Washington elite forget the past to honour Nixon

Bijan Kian's eyes narrowed. This was not the time to talk about Watergate. We were standing in the street near the rose garden where Richard Nixon had been buried moments before, ending one of the most turbulent careers in modern political history. 'You must look at his entire life,' he added.

This message, above all, had been the theme of the funeral for the former president, as the United States wrestled with its profound confusion over whether he should be remembered as a villian or a hero. Mr Kian, like the hundreds of other loyal Californian Republicans who went to honour him, knew which version he favoured. 'He was a great man. He understood foreign policy better that any president has ever done in this country. This is not the time to criticise.'

The occasion was the final chapter in Mr Nixon's 20-year quest for rehabilitation after resigning in disgrace. At last, in his death, he seemed to have won. Earlier, more than 40,000 people had trooped past his coffin as it lay in state in his presidential library. At his funeral, Washington's elite set aside the terrible events that marred his career and buried him with full honours.

The ceremony was played out before the four remaining former presidents - Messrs Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush - and Bill Clinton, who as an Oxford student demonstrated against Mr Nixon's policy in Vietnam and whose wife, Hillary, worked for the legal team that tried to impeach him. This might have smacked of hypocrisy, but for the sense that the Clintons' own experience with the Whitewater affair had bought them closer to the man.

'He made mistakes,' Mr Clinton told the 4,000 guests. 'They, like his accomplishments, are part of his life and record. But the enduring lesson of Richard Nixon is that he never gave up.' Throughout, the lies and subterfuge that produced Watergate were never specifically mentioned; the diplomatic break- throughs with China and the Soviet Union, his election victories, and his domestic policy achievements, were - at length.

The 81-year-old Nixon decided against a state funeral in Washington DC, and chose instead the grounds of his presidential library in Yorba Linda, the small Quaker town south of Los Angeles where he was born. Anxious about his place in history to the very end, the location allowed him to cast himself in the role which he coveted most. Gone was the heavy-jowled, manipulative street-fighter, the brooding paranoid who kept a list of his enemies. Onto the stage sprang the small-town Californian grocer's son who lived the American Dream by rising from humble roots to dominate the world arena.

Behind the dias stood the tiny clapboard house which his father bought for dollars 800 ( pounds 550) from a mail order catalogue and assembled on the site of a failed citrus orchard. In front, sat some of Washington's most seasoned political figures from two decades, many of whom well knew how perilous the pursuit of that dream could be, and bore their own scars of scandal.

By far the most surprising of these was the former vice-president Spiro Agnew, who never again spoke to Mr Nixon after the day in 1973 when he was forced to resign, pleading no contest to a charge of tax evasion. Mr Agnew told reporters: 'It is time to put aside 20 years of resentment . . . he was the greatest statesman of our time.'

Amid the foreign dignitaries (including Sir Edward Heath), political stalwarts and family friends, sat G Gordon Liddy, the Watergate burglar. Behind Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi arms dealer, sat Rosemary Woods, the former president's personal secretary blamed for the mysterious 18-and-a-half minute gap in the Watergate tapes.

Not all were former friends and cronies. Guests also included George McGovern, whom Nixon beat in a landslide victory in 1972 after a bruising and dirty campaign, and Elliot Richardson, the attorney-general who resigned in the 'Saturday Night Massacre' which preceded Nixon's fall.

But the sombre mood appeared to be genuine enough. 'A great man has fallen,' said the Reverend Billy Graham, a friend of Nixon's who presided over the ceremony. The fact that many Americans believe this to be true was never more strongly felt than when Bob Dole, the Senate Republican leader and one of Washington's toughest political hides, took the stage. As he finished his speech and stood down, he was weeping uncontrollably.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
News
Ethical matters: pupils during a philosophy lesson
educationTaunton School's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Sport
video
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal