Russell's Blog

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Happy Birthday, USA

Posted by Russell on July 04, 2007 at 5:42 p.m.
Only one week ago, the Bald Eagle was officially taken off the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This is the first Independence Day since 1918 that the Bald Eagle, the symbol of our nation, has been considered safe from extinction. In celebration of this achievement, I would like to offer my thanks to the man who did the most to make this possible: Richard Nixon.

While its image fluttered over the California statehouse in Sacramento, the California Brown Bear was driven to extinction. The last one was shot in 1922. The UCLA Bruins are named for an extinct species. With the extinction of Ursus californicus, the flag of California has become a pathetic commentary on the mismanagement of our natural resources. With the Bald Eagle's removal from the list, America has dodged that particular humiliation.

Most people agree that Richard Nixon was, by nearly every measure, a terrible leader. In his domestic and foreign endeavors, he left a legacy of terrible failures. In foreign policy, Nixon's failures were numerous and severe :

  • He escalated the war in Vietnam by secretly (and illegally) bombing Laos and Cambodia.
  • He encouraged and aided the overthrow of Chile's government by Augusto Pinochet.
  • He gave material support to Yahya Khan, the dictator of Pakistan, during Bangladesh's war of independence, putting America in a position of complicity in genocide.
The bright spot in this record of failure was that he was able to drive a wedge between China and the Soviet Union. This was an important strategic achievement, but it came at the expense of betraying an ally, Taiwan. This did little to help the of reputation of American friendship. The Nixon Doctrine of replacing American troops in Vietnam with South Vietnamese soldiers was a military failure, but succeeded as a politically feasible way of getting out of the war.

But it isn't fair to remember Nixon simply for his failures and Pyrrhic victories. So, for today, let's remember Richard Nixon for his achievements on his watch. Among them, Nixon...

  • indexed Social Security to inflation
  • created the EPA
  • proposed, signed and enforced the Endangered Species Act
  • created the Supplemental Security Income
  • created Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • helped create hundreds of state parks
  • raised wages for federal employees
  • implemented the first affirmative action program
But the most important thing Nixon did, ultimately, was resign. He recognized that the nation was more important than his own hopes and goals for his tenure in office. He had the courage to admit that his failures had grown too numerous and too serious, and he decided that the best way to serve the nation was to offer his resignation.

For all his faults, Nixon's final act as president was to place his country before himself. He was in many respects a very poor president, but he still managed to leave behind a legacy important achievements. Every time you see a seal depicting the Bald Eagle, remember that it Richard Nixon helped save it. So, on this Forth of July, I'd like to salute Nixon's tarnished patriotism. Let his epitaph be, "In the end, he was a patriot."

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