Grandfather on Nixon

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My Grandfather (who was quite a personality), summed this up for me before he died. At one of the holiday meals he was pontificating about past presidents:

  • Carter was a great man, but an incompetent President; Nixon was a flawed man, and a great President
  • The reasons were because Carter was trustworthy and straight-forward and giving. People took advantage of him, or let him down, and all the other politicians, who were corrupt, didn't know how to deal with him. So he couldn't get what he wanted or make a difference; the system was against him.
  • Nixon was a bastard that would didn't always let principles get in his way of his agenda. However, the other politicians understood him. The foreign leaders, who were also corrupt, understood him and could deal with him: he wasn't going to get walked over, and he was going to get what he wanted. So he was far more effective President.

Of course there's more to Presidential politics than just that (it's a lot more nuanced). But I had to laugh, and there's a certain wisdom that when you're in a pit of snakes, you can't be a saint and succeed. Idealism can't get in the way of pragmatics, which is part of why I did my best to avoid being involved in politics. (I hate having to compromise my ethics).


Richard Nixon
My Grandfather once told me back in about 1979. "Richard Nixon was a bastard, but a great President. Jimmy Carter is a good man, but a lousy fucking President. Politicians are corrupt assholes, so they didn't like Nixon, but they understood and could work with him, because he was one of them. But Jimmy Carter was an honest guy, so they didn't understand him and couldn't work with him. You need a corrupt asshole to get anything done in Washington".