Robert Kaiser is another kind of veteran of the Vietnam war -- one of the reporters who lived through it. That is, he wasn't just a physical survivor of his time as a correspondent there. He also, apparently, managed to maintain his humanity in a situation where his country behaved badly -- no better than the Viet Cong.
We were enemies of the Vietnamese people but, in the process, we were no less our own worst enemies. In spite of the antiwar and peace movements in this country, the war went on. And on and on. It was a time of ignominy, particularly for Americans and politicians who supported the war and wars. Wars offered all kinds of profiteering, politically and economically.
Reading Kaiser, it occurred to me that here was the time when America -- and particularly America's political right -- were seduced by their ability to get away with forms of imperialism and capitalism that produced horrors like the Reagan administration, the deal with Iran that put that affable fool in the White House, and surrounded him with some of the most scurrilous advisors any president could have claimed.
Books have been written about the awful slaughter and vandalism in Central America that resulted from Washington's war on democracy in Guatemala and its neighbors during the Reagan era. In spite of the real horrors, Republicans discovered they could get away with treating Reagan as hero/saint. And then they found they could use bluster to outwit just about any protests from the left. The "fuck you!" attitude that began during the Reagan administration became an art form used by Newt Gingrich and colleagues, polished and displayed by the National Review, and applied nonsensically by the Supreme Court in 2000. "Fuck you" may well have played a nefarious role in the run-up to 9/11. "Fuck you" surely played a role in the Congressional Republicans' resuscitation of religion and racism as handy weapons when their politics were challenged.
It's that "fuck you" and "in your face" attitude that has alienated much of Washington from the rest of America. But it has also reached beyond our politics, permeating the media, and much of what we call "entertainment." All that got its big push from the Nixon presidency.
Robert Kaiser, in the New York Review of Books writes about recent books on Nixon with civility. "...Finding fault with Nixon still has a future," he writes. "It may never end." But then Kaiser bears down. "Thanks to his gross abuses of presidential power symbolized by the Watergate scandal and to his own decision to record the details of his presidency on tape, Nixon seems destined to remain an object of fascination, amazement, scorn, and disgust for as long as historians pay attention to the American presidency."
It may "never end" because there is a lot of documentation from and about the Nixon presidency yet to be seen.
We have learned more about the Nixon presidency than about any other, but, astoundingly, there is much more to come. Nearly 2,700 hours of Nixon tapes have been released, but 774 hours more are still being withheld for various reasons. So are hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million pages of White House documents. Some of this material is still classified; some involves personal records of the Nixon family; some is being withheld without explanation. Eventually everything will come out, assuring that Nixon will live on as the subject of new books with new revelations. None of this seems likely to be exculpatory. ...Kaiser,NYRB
The defrocking of Nixon still has a long way to go. And then there's Reagan. What will happen to the political party of those perps as the explosions eat away at Fort FuckYou? It should be interesting to watch. Will they mobilize immediately and forcefully to maintain a shred of credibility, or will they -- vague-eyed and suffering from extreme discomfort -- try to hide behind the equivalent of "My Pet Goat"?