A bit of local tourism…
Recently, we attended the wedding of friends at no less than the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, a fairly short drive from our home. Now people who know me well would rightly assume that this would be one of those over-my-dead-body kinds of things. But when Kris brought up the idea and the already-plan-in-place, I gave it 10 seconds of thought and said, “Why not?”
Very nice affair and a good time was had by all, especially the reception that was held in a replica of the White House East Room.
Before the ceremony we had time to take a quick stroll through the museum, and what really struck me was how impressive the facility named after, and erected for, our 37th president actually was. It turns out that it was a valid and interesting look at a man who will always be considered as at least controversial; yet what you saw was very much an accurate look, sometimes in spite of itself. This has been aided by some recent clearing up of small matter called Watergate — replacing a one-time display that presented the president as a victim of circumstances with a recently installed display that offers a less gentle reading — this under the new owners, the National Archives. And as you exited from the museum, you came to the conclusion, “Yeah, that was Nixon, all right.”
There’s even a tour of the old Nixon house, which is on the grounds and roughly half the size of a typical three-bedroom residence of today. According the docent who described things to her small audience, the family actually constructed it from a kit. She wasn’t sure whether the kit was provided by Sears or Montgomery Ward.
We didn’t have time to pour through the presidential papers — there was that wedding that was forthcoming — but the trip back to the ’50s and ’60s was really worthwhile, complete with a woody that carried campaign signs and loudspeakers: “Elect Richard Nixon to congress!”
Most surprising was a room that was filled with life-sized statues of the world leaders with whom Nixon shared the national stage. Of this there has been a fair amount of criticism, given that many of the characters were pretty far to the left; for some, too many communists who were given space in the library. But these were the people of the time, and with Nixon, for good or ill, established the world many of us knew in those days. Curiously, Nixon — by proxy — was not in the room.
(My only comparison would be to the other local presidential library in southern California, that being the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, which is easily double the size of the Nixon edifice. But then that may be owed to the Reagan library having on display Air Force One, while Nixon’s place had to settle for a helicopter.)
Yet again, as a portrait of Richard Nixon — love him or hate him — the library is dead on. By intent, the history is not bad and is fairly accurate. Inadvertently, the character who became “Tricky Dick” is also in evidence, and does complete the picture. And it makes sense: Can you think of anyone who has moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who did not have human foibles of his own? You’d almost assume that flaws come with the job.
I mean really: Do you suppose the Clinton Library includes any cool shots of Monica?