Useful Notes: Richard Nixon
"[The American] people look at you and they see who they want to be. They look at me and they see what they are."Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President (1969–1974). A Republican, he served between Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford. Probably the least popular President among the general public, he is infamous for his role in the Watergate scandal which led to his resignation. Nixon remains the only President so far to resign from the office. Politically, he was more of an Eisenhower Republican: Socially conscious (most famously re: the environment) but fiscally laissez faire (the end of Bretton Woods and the gold standard). He was also less of an ideologue than his successors, famously visiting Mao's China and detente with the Soviets. He initially came to power before the Goldwater campaign as Vice President under Eisenhower, and so represented a different Conservative school than the politico-religious cause of our Reagan Republicans. Nixon has long been a subject of particular interest for presidential historians, and serves as the canonical example of a deeply conflicted leader who "could be considered both a failure and great or near great" (Alan Brinkley). Thanks to his particular brand of paranoid neuroses (his tapes include lengthy rants about people – mainly part of the 'liberal east-coast establishment' – plotting against him), he's also been quite the fertile figure of study for psychologists. Also, he famously added a bowling alley to the White House. Nixon's equally popular for fictional portrayals, whether serious dramas or parodies. Ironically, Nixon's unique appearance and idiosyncrasies, which make him such an appealing subject for caricature, makes it hard to find an actor who actually resembles him. The trope Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman is named after him.
- In Watchmen, Richard Nixon continues to govern in a fifth term, partly because he was reckless enough to order the god-like superhero Dr. Manhattan to attack the Vietcong and North Vietnam to win The Vietnam War, disregarding the dire implications of disrupting the international balance of power and riling the USSR up to prepare themselves for an all out fight. In addition, the Watergate Scandal doesn't happen because Woodward and Bernstein were killed by an assassin, implied to be the Comedian.
- Word of God says Nixon was the primary inspiration for Darkseid.
- The Avengers:
- The Avengers once traveled back in time to the '50s and teamed up with some contemporary heroes (3D-Man, Gorilla Man, etc.) to stop a shapeshifting alien who was impersonating Vice President Nixon.
- For that matter, at the time that Watergate was going down, Captain America comics were coming out where Cap was fighting the Secret Empire, a KKK-esque group of super-scientists who were targeting mutants for capture for evil experiments. When he found the leader, faces weren't shown, names weren't said, but it's blatantly obvious that this was Nixon. Rather than face arrest, he pulled out a ray gun and killed himself◊. These were in the days when if a major public figure like the President cameoed for more than a few panels it always came off as a Kodak moment but this was a major jaw dropper at the time. The shock of finding out that the President was the leader of the KKK's anti-mutant science division had Cap briefly renounce his hero identity and become Nomad.
- Later stories retconned the identity of Number 1 as being either a generic government official, or the Chief of Staff, limiting it to Thomas H. Moorer or George S. Brown.
- In The Sandman, Nixon appears in a dream to president-to-be Prez Rickard, mocking Ronald Reagan and warning of Mr. Smiley.
- He makes an appearance in one Bloom County strip, joining Milo and Binkley in line to visit the 1980's White House as a tourist:
Milo: Man! Ain't this place GRAND!Nixon: 'Tis true!Milo: The center of influence and authority for the whole darn world.Nixon: Sigh!Milo:You can almost smell the power!Nixon: sniff!
- The film All The Presidents Men tells the story of the reporters, Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), who uncovered the Watergate scandal. It was based on a non-fiction book of the same name written by the actual reporters.
- Played by Anthony Hopkins in Nixon (1995), from Oliver Stone. Which is saying something. Stone's portrayal of Nixon isn't unsympathetic, devoting time to his troubled background and loving marriage, but focuses heavily on the President's obsession with antiwar "subversives," his shady dealings with the CIA and Big Business, and naturally the Watergate scandal.
- Nixon is the only character on-screen in Robert Altman's movie Secret Honor. He is played by Philip Baker Hall, who delivers a lengthy monologue into a tape recorder while pacing around his study.
