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President Nixon: Forgotten Positives

Updated on March 9, 2011

An Overshadowed Presidency

I consider Richard Nixon one of the most tragic characters in U.S. history. His perpetual paranoia and insecurities brought about the event that led to the Watergate scandal and his subsequent downfall.  

Unfortunately, the scandals and cover-ups of Watergate and the unpopularity of the Vietnam War overshadowed what was one of the greatest presidencies of the last half of the 20th century. 

Richard Nixon has become the liberal's poster boy of what is wrong with the Republican Party but the truth is, Nixon was a true progressive and initiated many liberal policies throughout his administration.

Here are some things Nixon did during his presidency that goes against the infamous persona of "Tricky Dick". 

The Environment

Nixon signed into law the Clean Air Act Extension of 1970, amending the Clean Air Act of 1963 to greater enforce environmental regulations.

Nixon then established the Environmental Protection Agency, streamlining several agencies into one, making it easier to regulate and enforce environmental laws.   

The Economy

Nixon established the "New Federalism" system, which cut the red tape by taking money and power away from the federal government and directed it straight to the states, making program funding more efficient.

Nixon increased federal funds for food aid and public assistance programs while decreasing the military budget significantly.

Nixon presented the only balanced budget between the years of 1961 and 1998.


Civil Rights

A Quaker, Nixon felt racism and segregation in the U.S. was a moral outrage. In 1971, he signed the Equal Rights Amendment desegregating public schools.

He asked the Justice Department to bring sex discrimination suits under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and ordered the Labor Department to add sex discrimination provisions to the guidelines for its Office of Federal Contract Compliance.

Foreign Affairs

Nixon opens up relations with the Soviet Union and China.

He becomes the first president to visit the People's Republic of China in February of 1972.

In May of the same year Nixon met with Brezhnev (the Soviet Union's leader) in Moscow. This meeting led to increased trade between the two countries and the signing of two nuclear arms control treaties, SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) and ABMT (Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty). These are the first nuclear arms treaties between the Cold War combatants.

Nixon Reaches Out

On May 9th 1970, during the height of the Vietnam War protests and just days after the Kent State University shootings, Nixon set out from the White House with bare-bones protection at 4:00 AM to meet personally with protesters camping at the Lincoln Memorial.

The impromptu meeting with the surprised protesters did not go well. Nixon tried debating with them about foreign policy but they obviously had him outnumbered, so Nixon tried changing the subject to sports and travel. This came off as Nixon being out of touch with the younger generation.  I believe it was an honest reaching out to the protesters. In any case, it sure took some big brass ones to do what he did.

A Troubled History

If you are aware of Nixon's past you may understand his paranoia.

He was dirt poor and was teased for it as a child. Throughout his years in politics the press was always on his back about one thing or another. One thing was the investigation of gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries. This came out during the vetting process for Eisenhower's VP spot. This led to the famous "Checkers" speech.

The press gave him hell during the presidential run against Kennedy. The press were in love with Kennedy (sound familiar today?). He blamed them for that loss in that very tight race. Then he loses his bid for governor of California. He shows his disdain for the press after that loss by saying in a press conference announcing his short retirement from politics by saying,

"I leave you gentleman now and you will write it. You will interpret it. That's your right. But as I leave you I want you to know — just think how much you're going to be missing. You won't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference and it will be one in which I have welcomed the opportunity to test wits with you."

Nixon was a tragic figure in the Shakespearean sense. His desperate and illegal actions revolving around the Watergate scandal was most likely due to his deep-rooted fear of rejection.


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      morganhillcalifornia 4 years ago

      How exactly did the US lose out big time when Nixon resigned?

      Really, "If you were to isolate the Watergate Scandal, he may be regarded as one of our best presidents." That is the only thing that Nixon did wrong???? And let's be clear, that is not just breaking into a room! You over simplify ...

      And btw, they are all idiots!!!

      Power is dangerous; and it is no longer the simplier time of old ...NO.

      We have more and more evil and more and more short sighted, mindless, gutless, greed bastards in the world than EVER!!!

      Don't give me some ridiculous remark, 'if it wasn't for Watergate'.

      We're not 9!

      And it's great that the NCAI wrote this about Nixon. He did something right and for them, but to compare him to Washington, really - who can truly say they are qualified to do that!

      It's all crap.

