As many in the audience wept openly and he himself almost broke down more than once, Nixon was rambling, disjointed, tortured, awkward, maudlin—and, in his own way, powerful.
Poignantly he paid tribute to his parents; first his father, a failed lemon rancher yet still a ‘great man’ because he did his job despite many travails.
Then, he reminisced, almost breaking down, ‘My mother was a saint.’
How Nixon got through it I’ll never know. But somehow he did, at times rising to an eloquence that otherwise eluded him his entire career.
Toward the end, he spoke a line for the ages:
‘Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you dont win unless you hate them—and then you destroy yourself.’
Noble words, indeed. Yet this was the same guy, I thought at that moment, who kept an ‘enemies list’ of political opponents, railed in private against blacks and Jews, and vowed to unleash the IRS to settle scores with those he was convinced were out to destroy him.
Still, it was arguably Nixon’s most memorable moment in public life.
Outside of his foreign policy triumphs, one of our worst modern presidents.