- The play (and subsequent film) Frost/Nixon dramatize the disgraced former President's 1977 television interviews with David Frost. Michael Sheen portrayed Frost and Frank Langella played Nixon in both stage and screen productions. (And no, you are not immature for thinking the play was about something else.)
- Is played by John Cusack in Lee Daniels' The Butler
- In Back to the Future Part II, a newspaper from 1985-A says Nixon has served at least four terms (and was seeking a fifth term!) and plans to end The Vietnam War "by 1985".
- Another Robert Zemeckis film, Forrest Gump, has Forrest unknowingly reporting the original Watergate break-in. Forrest thought the break-in was a power outage, and only reported it because the flashlights were keeping him awake. Ironically, it was Nixon who booked him a room at Watergate.
- In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Brad and Janet are listening to the radio transmission of Nixon's resignation speech right before their car breaks down not too far from Frank's castle.
- He appears in X-Men: Days of Future Past, mostly set in 1973. Oddly enough, this film offers one of Nixon's more sympathetic portrayals: He authorizes the Sentinel program, but eventually changes his mind after his life is saved by a mutant. Nixon is portrayed by Mark Camacho.
- The 1999 movie Dick had a humorous, almost Forrest Gump-like (see above) take on Nixon's administration. Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams played two ditzy hippie girls who ended up influencing governmental policy and becoming Deep Throat (named after one of the girls' brother's favorite movie). Nixon is played by Dan Hedeya.
- Portrayed by Lane Smith in the 1989 TV movie The Final Days, focusing on Nixon's role in Watergate.
- Another television film, Kissinger and Nixon, focuses on the Paris Peace Accords to end the Vietnam War. Beau Bridges plays Nixon, Ron Silver is Henry Kissinger and George Takei is North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho.
- In Trading Places, Mortimer Duke has a portrait of Nixon on his desk, while his brother Randolph has a portrait of then-president Ronald Reagan on his desk.
- He is seen briefly in the film CSA: The Confederate States of America. Even in the film's Alternate History, he still loses presidency to John F. Kennedy. Whether or not he wins it later is never said.
- He does win later according to the film's website. But he is forced to resign over a scandal. His parting words? "I am not a Negro."
- In an interesting reversal, he is the Democratic candidate who loses to Kennedy's Republican bid.
- In the film Black Dynamite, Nixon ends up as the Big Bad, being behind a conspiracy to use liquor to shrink the crotches of black men. He then proceeds to fight Dynamite with kung fu and John Wilkes Booth's gun. Lincoln's ghost shows up to save the day.
- Despite being a pot-smoking ex-hippie, Jeffrey Lebowski aka "The Dude" has a framed photo of Nixon on his wall. Nixon, like the Dude, was an avid bowler.
- The 1997 TV-movie Elvis Meets Nixon imagines events that led to the famous White House meeting◊ of the two in 1970. President Nixon is trying to figure out how to connect to young people, and Elvis, sneaking out on his own for the first time in a dozen years, gets the idea to become a DEA agent.
- He's mentioned in Grease (set in the '50s); when the principal makes a speech, she says: "among you young men, there may be a Joe DiMaggio, a President Eisenhower, or even a Vice-President Nixon".
- The Godfather Part II features Peter Donat as the crooked Senate lawyer, Questadt. Francis Ford Coppola says on the commentary that he modeled the character on a young Nixon interrogating Alger Hiss, even casting an actor who resembles Nixon.
- Hunter S. Thompson had an intense hatred of Nixon, repeatedly using Nixon as a symbol of everything bad and wrong in America in pretty much everything he wrote after 1968. In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas he goes on several rants against the president; in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 he follows George McGovern's attempt to unseat him; and he becomes one other legion of reporters closely following Watergate in 1973–74. He even blamed Nixon (tongue-in-cheek, sort of) for what he saw as a decline in the quality of pro football (which both he and Nixon loved) in the '60s. However, he did say in 2004 that "Nixon was a professional politician, and I despised everything he stood for—but if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush–Cheney gang, I would happily vote for him."
- Cowboy Angels, by Paul McAuley, is a book about a group of people who travel through various alternate universes, or "sheaves". Due to when they visited it, our universe is referred to as "the Nixon sheaf".
