Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Nixon should be happy!
Somehow, I made this story all about me. But it's still an anniversary worth noting. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
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What was going on in the living room?
Forty-eight years ago today, shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern time, I stood in the living room of my parents' three-bedroom house in Cumberland, Rhode Island, staring at our 19-inch Zenith black and white television, watching something I both understood and didn't understand at all.
I was three years old, or as I suspect I would have told you then, "three and three-quarters." I am pretty sure that I had already gone to bed, but I'd heard the television and my parents' reaction, and I got up to see what was happening.
I remember my mom explaining the situation as she ushered me back to the room my brother and I shared, along with my immediate emotional reaction:
My mom: "President Nixon is resigning. He’s still the president tonight, but tomorrow Ford will become the new president."
My reaction: "Nixon should be really happy that he gets to be president tonight!"
This was nearly half a century ago—or as I like to put it sometimes, one-fifth of the entire history of the independent "United States." And I wasn't sure I remembered It correctly.
But, if you go back and look at Nixon's resignation speech, August 8, 1974, there's a detail that I take as confirmation of my memory. As Nixon put it in his nationally televised announcement:
"Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office."
One last night. He would have hit that line at about 9:03 p.m. Fits right in.
Now, if you had ranked all 3-year-old children in the United States in 1974 according to how much they knew about the Watergate scandal, I suspect I would have been near the top.
Besides the fact that I was a toddler/preschooler who could tell you where I was when I heard the news that Nixon had resigned, I'd apparently been getting reactions from the older adults in my extended family by simply and solemnly saying the word, "Watergate," during family gatherings.
(Laugh-a-minute, that Murphy. I think there are a lot of clues in this story that I was a first-born child.)
Also, I'm aware of the irony that I was a 3-year-old who paid attention to Watergate, and that decades later, I wound up working directly for Bob Woodward at The Washington Post.
(I told Bob this story once; I don't remember much of a reaction.)
There are a lot of things to write about how Nixon's saga fits into the historical context and the modern era. And, there are a lot of ways that I could have marked the anniversary of Nixon's resignation without somehow (improbably, and yet predictably) making myself the main character.
However, I think there was some wisdom in my lack of years.
On your fourth birthday, you've been alive for 1,461 days (365 times 4 plus 1 for the leap year). This means each single day amounts to a much bigger percentage of your life experience than it does later in life.
And while it would be fun to imagine what Nixon's reaction would have been to an aide telling him after his speech: "You're so lucky, you get to be president for tonight!" the truth is that's exactly right.
I’m not here to defend Nixon. But he spent the rest of his life trying to prompt a reexamination and a re-contextualization. He did end the draft; he did end the Vietnam War; he founded the EPA; he launched a war on cancer.
And, if you'll allow me to rip off Churchill: He did the right thing by resigning (after all other alternatives had been exhausted).
I wasn't wise enough nor confident enough at age not-quite-4 to pronounce things like, "every day is a gift," or else "remember to count your blessings."
But I understood perspective. And I'm reminded of it today.
7 other things worth knowing today
The U.S. Senate passed President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act on a 51 to 50 party-line vote, with Vice President Harris breaking the tie. Passage was slowed after Republican senators worked successfully to strip a cap on the cost of insulin, but Biden is expected to sign the remaining bill shortly. (Reuters, NBC News)
Indiana on Friday became the first state in the nation to approve abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as the Republican governor quickly signed a near-total ban on the procedure shortly after lawmakers approved it. Immediately afterward, pharma giant Eli Lily, one of the state's biggest employers for 100 years, condemned the law and said it will focus its future growth out-of-state. (AP)
A new study out of MIT and Maynooth University in Ireland shows U.S. judges rely to a shocking degree on Wikipedia in opinions, "not just for background information but for core legal reasoning and specific language they use in their decisions." (Washington Post)
Here's an interesting insight from the world's largest hotel chain. Marriott says that despite inflation, and economic fears, it's seen no drop-off in demand, and in fact many of its brands have seen massive growth over a year ago. Possible explanation? A culture-wide “shift of spending towards experiences versus goods." (Axios)
Albert Woodfox, who was wrongfully convicted of murder, and is thought to have been held in solitary confinement longer than any individual in U.S. history, having survived 43 years in a 6ft x 9ft cell in the brutal Angola prison in Lousiana, has died aged 75. Woodfox had been released in 2016 on his 69th birthday. (The Guardian)
A mom from Northern Ireland posted a picture of her baby daughter, Cora, who—strange as this sounds—bears a remarkable resemblance to actor Woody Harrelson. The best part of the story is that Harrelson learned about the viral photo and wrote a little poem to the baby. ("Ode to Cora: You're an adorable child/Flattered to be compared/You have a wonderful smile/I just wish I had your hair") (Instagram)
Good idea? Good idea? Good idea! Good idea! Good idea. Good idea?! Bad idea? Bad idea. Bad idea! Bad idea! Bad idea! Bad idea! Bad idea! Bad idea!!!! Bad idea!!!! Bad idea------splash. (Twitter; wish I had more context; alternate view)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: YouTube. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here. See you in the comments!