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Whatever Happened to Nixonian Civility?

Whatever Happened to Nixonian Civility?

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Published by Jane Gilgun
President Richard Nixon wanted to get rid of his vice president, Spiro Agnew, because of Agnew’s personal attacks on others and his divisive influence on American life. This article shows that what Nixon was against is now a full part of the U.S. political scene. Nixon's concerns may have been self-serving, but at this point, any hint of civility is a reason for hope.

I never thought I’d look to Nixon for insights into contemporary affairs, but I am.
President Richard Nixon wanted to get rid of his vice president, Spiro Agnew, because of Agnew’s personal attacks on others and his divisive influence on American life. This article shows that what Nixon was against is now a full part of the U.S. political scene. Nixon's concerns may have been self-serving, but at this point, any hint of civility is a reason for hope.

I never thought I’d look to Nixon for insights into contemporary affairs, but I am.

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Published by: Jane Gilgun on Oct 17, 2010
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Whatever Happened to Nixonian Civility?

Republicans used to shun personal attacks By Jane Gilgun

Summary President Richard Nixon wanted to get rid of his vice president, Spiro Agnew, because of Agnew’s personal attacks on others and his divisiveness in American life. This article shows that what Nixon was against is now a full part of the U.S. political scene. I never thought I’d look to Nixon for insights into contemporary affairs, but I am.

About the Author Jane Gilgun writes articles, books, and children’s books on Amazon Kindle, iBooks, and scribd.com for a variety of e-readers and mobile devices.

Whatever Happened to Nixonian Civility?
Republicans used to shun personal attacks

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resident Richard Nixon wanted to get rid of his vice president. The vice president was Spiro Agnew. Nixon thought Agnew did not know enough about foreign policy, that Agnew upstaged Nixon himself, and that he threatened the re-election of Republicans because of his personal attacks on Democrats during the 1970 elections. Those were the good old days. Agnew’s strategies are now winners in 2010 elections across the United States. This is what the good old days were like. Nixon said about Agnew His style isn't the problem. It's the content of what he says. He's got to be more positive. He must avoid all personal attacks on people; he can take on Congress as a unit, not as individuals." Nixon wanted to stay out of partisan politics in the mid-term elections and concentrate on foreign policy. He had wanted Agnew to campaign in House and Senate races. During the 1970 campaigns, Agnew called for law and order, a theme that did not catch on at the time, but he continued pushing it. As a result, his impact on the polls became less and less. Nixon became concerned about Agnew’s ineffectiveness and jumped into the political battles like he was “running for sheriff,” in the words of former Attorney General John Mitchell. Agnew as Attack Dog Nixon did want Agnew to strike at the media to “soften” them up so they would accept his foreign policies, primarily in China and Vietnam. Agnew did that by calling those who criticized Nixon’s polices, "pusillanimous pussyfooters," "nattering nabobs of negativism," “hysterical hypochondriacs of history,” and "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals." White House speechwriters Pat Buchanan and William Safire thought of these phrases. Agnew became a joke in the national press. Buchanan is an enormously influential political commentator today. When Agnew described Nixon’s diplomatic efforts with China as “Ping Pong Diplomacy,” that appears to have been the end. Nixon said Agnew was "a bull in the . . . diplomatic China shop." Nixon said to an advisor It is beyond my understanding. Twice Agnew has proposed that he go to China! Now he tells the world it's a bad idea for me to go! What am I going to do about him? Nixon thought he might get rid of Agnew by appointing Agnew head of the Bicentennial Committee, but Agnew refused the post, saying that in that job everyone would have an opinion,

and he would have to disappoint too many people. Agnew wanted to succeed Nixon as president. He said, "A potential presidential candidate doesn't want to make any enemies." Nixon commented to an advisor about Agnew’s inconsistency. He said, "Consistency? He's all over the place. He's not really a conservative, you know." Nixon Wanted to Form a New Party Nixon wanted another vice president because he believed Agnew as not “broad-gauged enough.” He wanted Governor John Connally of Texas, a Democrat, as his running mate because he thought a combination of Nixon and Connally could unite conservatives within the Democratic and Republican parties and start a new party. Connally did not want the job and Agnew stayed on the ticket. Had Connally said yes, Connally would have become president when Nixon resigned during his second term because of impending criminal charges. Gerald Ford, whom Nixon appointed after Agnew resigned, gave Nixon a presidential pardon. Nixon a Uniter, Not a Divider Nixon’s words are ironic in today’s political world, where personal attacks appear to be a requirement to win public office in the federal legislature, where divisiveness pays, where many voters don’t care about inconsistency or don’t notice it, and where voters appear unconcerned about the consequences of electing people who engage in personal attacks and who want to dismantle government programs that even Nixon supported. I never thought I’d look to Nixon for insights into contemporary affairs, but I am. What Happened to Agnew? Nixon got his wish. He got rid of Agnew who resigned when he was charged and convicted of accepting bribes during his term as governor of Maryland and while vice president. Before his resignation, Nixon asked the House Majority leader to impeach him, thinking that the House would never convict him. House leaders, however, believed that impeachment is a timeconsuming, destructive, and ineffective tool and feared that an impeachment of Agnew could lead to the weakening of Nixon’s presidency. Agnew was later sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars for other instances of bribery and lost those cases. He worked as an international trade executive until his sudden death of acute onset leukemia in 1986 at age 77. Oh, for the good old days when influential Republicans wanted to stop personal attacks and sought a united party.

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