- Harry Turtledove and Richard Dreyfus' Alternate History novel The Two Georges, set in a world where America never left the British Empire, has "Honest Dick" as a used car salesman. He's murdered early in the novel as a Red Herring to the main crime, the theft of an important painting by anti-British extremists.
- Another story, one where the US being neutral in World War I lead to Prussian peacekeeping forces under a League of Nations Mandate occupying the South, had Richard Nixon as The Man Behind the Man. His plan was simple: get the Democrats attempting to reach out to Martin Luther King's group to establish a political settlement and get the Germans out peacefully set up as assassins of the German Field Marshal Rommel. It works.
- Also by Turtledove, in the Timeline-191 alternate history, Congresswoman Flora Blackford believes her office may be bugged. Her offices are checked by three technicians: Bob, Carl, and Dick (obviously Woodward, Bernstein, and Nixon). The author makes sure to mention Dick's dark five-o'clock shadow, and has him say, "Well, let me say this about that …" (a well-known Nixon Catch Phrase).
- Thomas Mallon's 2012 book Watergate: A Novel offers a fictionalized version of the Watergate scandal. Nixon himself is a peripheral character, though; Mallon focuses on Nixon's wife Pat, political operative Jeb Magruder, and other lesser-known figures more than he does the President.
- In Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72 (an Alternate History work), for the 1972 election Nixon faces John Julian McKeithen, a more moderate Democrat capable of dirty tricks himself, as his chief challenger. However, McGovern still runs as a 'Peace' candidate, as does Wallace, with the result that the election produces a hung Electoral College and a long period of political grappling and chaos that makes our history's 2000 election look like peanuts by comparison.
- In The Damned Highway: Fear and Loathing in Arkham, a mashup of Hunter S. Thompson and H.P. Lovecraft by Brian Keene and Nick Mamatas, Nixon is revealed to worship Cthulhu.
- Philip Roth wrote a satirical novel about Nixon in 1971, called Our Gang. In the book President Tricky E. Dixon comes out in favor of voting rights for the unborn, has to face the arising accusation by the Boy Scouts that he supports sexual intercourse and invades Denmark as a distraction. He's eventually assassinated and ends up in Hell, campaigning against Satan for the position of Devil.
- The 1980 short story "A Cross-Country Trip to Kill Richard Nixon" by Orson Scott Card.
- In Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, the contact team to a new planet spend weeks in an unpopulated area getting acclimated and attaching cute names to the wildlife. Richard Nixons are little creatures that walk around bent over looking for food. Later on there's a reference to cleaning up the team's shuttle transport because there are Richard Nixons roosting in the undercarriage.
- Dave Barry Slept Here has the Running Gag of Nixon's political defeats being "widely believed to be the end of his career."
- Elsewhere Dave states that Dick resigned to live in a state of utter disgrace: New Jersey.
- Nixon is the last real life president known to have existed in The West Wing universe.
- Nixon appears in the Doctor Who two-parter "The Impossible Astronaut" / "Day of the Moon" as a hard, paranoid man being followed by the voice of a Creepy Child. He enlists the Doctor and Canton to help him. Despite his flaws being in full view for the episodes he actually comes off rather well due to how readily he helps the Doctor (said help being crucial in the Doctor's efforts against the Silence) and shows some genuine concern for the mysterious child calling him for help. Something especially notable given how universal his vilification and pillorying is in other media. Of course, it happened early in his presidency, and it turns out that some of his habits — paranoia and taping everything he did — may have been prompted or encouraged by their encounter.
Nixon: I think the moon is far enough for now, don't you, Mr Delaware?
- The Doctor pretty clearly hold disdain for him and mocks him about how his presidency will end. "Say hello to David Frost for me." The production team basically said that, given the Doctor's tendency to meet some of the greatest figures of history in the new series, they thought it'd be fun to have him bump into, in their words, "one of the rubbish ones."
