Bad Presidents pp 177-197 | Cite as

Ex Parte Exercitii: Richard M. Nixon

  • Philip Abbott
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


While we have found weak or flawed cases of bad presidents who resembled Richard III, the conclusion that Richard Nixon bears the closest resemblance to this dangerous prototype appears very strong. Nixon was a master of surprise like Richard III. He could act swiftly but also indirectly. His pursuit of power was relentless. Both leaders ignored constitutional boundaries, large and small. And, of course, like Richard III, Nixon held deep grievances against the world. Is it too much of a stretch to imagine Nixon saying to himself that since he was unloved, he was “determined to prove a villain”? For that matter, can one fail to detect eerie similarities between Richard’s most famous lines (“I am in so far in blood, that sin plucks on sin”; “I wish the bastards dead”; and “then I sigh, and with a piece of Scripture, / Tell them that God bids us do good and evil. / And thus I clothe my naked villainy / With odd old ends stole forth of holy writ / and seem a saint, when most I play the devil”) and Nixon’s (“You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”; “Well, I am not a crook”; “Generally you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on us”; and “With regard to the bombing. You’re so goddamned concerned about victims and I don’t give a damn. I don’t care”)? Finally, both Richard III and Richard Nixon were eventually deposed. Collectively the Watergate investigators (Sirica; Erwin; Woodward; and Bernstein) performed the same heroic role as Henry Tudor. When Richard was slain, he was referred to as “wretched, bloody, and usurping boar.” Today to be so called “Nixonian” or “Nixonesque” means he or she is secretive, corrupt, and an abuser of power. 1


Central Intelligence Agency Internal Revenue Service Silent Majority National Security Council Nixon Presidency 
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© Philip Abbott 2013

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  • Philip Abbott

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