the first SALT agreement—and a surprisingly sympathetic biopic by Oliver Stone, the consensus against Nixon as a human being has only hardened. But is that fair? As new findings come to light and we look beyond the caricature to the man, do we see any genuine virtues or principles? After all, before Nixon became president and a symbol of political corruption, he was vice president to Dwight Eisenhower, one of the century’s most admired military and political leaders, a man whom Nixon revered and sought to emulate. Former New Yorker editor Jeffrey Frank, author of Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage, and Tim Naftali, recent director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and the author of a forthcoming book on the Kennedy presidency, visit Zócalo to debate the core beliefs, if any, that drove the 37th president—and to explore why we cannot stop trying to decode him.
Books will be available through Skylight Books.
Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Stringer.