      I am so sick of the politics and those that raise their hand to suggest that any one single 'party' or 'representative' is looking out for the greater good. It's crap.

      The only theme that is consistent is "What have you done for me lately" and that was not written by a President or a Tribal leader ... nope, it's Janet Jackson, and ladies and gentlemen, that's what it boils down to in society today.

      And in response to "Unfortunately, the scandals and cover-ups of Watergate and the unpopularity of the Vietnam War overshadowed what was one of the greatest presidencies of the last half of the 20th century." You are among the largest group of boneheads...

      "UnPopularity of the Vietnam War" do you get paid for this?

    • profile image

      nobody 4 years ago

      sorry, it was actually Lyndon johnson

    • profile image

      nobody 4 years ago

      eovery, i think kennedy was the president before him.

    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 4 years ago

      Nixon ended the policy of forced termination of tribal status and turned over more decisions about Indian policies to the elected tribal governments, and lived up to earlier praise from Bruce Willkie, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), who said in 1970 that Nixon was "the first U.S. President since George Washington to pledge that the government will honor obligations to the Indian tribes. "

      Personally, I believe the United States lost out big time when Nixon resigned. He was a fine President.

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      joe 4 years ago


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      Andrea Day 5 years ago

      Why were there impeachments back then? Where did they go? If we still had them, with a good Senate, Obama would have double the record than all the presidents combined. No joke. I believe that Nixon should've been impeached, that was wrong and I feel sorry that happened. The good overrules the bad ONLY if you do much better good than bad.

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      funruffian 5 years ago

      It's a shame that the Liberal media had to vilify him. If you were to isolate the Watergate Scandal, he may be regarded as one of our best presidents. Compared to the creep we have in office now, Nixon seems like an angel. I've come to the conclusion that the Lame stream media is utterly unreliable in its coverage due to its obliquely slanted distortions of reality. Richard, I am sorry you were castigated so unfairly. Watergate wasn't so bad for no one was hurt. There are a few of us who will remember you in as an oracle of wisdom and strength, while others remember you in infamy.

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      Mary Alraish 5 years ago

      It is a shame that Nixon' presidency ended as it did. He also

      lost to popular opinion from uneducated voters. It is tragic

      that this system uses the same method as the sign on commerical

      trucks that read to drivers to call their number to give an opinion

      about their driving.

    • profile image

      funruffian 5 years ago

      Did you know that Nixon had an IQ of 155. He was one of our most intelligent president's next to Thomas Jefferson. He graduated second in his senior high school class and third in his graduating class at Duke University. Dick was no dummy. It's too bad that he garnered so many enemies. He had such great potential and it's a shame that the media sensationalized the Watergate scandal so vehemently. I'm sure dick is smiling down at us all somewhere.

    • Sethareal profile image

      Sethareal 5 years ago

      You may want to add that he ended the Vietnam war, he supported Title IX from the congress, the disarmament of biological weapons (most important one IMO, all the weaponized smallpox was handed over to neutral parties) and that Fathers Day was finally and officially signed into law.

      I agree with Donna about the opportunism, many of the good things he did were out of self interest, but does that make them any less good? Reagan gave amnesty for illegals for instance, but he wanted to stick it to the Soviets.

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      Bryon J 5 years ago

      Thanks for pointing out the good things President Nixon. Sometimes people act like he was an evil man that ruined America.

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      anon 5 years ago

      There aren't too many people who would agree, but I thought Nixon was a great president. Watergate was about the most overblown episode in the history of the US. Take that away from the conversation and what do you have left? A leader who opened US trade with the USSR and China at a time when they were considered arch enemies. He also ended the Viet-Nam War, enacted much enviromental change for the good, and many social programs. He truly cared about his country. It seems he was always an easy target for his enemies, but I can't think of a better president since he has left office. He was very "presedential" and that counts for something.

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      bob 5 years ago

      hi people

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      sean 5 years ago

      richard did some good things

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      Donna Trump 5 years ago

      Nixon's domestic policies demonstrated his liberal instincts beyond doubt. He clearly believed in the power of government to improve the quality of life and the opportunities available to ordinary people. He acted on these beliefs to extend government regulatory powers and the rights of minorities - often to no political benefit to himself or his party. The bills he approved to improve the rights of American Indians and the funding of education and social services on reserves are examples of this.

