To the editor: David Schribman’s piece about the “progressive” presidency of Richard M. Nixon rings with excitement and wonder at how the old cold warrior suddenly offered consumer initiatives, environmental programs, an overhaul of health insurance, a commitment to affirmative action and even support for the Equal Rights Amendment.
But nowhere does Schribman mention that Nixon interfered in the peace talks with North Vietnam during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency so it would appear that only he, Nixon, could end the war.
This was surely more reprehensible than anything he did during Watergate, since it prolonged the war for several more years, killing many thousands of Americans and an unknowable number of Vietnamese who didn’t have to die.
David J. Miller, San Diego
To the editor: Nixon wanted to unite the country? Please. Nixon’s strategy was always “divide and conquer,” notably turning the “silent majority” against college students who were protesting the Vietnam War on campuses all across the nation.
Nixon was lucky the voting age in 1968 was still 21, or he almost certainly wouldn’t have become president. Nixon didn’t give the order for the National Guard to fire on student protesters at Kent State University in Ohio in 1970, but he certainly helped establish the atmosphere that led to it.
Nixon was bad news long before Watergate brought him down.
David Saffan, Santa Barbara
To the editor: There was a glaring omission in Shribman’s assessment of the Nixon presidency.
It was Nixon who brought about one of if not the most pro-freedom, pro-individual rights actions in history: He ended military conscription, telling Americans implicitly that their lives belonged only to them and not the government.
Forced labor such as the draft is incompatible with a free society, and Nixon deserves credit for abolishing that infringement on individual liberty.
Mike Berliner, Los Angeles
To the editor: With all we are hearing about how Nixon’s troubles compare with the current administration’s disgraces, I have been startled by the absence of mention of Nixon’s original vice president, Spiro Agnew.
Eventually driven from office amid an investigation of suspected extortion, bribery, conspiracy and tax fraud, it was hard to imagine then a more disgusting public servant nor a more appropriate model for what should happen to so many “public servants” today.
I pulled from my bookshelf a little 1969 book of “The Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew,” and I found that what were then some of his most outrageous quotes are amazingly mild in the context of our modern politics.
Kay Virginia Webster, Agoura Hills
To the editor: Nixon was handicapped not by his lack of “facial expressions for compassion and warmth,” but by his lack of character. The man entered Congress as an opportunistic red-baiter and left a broken man who disgraced the presidency.
Give Nixon credit for the good things he did, like opening relations with China, environmental protection, workers’ safety and support for affirmative action and the Equal Rights Amendment.
But on the scales of justice and history, the good things he did are outweighed by his disrespect for the Constitution, truth and the “law and order” platform on which he rose to power.
James Hornbeck, Valley Glen