Nixon: Best President Ever?

Uh, well, probably not, but as the anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation approaches (next Tuesday), Kurt Anderson reminds us just how the yard markers have changed in our politics since the 70s. Can you imagine a Republican president today sporting this kind of record?  Or a Democrat, for that matter?

[Under Nixon}, spending on social services doubled, and military budgets actually decreased. He oversaw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. His administration was the first to encourage and enable American Indian tribal autonomy. He quadrupled the staff of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, almost tripled federal outlays for civil rights and began affirmative action in federal hiring. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment and signed Title IX, the law granting equality to female student athletes. One of his Supreme Court appointees wrote the Roe v. Wade decision.

Nixon made Social Security cost-of-living increases automatic, expanded food stamps and started Supplemental Security Income for the disabled and elderly poor. It helped, of course, that Democrats controlled the House and Senate. But it was the president, not Congress, who proposed a universal health insurance plan and a transformation of welfare that would have set a guaranteed minimum income and allowed men to remain with their welfare-recipient families. It was Nixon who radically intervened in the free market by imposing wage and price controls, launched détente with the Soviets, normalized relations with Mao’s China and let the Communists win in Vietnam.

And, for good measure, the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts grew sixfold, by far the biggest increase by any president.

Of course, you’ve got to put the bombing of Cambodia and that little matter of the Watergate cover-up into the scales of judgment, but sometimes,  the more things change. . . the more they actually do change.  The full piece is here.

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