‘I am not a crook’

The first time I voted in a U.S. presidential election was in 1972, and I cast my ballot for Richard Milhous Nixon.
It was for his second term, and I guess I thought he was doing a pretty good job. I had grown up in a very much Republican family, and just before the election Nixon made good on his promise to get us out of Vietnam.
As I was approaching adulthood, I lucked out on a number of age issues. My birthday is on Nov. 10 (no cards or gifts, please) and when I was a senior in high school I could buy beer (3.2 beer, anyway) on that date. The higher education draft deferment ended for the class after me, and Nixon ended the war and then the draft before I finished college.
Perhaps I voted for Nixon because in 1971 he signed the 26th Amendment to the Constitution which allowed 18 year olds to vote. Otherwise I would have missed the opportunity to vote for him by three days.
Nixon had an unexpected impact on my career, too. I had already decided to major in journalism, and had transferred from Defiance College to the University of Toledo to do this. Then this Watergate break-in scandal and Woodward and Bernstein made journalism a hot career choice, and therefore even more difficult to find a job in the field. But, then, I can’t remember a time, ever, when it was easy finding a job in journalism. Or in any other field, for that matter.
When I first heard about the Watergate break-in, I lined up right along with my fellow Republicans. I couldn’t believe that Nixon knew anything about it, if, in fact, it actually did happen. Then, and now, I couldn’t believe that Nixon or his people would be stupid enough to do such a thing, especially since there was almost no way the Democrats could possibly have won that election.
Then after it was clear that the Republicans really did break into the Democratic headquarters, I couldn’t believe that Nixon had anything to do with it or even knew about it. He would never be that stupid.
But, since then many people have pointed out to me that arrogance can make really smart people do stupid things.
And, do you remember that this is about the time the term “above the law” was coined?
A few years ago there was a marvelous min-series on television focusing on John Adams. One thing I took away from it, maybe the main thing, is his idea to build a nation of laws, not a nation of people. No matter who you are, you must abide by the law. We don’t have royalty who can make up the laws as they go or disregard them.
Yes, it took the very-conservative part of Ohio where I grew up a long time to see that their beloved president Nixon had, indeed, broken the law and was a bit of a scoundrel.
Most of them believe this — but I am sure there are some who still don’t.
These days I am guessing the small-town Ohio coffee shop people are not believing that their beloved Buckeye football coach, Jim Tressel, broke any rules. It must be a left-wing, or maybe a Michigan-led conspiracy. If rules were broken, they must have been broken by Tressel’s G. Gordon Liddies, Jeb Magruders or John Deans. Surely our “sweater vest” must not have known or done anything wrong. And the nerve of those Michigan people? Have you seen that just plain mean billboard near Ann Arbor? The one that says, “Liar, Liar Vest on Fire.”
“Say it ain’t so, Jim,” borrowing that line that a fan supposedly said to Shoeless Joe Jackson when he and other members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox were caught participated in a conspiracy to fix the World Series.
From what I’ve read so far, Tressel seems to share the “arrogance” and “above the law” traits with our impeached president. And do you remember the words “I am not a crook.”
I’d recommend that Jim Tressell and Richard Nixon, wherever they are, take a couple hours to watch the John Adams mini-series. And pay special attention to the part where he talks about creating a nation of laws. Laws and rules that apply to everyone, no matter who you are.

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Posted by Dave Yarnell

Dave was formerly the News Advocate features writer and retired in November 2013.

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