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Recalling Dad’s take on impeachment: ‘It is not festive’

After Nixon resigned to avoid imminent impeachment, I thought Dad would leap from his lounge chair, shout a stream of “I told you so’s” at the TV then take his wife to dinner to celebrate. But he didn’t.

President Richard Nixon
Over the spring and summer of 1974, evidence implicating President Richard Nixon in the Watergate cover-up began to mount.
Courtesy of The Nixon Library and Museum

Charles M. Blow’s commentary in the New York Times (“It Has Begun”) regarding the impeachment inquiry of the U.S. president had me thinking back to this:

My dad detested liars. He’d give people a pass for some other bad behaviors — “Ok,” he’d say. “Even smart people can do dumb things.” But liars? No way.

Like the time a girl invited me to her school’s big dance, and I stood her up, because I wimped out when I learned some boys on their football team got wind that I’d be there and had planned to do stuff to me. After the girl’s irate mother called him, I told a desperate and transparent lie about what happened. I got my comeuppance, just short of corporal punishment but an agonizingly long lecture starting with “You’re lying” and ending with, “You lied.” That was followed by the added humiliation of him driving me to the girl’s house and waiting in the driveway while I apologized.

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To him, a lying son was just slightly worse than the guy who cheated on his taxes or wife, doctored his final golf score and a lying politician.

Enter Richard Nixon.

Richard Schwartz
Richard Schwartz
Dad disliked Nixon for a lot of things. But mostly he saw him as JFK’s Lex Luther, Iago, Goldfinger and Professor Moriarty rolled up into one nasty, formidable foe. JFK, in Dad’s mind, was the only human being, alive and gone, who did no wrong – ever.

All through the summer of the televised Watergate hearings Dad sat transfixed two feet from the TV. When Mom set up his TV tray and brought his breakfasts, lunches and dinners, he’d tell her as events unfolded, “Sylvia, he’s lying. You’ll see.” More concerned about his blood pressure than politics, she’d say, “I’m sure you’re right. Now take your pill. And eat.”

And then came the smoking gun.

Shortly thereafter, when Nixon resigned his presidency to avoid imminent impeachment, I thought Dad would leap from his lounge chair, shout a stream of “I told you so’s” at the TV then take his wife to dinner to celebrate.

But he didn’t.

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I thought about that while reading Blow’s thoughts about the events unfolding now. Particularly this:

“It is not a thing to be celebrated. It is a thing to be soberly considered. It is a sign that the character and behavior of the target — in this case the president — is being searched for deficiency … and the American electorate has been betrayed.

“This is a funeral; it is not festive.”

Dick Schwartz of Minneapolis is a retired teacher.

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