August 7, 2014

A MAN OF THE LEFT:

Richard Nixon, Good Liberal (Albert R. Hunt, 8/07/14, Bloomberg View)

His opening to China in 1972 had been advocated by many liberals, but Democratic presidents weren't willing to take the political risk. Today, it is considered one of the great foreign policy successes of the past half century.

Nixon also presided over a policy of detente with the former Soviet Union, negotiating arms pacts and resisting the more confrontational approach of hardliners.

Vietnam is a black mark. He continued the war, started by Democrats. More than 21,000 Americans lost their lives in Vietnam in the Nixon years. The then-secret Nixon tape recordings, many of which have now been released, reveal that Nixon and Henry Kissinger, his chief foreign policy adviser, knew that the American-backed South Vietnamese government would lose the war; it did in 1975 -- less than a year after Nixon left office.

Domestically, the picture was mixed, but again there is some cheer for liberals. He created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and tapped the exceptionally able William Ruckelshaus to run it. This was one of the few large government re-organizations that really worked.

He was out front on consumer issues, although he caved to the tobacco lobby in firing Surgeon General Jesse L. Steinfeld, who died yesterday.

He proposed a national health-care plan, with federal subsidies; the late Ted Kennedy later expressed regret that he and other Democrats didn't get behind this at the time. He also proposed a negative income tax for poor people, expanded food stamps and enacted supplemental security income for those with disabilities and the elderly.

It wasn't Watergate that made him one of our worst presidents 
Posted by at August 7, 2014 2:00 PM
  
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