Monday, October 12, 2009

Bad Days in American History: October 10, 1973

I had this written to post on Saturday, but I have been at a conference in Denver that I assure you included no drinking of delicious Colorado beers, and I didn't have time to post this.

On October 10, 1973, Spiro Agnew, Vice-President of Richard Nixon, resigned in disgrace under investigation for a variety of crimes, including tax evasion, extortion, bribery, and conspiracy.

Of course, Agnew had always been a class act. The only reason he was on the presidential ticket in the first place was his first-rate race baiting, under the euphemism of law and order. He was the perfect compliment to Nixon's Southern Strategy and politics of white resentment. He served his four plus years as Nixon's attack dog. Not that Nixon wasn't good at that himself. But Agnew had a great way of hurling insults, insulting hippies and black people, and becoming a hero of the rising conservative movement.

Agnew would have been a tremendously successful politician in the modern conservative movement. Almost totally without scruples except for self-promotion, Agnew almost reads as a precursor for Sarah Palin. Both had meteoric rises to nomination in a position for which they were completely unqualified to serve. Both rose politics of resentment to the top. Both relished personally attacking their opponents. Both had absolutely no clue about foreign policy, much to the worry of the top of the ticket. Both did not get along with the presidential candidate. While we don't know much about Palin's opinions of Jews, Agnew was a virulent anti-Semite. And both were corrupt to the core.

After Agnew's disgraceful resignation, he wrote a memoir published in 1980. In it, he claimed that Nixon and Al Haig planned to assassinate him if he refused to resign from the vice-presidency. While one hardly wants to put anything past Nixon or Haig, in this case, those guys seem pretty above board. Compared to Spiro Agnew, anyone sounds good!

Like a lot of bad things, it was tinged with good. Maybe it was a good day when Agnew resigned. Because I sure would rather have had Gerald Ford take over the Oval Office upon Nixon's resignation than Agnew.