      But you can't praise Nixon's liberalism and ignore his baser political instincts. Nixon and his partisans perfected the "Southern strategy" - which cynically exploited the white backlash against minority political rights by means of coded racist rhetoric, with the object of converting Southern Democrats into Republicans. The roots of Tea Party Republicanism and Birtherism can be found in the campaigns of Nixon and Reagan.

      Nixon's liberalism was genuine, but it coexisted with amoral political opportunism.

    • imadork profile image

      imadork 6 years ago from St. Peters, MO

      Thank you Cynthia for the info on Eisenhower. I must confess, I am not very knowledgeable of his presidential years. I am more informed of his service as Supreme Allied Commander of the ETO during WWII. You've inspired me to read up on his presidency. Thank you.

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      cynthia curran 6 years ago

      Truce, the right that loves Reagan and like George W Bush also hates Nixon. My favorite was Dwight Eisenhower, who actually did what the right wants now on immirgation, he is the last to Deport people here illegality on a large scale and made California more middle class during the period of the 1950's to 1980's until Reagan reverse that. Eisenhower is also not given credit by the left or right either.

    • imadork profile image

      imadork 7 years ago from St. Peters, MO

      Loved the Frost/Nixon movie and actual interview. Seen them both a couple of times each.

      Seems that most presidents are disliked while in office. History determines whether they did the right thing or not. Of course, Nixon's legacy will always be that of Watergate and his resignation. Nothing will ever change that. The good things he did while president should not be forgotten though.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 7 years ago from Texas

      Hee-hee! Yes, I agree! People with poor grammar and spelling tend to take me to task, too, and it is always a treat! LOL!

      I watched the Frost/Nixon Interviews movie recently and then also watched the DVD of the actual interviews. Both certainly show Nixon to be a complex and intriguing character. I remember disliking him on many levels when he was actually president.

    • imadork profile image

      imadork 7 years ago from St. Peters, MO

      I love being berated by people with horrible grammar. It makes me laugh.

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      Karyssaisboss 7 years ago

      OK I do think that imadork is kinda being unrational. I mean nixon obviously did a lot of good things as president because if he did not the would whoul not be how it is now so eff off motha effer

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      Rodney Stanton 7 years ago

      Nixon was the first president I voted for. I tell my children the many positive attributes President Nixon had. Many have been mentioned. He was also president when man first landed on the moon and subsequent lunar voyages. I remember ran incident in which a russian sailor tried to defect onto a US naval vessel. The US captain allowed three other russian sailors to board the US ship and take the russian sailor away after first severely beating him in unconsciousness. The russian was crying and begging for help. Nixon was absolutely furious upon later hearing about the incident and sought retribution.

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      David 7 years ago

      President Nixon was very intelligent and he was a good man. His "offenses" were probably far less egregious than most presidents. He wasn't sleeping with interns or lining his own pockets. He was doing what he thought was best for the country. Unfortunately, he was caught in an unfortunate situation and was crucified by the partisan congress, judiciary and press. In the end, America was the loser because we pushed out a great president.

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      rob 7 years ago sorry but you're an idiot, some presidents work SO hard it is unebeleivable and being president according to stats. and calculations is THE most stressful job in the world, granted some presidents are fucking retards like Bush and dont do shit but nixon went places and got shit done, but look at how hard clinton worked, look at how hard obama is working, look at how aged and decrepit lincoln became after almost 6 years due to his stress...i think it quite insulting to the nation to say that presidents dont do shit...if presidents didn't do shit and get everything handed to them, then George Washington in your view sucked and did not begin our nation...Lincol was poor as fuck by the way and you do not get good pay as a president but you get everything else taken care of because a president does not have the time to deal with such things as they have a congress to satisfy, a people to hold faith in him, critics, assassins...crooked people in their admin. doing crooked i would say simply just shut your mouth sorry girl.

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      EK 7 years ago

      I completely agree with you about Nixon being tragic in the Shakespearian sense. I feel a great sense of pity for Nixon and I always have, because even today after his death and years after his pardon he has people mocking him. I mean, Johnson had Nixon's phones bugged during his election! It's a shame that because he got caught it looked like he was the only one. Sure he shouldn't have done it, but when you're in a position with that much power and responsibility, who wouldn't crack a little beneath it?

