Put this up on Facebook earlier...
I am reading a book called Nixonland. It is giving me the most thorough education I have received to date on the political landscape of the 1960s in the U.S. Thanks to this book, I can trace the thread of our current affairs back to that era—indeed, back to our origins as a country—with greater clarity.
In Nixonland, there is fresh evidence on every page of something I’ve long known in the abstract: National politics is the dirtiest game there is, and, accordingly, we should be deeply skeptical of anyone who seeks and holds office in our federal government. It takes a special kind of asshole to be successful in such an environment — one that requires duplicity, intellectual dishonesty, viciousness, cynicism, and a willingness to exploit and betray whomever or whatever is necessary in order to get ahead. It takes dangerous measures of single-mindedness, hubris, and grandiosity to willingly enter that fray.
In a way, it's refreshing to be reminded of the basic truths of politics — chief among them being that politics are about controlling and wielding power. In that light, it all makes sense: History has shown us over and over again that human beings tend toward corruption and degradation in the course of power’s pursuit.
In an odd way, it is also refreshing and encouraging to be reminded that the political and social strife we face today isn’t really anything new, per se. That is not to minimize the importance of current events, or of people's suffering; but it is to contextualize them — to acknowledge that all things today are inextricably connected to what went unresolved yesterday. There must be causes for the effects; things do not occur in a vacuum.
Anyway, Richard Nixon, driven forth by a wicked inferiority complex, was brilliant, pathologically dishonest, and probably one of the sharpest, most resilient political figures in the history of American politics. He was a sonofabitch, and he was a crook. The only difference I can tell between Nixon and anyone else on that type of stage, then or now, is that he took that extra step over the line and got caug