The Breakfast Table

Exhuming Nixon; Reviving Dole

Safire’s ongoing exhumation of Nixon’s legacy has always been a source of wonder. No one has ever questioned Nixon’s intelligence or much of his policy instinct, with the notable exception of that quasi-socialist period where he trumped for wage and price controls (let’s see Safire exhume that). It was Safire, I believe, whom we can blame for the promiscuous use of “-gate” to brand every ethical quagmire from Korea- on to Travel-, a kind of hidden-hand campaign to devalue Water-. But, you’re right, this particular bit of mush-mouthed hackery is particularly odd: God knows people aren’t hankering for a return to Clinton’s Policy Guy persona circa 1991-94. It was as pose-y as his bitten lip (Clinton’s, that is, not Juanita Broaddrick’s), a way to signify with maximum tedium that you were a policy-crunching New Democrat and not one of those Cro-Magnons still spewing past-due-date dogma circa 1975. I believe we still value actions more than words, and that Safire does as well, though Clinton, in doing only a handful of actual tangible things over his six years, seems to have achieved better results than he would have had he actually articulated and followed through on an intellectual/philosophical vision.

A final thought: I keep thinking that given Clinton’s priapism there’s something terribly, heavens-tremblingly wrong and yet metaphorically apt about Bob Dole’s fake public-service ads (actually a shill for Viagra) on behalf of something called erectile dysfunction. Mim, could you ask your doctor about that?