In a week, we’ll mark the 40th anniversary of President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation. I remember the night like it was yesterday. My grandfather came home from work and gave me a copy of the New York Daily News with the largest headline I’ve ever seen in a mainstream newspaper — Nixon Quits. If you’d like to hear the speech again, here’s the link to the YouTube file. Then, I never dreamed I’d love so close to Nixon’s Yorba Linda home. The Nixon Library and Museum isn’t shying away from the anniversary of Orange County’s only US President. They have prepared a special exhibit featuring extensive interviews Nixon did in 1983 with a former White House aide and the library is release a collection of the interviews that specifically deal with Nixon’s final days in office. When we called the library today to ask about the anniversary, our timing couldn’t have been better. Here’s their release below: Marking 40 years since Richard Nixon’s resignation, the Richard Nixon Foundation and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum are releasing unedited June 1983 footage of the 37th President – in his own words – chronicling his final days in the White House with former White House aide Frank Gannon. The video series entitled “A President Resigns” will be published daily in real time from Tuesday, August 5, forty years to the week when President Nixon decided he would resign through Saturday, August 9, the anniversary of his departure from the White House. The general public is invited to follow the story and engage on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube using the hashtag #APresidentResigns. The in depth and inside story begins with President Nixon recalling July 23, 1974, the day he learned that three pivotal members of the House Judiciary Committee — southern democrats — were going to vote for his impeachment. “I knew that we could not survive,” Nixon says. “However, when I got back to Washington, in my usual methodical way–people think it’s methodical and I guess it is–I decided I should put down the pros and cons of what options I had.” Then came the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the President had to turn over 64 White House tape recordings sought by the Watergate Special Prosecutor. Among them was tape from June 23, 1972, the so-called “smoking gun.” Referring to the impact of that tape, Nixon said, “This was the final blow, the final nail in the coffin.” Nixon discusses telling his family of his painful decision to resign, and their strong opposition to him leaving office before his term ended. Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the Nixons’ younger daughter, frequently wrote notes to her father while in the White House. “Whatever you do, I will support. I am very proud of you,” she wrote on August 6. “Go through the fire just a little bit longer. You are strong.” “Like her mother, she was a fighter. If anything would have changed my mind, believe me, that would have done it,” Nixon says. “But it was too late.” Of his wife Pat, Nixon states she was the last to give up: “She was the last to give up on the fund thing [Senator Nixon’s fight to stay on General Eisenhower’s 1952 presidential ticket], the last to give up in 1960 [when Nixon ran against John F. Kennedy for president], and she was the last to give up this time. Very hard for her.” On the morning of his nationally televised resignation speech on August 8, Nixon met with Vice President Ford. “Jerry, this is the last time I’ll call you Jerry, Mr. President,” Nixon remembers saying. “Brought a tear or two to his eyes – I think mine, too.” On the morning of August 9, his final day in the White House, Chief-of-Staff Alexander Haig gave the President his letter of resignation to sign. That morning, Nixon said goodbye to the White House staff – giving an emotional speech on the principles that guided his own life. “[I] spoke from the heart…. told them that they must not allow what happened to me to discourage them, in effect, that we learn from our defeats, that life isn’t over because you suffer a defeat.” The videos will play continuously in the Nixon Library Theater from August 5-10 and available online at nixonfoundation.org and nixonlibrary.gov. Nixon spent years in San Clemente and then New York before dying. While I’m grateful for him work starting the EPA, opening doors to China, and his initial attempts to reform healthcare in an Obamacare-styled plan, I can’t forgive him for extending the war in Vietnam, Watergate, the political corruption of his administration and campaign team around his re-election bid, and his many attempts to thwart Congress and the Justice Department from discovering the truth. When President Ford pardoned Nixon, I can remember talk that the fix was in. Ford would become president as long as he pardoned Nixon. There’s no evidence of that and I think President Ford made the right call. But it’s clear, Nixon would not recognize today’s Republican Party anymore than Ronald Reagan would. If you haven’t been to the Nixon Library in a awhile, now’s a good time to go.
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