Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thoughts on Richard Nixon

I finally got around to seeing the movie Frost/Nixon.  It is very well done; though it took me a little while to get past the background on David Frost (which turned out to be an absolutely necessary set-up for what was to come), the interview scenes between Frost and Nixon were riveting.  Frank Langella's portrayal of the President is stunning, not because he looks or sounds just like Nixon (he doesn't), but because he channels his very being so well.  You lose sight of the fact that these are not the real interviews.

We lived in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., when I was growing up.  I was in my early teens when the Watergate scandal broke, and I still vividly remember my father taking me to stand in line outside the Senate Office Building where the Watergate hearings were being held.  We eventually got to go inside for our 15-20 minute period, and I watched carefully as Senator Sam Ervin led the committee through its hearings.  I don't remember who we saw testifying, but I remember being there.  And I remember all the subsequent events very well, right up to the moment that Nixon announced he was leaving office ("Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow"):

One key moment caught me in the movie.  When Nixon is finally breaking down, admitting in his own way that he had done wrong, he says something about how bad he felt about all the young people who would be turned away from politics because of his actions.  That is me, spot-on.  I was very interested in politics - in fact, I did end up majoring in political science in college, and I worked all four summers of college on Capitol Hill (though not directly for any politicians).  After Watergate, I didn't really want to have much to do with politicians or politics.  I saw the entire business as corrupt and wanted no part of it. 

When I headed to law school, it was to California, as far from Washington and its corrupt political process as I could get.  Even today, I see politics and politicians in a bad light.  Yet only now do I realize that it is almost entirely due to Richard Nixon.  

(Side note - Nixon helped fuel this further by choosing our Governor of Maryland, Spiro Agnew, to be his Vice-President.  That didn't work out so well either.)

It is interesting, so long after the fact, to have a realization like this.  Just another example of the power that a good movie-maker has to tell a story the right way.  If you haven't seen Frost/Nixon, it's a good rental choice.

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