You know, when I lived in Orange County, I used to drive by the Nixon Library off the Imperial Highway all the time. It never occurred to me to actually ever stop in, although I was assured by my Republican friends that it was a very nice and fitting place for the former president.
It wasn't until this week that I read this article that I realized that such a major part of both Nixon's personal and America's history was completely elided at the one place meant to house and showcase Nixon's legacy.
Where once there was revisionist history and deserved scorn from critics, there are now renovations and the truth about Watergate. The newly opened, interactive exhibit at the Yorba Linda, Calif. library cost the taxpayer-funded National Archives $500,000 to establish. It's a small price compared to what the dirty tricks scandal cost the late President Richard Milhouse Nixon, who was forced to resign in shame on Aug. 9, 1974.
The exhibit features the lock-picking tools used by burglars who broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972. Nixon was eventually implicated in a coverup of the role his closest advisers and other Republican party members played in the affair.
The library had been founded in 1990 as a private venture by friends of the 37th U.S. president, who died in 1994. Its previous Watergate exhibit offered only a Nixon-approved perspective on the scandal, which had been embarrassing and divisive for a country already embroiled in the costly, polarizing Vietnam War. The museum prolonged that humiliation.
Determined to right that wrong, the National Archives took over in 2007, and succeeds with its analysis of the so-called "smoking gun" tape, its 18½ minute gap in conversation explained away by Nixon sympathizers as a mechanical failure of the covert recording system he installed in the Oval Office.
Given that there seems to be a willful ignorance on the part of some politicians not to remember, much less learn, the lessons of history, I'm all for bringing out the truth and reminding Americans of the dangers and consequences of taking executive power too far.