Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nixon, again

Despite his famous speech after losing one election, apparently we do have Richard Nixon to kick around some more.

Nixon, who was a brilliant politician, wouldn't settle for easily winning the presidential election against George McGovern. He had to crush him (and he did).

But those illegal campaign tactics and dirty tricks led to Watergate, and -- ultimately -- to Nixon's resignation.

Back then, I was a Watergate junkie. I read the transcripts. I read the stories and then the books by Woodward and Bernstein. I remember that Time basically defended Nixon and Newsweek basically accused him.

Some years later, I read a book called "From the President," which included many of his memos ... including cringe-inducing formal instructions to his long-suffering wife Pat.

I watched the original Frost/Nixon interviews on DVD recently. What struck me is how prepared Frost was, how ill-at-ease Nixon was (he must have really needed the money) and in some ways what a sad figure he had become. If you watch it, just focus on Nixon's eyes. He looks like a trapped animal.

During the TV interviews, he challenged, argued, speechified but in the end he admitted that he had let down the country, his family and himself.

It made startling television.

So, I'm anxious to see tonight's opening of "Frost/Nixon," the prize-winning play at TBPAC. I missed it on Broadway and deliberately skipped the movie version until after tonight.

Nixon is a tragic figure, and his story provides a cautionary tale about hubris, ego and ambition run rampant. But from those ashes, I also expect great entertainment. -- MichaelK

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