      But good post, you're right about how people forget all the good things just to concentrate on the bad.

    • GeneriqueMedia profile image

      GeneriqueMedia 8 years ago from Earth

      I love Nixon, too. Not that I was alive back when he was around. you say, I can't help but feel for the guy. Politics are a dirty game...generally, nothing happens within that field for any of the right reasons.



    • eovery profile image

      eovery 8 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Only good thing I know he ever did was get us out of Vietnam. That Counts for a lot, compared to the idiot that was president before him. I am just old enough to remember that crab. Johnson was far worse than Bush could ever think of being.

      Keep on Hubbing!

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      Shannon 8 years ago from New York

      Scott- I agree on the difference between him and all other presidents... ALL of our presidents have a bit of "mafia-wanna-be" in them. They all stand for themselves, but do things to build up their reputation to make us say "Yay"... It's all about POWER and CONTROL... Security Guards, Body Guards, you name it... Their heads are swollen from all the publicity... They make it all look good to us, but all-in-all, they just want to CONTROL everyone... Think about it... everyone does what he says, because if they don't... what happens?

      That's all I've got to say about that... Forrest Gump would've made a PERFECT president compared to all these POWER TRIP "@&^%)& er's"

      When it comes right down to it, who cares who is president? They all do the same thing... they follow the footsteps of those who RULED before them.

      They have it made. They are loaded, have to worry about NOTHING, and everything is handed to them on a silver platter... Who wouldn't want to be president? It's like being the KING of ALL, correct?

      I do think that Nixon was better than most... Even being the way he was... It's the changing of everything that stays the same... Not how "great" they are... Nixon and Kennedy were close, in my book... I say we all just take control of our own lives, and say to hell with all this bullshit about "presidential" this and that...

      THIS is why America is on such a downward slant these days... Everyone is too concerned about everyone else... other countries and such... If we could stop trying to BE IN CONTROL, then we wouldn't have our boys over on the other side of the world DYING for nothing...

    • Pam Roberson profile image

      Pam Roberson 8 years ago from Virginia

      No, I didn't know anything about his past, so I appreciate you sharing that. :) It's very interesting and indeed tragic.

      My feelings are simple...if all of us were judged only by the bad things we did, then we'd all be very lonely and the world would be an ugly place. Everyone makes mistakes, and blunders don't totally define a person. It's just the way it goes when you're human. Of course, expectations are always higher for political figures, but they are still human.

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      Pam Roberson 8 years ago from Virginia

      imadork, you've brought out many things that I didn't know about Nixon, and I think that's a good thing. I normally don't comment about politics or religion, but I really want to commend you here for bringing out some of the very positive things he did for this country. It's a shame when any President is only remembered for the mistakes he made when he also brought about significant positive change. The things you mention are quite huge accomplishments.

    • imadork profile image

      imadork 8 years ago from St. Peters, MO

      Jeez...I never thought I would be so protective of Nixon! LOL. Fuck it...comment away!!!! Who cares about bashing the dead!?!?

    • imadork profile image

      imadork 8 years ago from St. Peters, MO

      I knew that this was not going to be my most popular hub. I just wanted to spread some facts that some may not know. SiddSingh (and all others): anyone can find any number of things that they do not like about any U.S. president. Let us try not to be too picky and just read my hub and learn (if you did not know these facts) about the Nixon that is not talked about. I think we all know the Nixon that is smeared in the media. There is no need to add to it. Thanks.

    • SiddSingh profile image

      SiddSingh 8 years ago

      Hmmm(yes, another one). I am not qualified to comment on Nixon's domestic policies, but from an Indian perspective, all I can say is he was grossly unfair. His NSA Mr Henry Kissinger went to the extent of calling the Indians as "bastards" and the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a "bitch". Later, it turned out, the team had grossly miscalculated the Indian strategy. This was one of his biggest foreign policy failures.

    • imadork profile image

      imadork 8 years ago from St. Peters, MO

      Joe: The difference between Nixon and other presidents...Nixon got caught.

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      Joseph Addams 8 years ago from Standing right behind you!

      Hmmm. This is interesting. Nixon did a few things on the outside that made his administration look good, but being a liar, a crook and having a disgraced presidency cast such a shadow over the US that I don't think the world is ready to accept anything positive he did while in power. And thanks to his buddy, Jerry, he walked away clean.