- The episode also depicts Nixon as being completely accepting of interracial marriage, even offering to clear things on Canton's behalf to get him reinstated with the FBI, who fired him because of it. Although he politely lets him know he's drawing the line when Canton explains that he actually wants to marry a black man.
- Sue Sylvester on Glee keeps a portrait of Nixon in her office while serving as Principal.
- When Eric made a joke about Nixon on an episode of That '70s Show, his Republican father Red became very angry:
Red: What did you just say?Eric:… That Nixon was framed, and that Kennedy was a Communist?Red: That's right.
- In the first (and to-date, only) Comedy Central Commie Awards (Awards for Achievement in Comedy), Nixon is referred to as having won the award for Best Comedy Album for "The Watergate Tapes" — the clip played was, of course, an Atomic Cluster F-Bomb.
- In an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, Johnny is doing a remote from a stereo shop when it's held up. The perp turns out to be interested not in robbing the business but in replacing Johnny on air — he's a DJ who's been out of work for a long time. Johnny is sympathetic, and lets him escape when the police arrive. The episode's epilogue is a mock APB asking for the public's help in finding the robber, complete with Johnny holding up an Identikit sketch — of Richard Nixon.
- Young Republican Alex P. Keaton has a framed portrait of Nixon.
- In Slings and Arrows, Sanjay has a tendency to make up quotes and attribute them to Richard Nixon.
- Nixon is mentioned several times in All in the Family, where his policies are matters of debate between Archie and Mike. In the episode "Writing the President", after Archie learns that Mike wrote a critical letter to him, he writes a praising letter, and imagines Nixon reading his letter out on national television.
- Nixon himself can be heard discussing the show and this particular episode on the Watergate tapes.
- The fifth season of 24 features Jack Bauer going up against the White House, and draws so blatantly and heavily from the Nixon mythos that it's almost funny: not only does President Logan heavily resemble Nixon, but his Cassandra mentally unstable wife is named Martha …
- The Manic Street Preachers song "The Love of Richard Nixon" takes a very sympathetic look at Nixon's life and career, pointing out triumphs of his presidency, and moaning about "death without assassination".
- There is a persistent urban legend that Nixon himself (who was a football fanatic and a good friend of Redskins coach George Allen) once called a play in the Washington-San Francisco 1971 NFC Playoff game. It was a Wide Receiver Reverse called on the opponent's 8 yard line (a terrible place to do so) and lost 13 yards.
- In Super Bowl VI at the end of that season, the Miami Dolphins (in their sixth year of existence) were facing the tough Dallas Cowboys. Reportedly, head coach Don Shula received a call from Nixon (having again appointed himself an honorary offensive coordinator) suggesting a down-and-in pass to their best wide receiver, Paul Warfield. The result of the play (used late in the first quarter) was an incomplete pass, and the Dolphins lost 24-3.
- Speaking of football, in December 1969 Nixon attended a game between the Texas Longhorns and Arkansas Razorbacks (both of which were undefeated going into the game and ranked as the #1 and #2 college teams, respectively), after which he presented the Longhorns with a plaque naming them "national champions" … which many fans and commentators regarded as premature, given that Penn State's team was also undefeated at that point and none of the postseason bowl games had yet been played.
- A Nixon analogue, "Stanton Spobeck," is the president of "Americo" in Green Ronin's Damnation Decade RPG.
- Nixon In China, a 1987 opera by John Coolidge Adams, is about...Nixon's famous trip to China and the impact it had. It's considered something of a modern classic and features some pretty good arias for Nixon himself (see, for instance, the iconic "News").
- In BBC Radio's The Burkiss Way there's a sketch in which Nixon's advisors tell him that Presidents like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy owe their success to having silly middle names. They've tested a computer program for generating silly names on the vice president, but it malfunctioned and gave him silly first and last names: Spiro Agnewnote . When they test it on Nixon it comes up with two suggestions: "Millstone Round The Neck Of The American People" and "Biggest Crook In The White House". Nixon decides to compile his middle name from "Millstone" and "White House" and comes up with … "Stonehouse". (A reference to corrupt British politician John Stonehouse, who faked his own death.)
