Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hating Nixon?

This morning provided a reminder that some people just can't get over their hate.

In the course of a presentation, a university professor and economist discussing a federal agency established during the 1970's mentioned that it was founded during the Nixon administration and then added gratuitously, "I hate Richard Nixon very much." Several things about the statement are worth noting:

  1. The statement did not fit with either the content or the tone of anything that followed. Most of the rest of the speech was devoted to outlining the relative value of various studies on an issue.
  2. The context of the speech did not necessitate mentioning Nixon at all. The reference to him as the President at the time that the agency was founded was not required to be included in the speech for this audience.
  3. The statement is intensely personal: "I hate Richard Nixon...."
  4. The statement is in the present tense: "I hate...."
  5. The statement required an adverbial intensifier: "very much."

Politics is serious business, and it is certainly not for the faint of heart. Richard Nixon was a polarizing figure in American life going all of the way back to the 1940's. That he held office at the end of the tumultuous Vietnam era and resigned the presidency in disgrace only cemented hard feelings.

Yet, Nixon has been out of office for 33 years, and he has been dead for 12. Given those facts, the gratuitous "I" present tense "hate" personal "Richard Nixon" intensely "very much" comment strikes me as bizarre and sad. Can someone be so beholden to a political figure that they feel the need to declare their hatred over 30 years after the person left office?

Evidently, they can. I assume that 30 years from now speakers will declare their lingering hatred for presidents Bush and Clinton. That is too bad. I would suggest that anyone who takes their politics that seriously, and who holds their grudges that closely, should get a life.

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