Requiem for a Fallen President

It is somewhat surreal to have your legs wrapped in Saran wrap as a means of treatment for what was a severe allergic reaction that sprung up seemingly out of nowhere last week.  My daughter had a friend for a sleepover and when they saw the clinging plastic they both giggled as girls do and said that I looked like a big sandwich.  I never actually got around to asking what type of sandwich but I suppose that is largely irrelevant.

Confined mostly to bed and a regimen of six prescriptions you soon discover that when you get off of the ride that is sometimes life, the world continues to move forward while you end up in a state of suspended animation . . . or perhaps suspended schedule would be a more appropriate reference.

All this being said, I found myself awakened by the crumpling of cellophane shortly after the midnight hour, and in just enough time to catch the beginning of the movie Frost/Nixon.  For those who are of the younger set, this title is unlikely to stir anything but second (perhaps make that third) hand overheard memories of a possible conversation between your grandparents.

For certain, many have heard of the Watergate scandal and how disgraced President Richard Nixon, who being implicated in a cover up was forced to resign the Presidency of the United States as a means of avoiding almost certain impeachment and possible criminal charges.  He was of course ultimately pardoned by his replacement Gerald Ford, who assumed the country’s highest office as a forever fearless Nixon waved goodbye to the world and the political life that was both his lifeblood and in the end, his undoing.

Flash forward to 1977, which is where the events upon which the Frost/Nixon movie is based come into play.

The actual Frost/Nixon Interview 1977

What was most powerful to me was not the fact that from an interviewers standpoint this was David Frost’s finest hour, there is no doubt that it was and as far as many are concerned today, a feat that has never been eclipsed by the British-born journalist, but that it was a personal crossroads of redemption for Nixon.

When Nixon stated unequivocally that ” I brought myself down,” this was a stunning moment of his taking ownership for his actions . . . a moment not unlike the one to which he referred during the segment of the interview in which he spoke from his heart and not his head in terms of how he had let the American people down.

“I brought myself down” Nixon 1977

Without question his actions forever tarnished his reputation as well as prematurely ended a political career whose legacy he aspired to be so much more than that associated with the notoriety of dirty tricks, and a betrayal of public trust.  The irony of course, is that in hindsight the irresistible compulsions that drove his actions in the Watergate scandal were likely unnecessary as his reelection was never in any real sense at risk.

Like Martha Stewart, who crossed the line and went to prison, the Nixon trigger was by and large inconsequential when compared to what was gambled and in Nixon’s case irretrievably lost.  In short, the ends did not justify the means nor, did the stakes justify the risks.

All this being said it is the humanness of vulnerability and fallibility demonstrated by a man who by his own admission was not a people person, but instead an intellectual whose best arena in which to do battle would have been the backroom debates that shape and cultivate the foundations of leadership.

And it is this vulnerability of taking ownership for one’s actions that despite representing one of the most memorable if not lowest points in American history, should serve as a beacon of what makes us human and ultimately what enables us to individually and collectively overcome tribulations, including those of our own making.

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