- A later Burkiss episode centered around Nixon trying to get back into the public's good books by guest-starring on The Muppet Show.
- Nixon appears in Arfenhouse 3 and Arfenhouse: The Movie as "TEH JINTOVMAHBUTT."
- Nixon is one of the player characters in the "Five" level of Zombies Mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops.
- Nixon was resurrected by a congressional page in The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, and had planned on slaughtering the Presidental Turkey, but decided to become a fashion designer instead when he learned that he's considered 'cool' again. Later, he fakes a heroic death to paint himself in a good light and makes a new start in the Victorian Era.
Nixon: Back before women wore pantsuits. What a glorious age.
- In a Cyanide & Happiness strip, a guy complains to Nixon about the food at the Watergate Hotel, to which he responds: "I'm not a cook!"
- The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, a Villain of the Week disguised himself as William Howard Taft and one of his explanations for this was the costume shop having no Nixon masks.
- Histeria: Nixon had a tape that could have cleared him but the Histeria kids, led to his office by Miss. Information, unwittingly recorded over it, ruining his chances of escaping the scandal.
- The Simpsons contains numerous references to Nixon. Creator Matt Groening viewed him as the ultimate villain when he was growing up and has stated that he has the pleasure of being able to poke fun at Nixon thirty or forty years after he was in office.
Dean Peterson: I'm sorry, boys, I've — I've never expelled anyone before, but...that pig had some powerful friends.Nixon: Oh, you'll pay! Don't think you won't pay!
- In "Homer's Enemy", Moe has a list of enemies that is just Nixon's enemies list with Nixon's name crossed out and substituted with his own. A highly disgruntled Moe adds Barney to the list when he points this out.
- In the "Treehouse of Horror IV" story "The Devil and Homer Simpson", Nixon is a member of a Jury of the Damned with other infamous celebrities in 1993. He complains about being there since he's not dead, but bows to his master Satan because he owns a favor to the devil (which may have been Nixon selling his soul to the Devil to be President or not be implicated in Watergate). Six months after the episode aired, Nixon really did die, making the joke Hilarious in Hindsight (and edited out of UK TV for a time, as the joke was Too Soon).
- Milhouse was named after President Richard Nixon, whose middle name was Milhous. The name was the most "unfortunate name Matt Groening could think of for a kid". Made more obvious in early episodes, when he would be introduced after Bart's now-forgotten friend, Richard. To twist the knife further, Milhouse is later given the middle name "Mussolini" as well.
- In "Homer Goes to College", Nixon received an honorary degree from Springfield A&M, the rival school of Springfield University, conferred upon him by A&M's mascot Sir Oinks-A-Lot. When Homer's prank of kidnapping Sir Oinks-A-Lot goes awry, Homer's nerd classmates get expelled at Nixon's behest.
- In The Venture Bros., military-themed supervillain Sgt. Hatred had a framed picture of Nixon above his fireplace in the episode Home is Where the Hate is. This is the same show that has an affectionate parody/Expy of Hunter S. Thompson who, as noted above, hated Nixon, so having him be the hero to a supervillain is likely a big Take That.
- What A Cartoon! Show: In "Gramps", an old man is telling his grandkids about how he once saved the world from an alien invasion. According to his flashback, the President was a beautiful woman who asked him to save the world. When one of the grandkids points out that America never had a female President, she turns into Nixon.
- In one episode of Yogi's Treasure Hunt, Hanna-Barbera villain Dick Dastardly announced his full name as Richard Milhous Dastardly, further cementing him as a "Tricky Dick".
- Nixon's disembodied head features frequently in Futurama. He became the president of Earth on his first major appearance and stayed there ever since, along with Vice President Agnew... a body with no head.
Nixon's Head: Listen here, Missy. Computers may be twice as fast as they were in 1973, but the average voter is as drunk and stupid as ever. The only one who's changed is me. I've become more bitter and, let's face it, crazy over the years. And when I'm swept into office, I'll sell our children's organs to zoos for meat, and I'll go into people's houses at night and wreck up the place!
- He also makes his debut appearance in the pilot episode with biting newcomer to the millennium Philip J. Fly.