May 19th, 2003
For no particular reason – except that a link at linkmachinego today reminded me of it – may I direct your attention to one of the most venemous obituaries you could ever hope to read: Hunter S Thompson's obituary for Richard Milhous Nixon:
Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that "I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon."
I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, and I am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.
Nixon laughed when I told him this. "Don't worry," he said, "I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you."
It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he's gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive — and he was, all the way to the end — we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard.
I know that's quite a lengthy quote, but it's only a small part of a much longer article and it only gets better as Thompson goes on to paint a picture of a sorry interlude in American political life.
Happily, modern Britain hasn't had a Nixon. Margaret Thatcher inspires positively Nixonesque levels of loathing on the left, it's true, but no matter how much you detested her policies it's hard to argue that her premiership debased the very office of Prime Minister the way Nixon's forced resignation did the office of President of the United States.