Freitag, 8. August 2014

Richard Nixon

Heute vor vierzig Jahren ist der amerikanische Präsident Richard Milhouse Nixon zurückgetreten. Er war der erste Präsident, der so aus dem Amt schied. Ganz freiwillig war der Rücktritt nicht, Nixon kam nur einer Amtsenthebung zuvor. Das hatte es in der amerikanischen Geschichte noch nicht gegeben. Zwei Jahre vor seinem Rücktritt hatte er Johnny Cash in das Weiße Haus eingeladen. Johnny, would you be willing to play a few songs for us? hat er gesagt. Und hinzugefügt: I like Merle Haggard’s 'Okie From Muskogee' and Guy Drake’s 'Welfare Cadillac. Das ist eine ziemliche Frechheit von Nixon gewesen. Man weiß ja nicht so genau, ob Okie From Muskogee vielleicht doch satirisch gemeint war, aber ➱Welfare Cadillac ist eine Attacke auf jene, die von der Wohlfahrt leben. Der Man in Black hat nur geantwortet: I don’t know those songs. But I got a few of my own I can play for you. Und hat ➱What Is Truth? gesungen. Nixon soll sehr säuerlich zugehört haben. Die Songs, die Johnny Cash an dem Tag gesungen hat, haben ihm bestimmt nicht gefallen. Es waren neben What Is Truth? noch Ira Hays und ➱Man in Black

Merle Haggard ist ein Jahr später im Weißen Haus gewesen, er war von Nixon begeistert: The intelligence of Nixon was impressive. He was able to carry on a conversation with me and introduce me to about three other dignitaries and their wives, and tell me what their kids names were. He knew all that. And at the same time, tell me a story about how he was in college when I was in prison, and host the whole evening with all these pots on fire. Ja, er hat viele Gesichter, es ist kein Zufall, dass man ihn Tricky Dick nennt. Wenn Nixon nun noch ➱Klavier gespielt hätte, als Haggard ➱Okie From Muskogee sang, das wäre schön gewesen.

Es ist das Verdienst von Philip Roth, dass er Richard Nixon (als Trick E. Dixon) in die amerikanische Literatur geschrieben hat. Nixon hat den Roman Our Gang nicht gelesen, aber seine ➱Mitarbeiter mussten ihm alles darüber erzählen. Nixons Urteil über Roth (den er hasste, weil der ein Jude war) war sehr einfach: Roth is a bad man.... He’s a horrible moral leper. Nixon ist ein Mann der einfachen Wahrheiten. Philip Roth hat aber das letzte Wort behalten. In I Married a Communist hat er die Beerdigung von Nixon (bei der Clinton die Totenrede hielt) hineingeschrieben:

The whole funeral of our thirty-seventh president was barely endurable. The Marine Band and Chorus performing all the songs designed to shut down people’s thinking and produce a trance state: ‘Hail to the Chief’, ‘America’, ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’, ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’, and, to be sure, that most rousing of all those drugs that make everybody momentarily forget everything, the national narcotic, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. Nothing like the elevating remarks of Billy Graham, a flag-draped casket, and a team of interracial pallbearing servicemen – and the whole thing topped off by ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, followed hard on by a twenty-one gun salute and ‘Taps’ – to induce catatonia in the multitude.

Then the realists take command, the connoisseurs of deal making and deal breaking, masters of the most shameless ways of undoing an opponent, those for whom moral concerns must always come last, uttering all the well-known, sham-ridden cant about everything but the dead man’s real passions. Clinton exalting Nixon for his ‘remarkable journey’ and, under the spell of his own sincerity, expressing hushed gratitude for all the ‘wise counsel’ Nixon had given him. Governor Pete Wilson assuring everyone that when most people think of Richard Nixon, they think of his ‘towering intellect’. Dole and his flood of lachrymose clichés. ‘Doctor’ Kissinger, high-minded, profound, speaking in his most puffed-up unegoistical mode – and with all the cold authority of that voice dipped in sludge – quotes no less a tribute than Hamlet’s for his murdered father to describe ‘our gallant friend’. ‘He was a man, take him for all and all, I shall not look upon his like again.’ Literature is not a primary reality but a kind of expensive upholstery to a sage himself so plumply upholstered, and so he has no idea of the equivocating context in which Hamlet speaks of the unequalled king. But then who, sitting there under tremendous pressure of sustaining a straight face while watching the enactment of the Final Cover-up, is going to catch the court Jew in a cultural gaffe when he invokes an inappropriate masterpiece? Who is there to advise him that it’s not Hamlet on his father he ought to be quoting but Hamlet on his uncle, Claudius, Hamlet on the conduct of the new king, his father’s usurping murderer? Who there at Yorda Linda dares to call out, ‘Hey, Doctor – quote this: ‘Foul deeds will rise / Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes’?

Who? Gerald Ford? Gerald Ford. I don’t ever remember seeing Gerald Ford looking so focused before, so charged with intelligence as he clearly was on that hallowed ground. Ronald Reagan snapping the uniformed honour guard his famous salute, that salute of his that was always half meshugeh. Bob Hope seated next to James Baker. The Iran-Contra arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi seated next to Donald Nixon. The burglar G. Gordon Liddy there with his arrogant shaved head. The most disgraced of vice presidents, Spiro Agnew, there with his conscienceless Mob face. The most winning of vice presidents, sparkly Dan Quayle, looking as lucid as a button. The heroic effort made by that poor fellow: always staging intelligence and always failing. All of them mourning platitudinously together in the California sunshine and the lovely breeze: the indicted and the unindicted, the convicted and unconvicted, and his towering intellect at last at rest in a star-spangled coffin, no longer grappling and questing for no-holds-barred power…

Am Beginn seiner politischen Karriere saß Nixon in einem der gefürchteten ➱Komitees, die überall die rote Gefahr witterten. Dann kam 1952 der erste Skandal. Tricky Dick zog seinen Kopf aus der Schlinge und erzählte etwas von seinem kleinen Hund namens Checkers (sie können die Rede ➱hier sehen). Seine Rede begann mit den Sätzen: My Fellow Americans, I come before you tonight as a candidate for the Vice-presidency and as a man whose honesty and integrity has been questioned. Now, the usual political thing to do when charges are made against you is to either ignore them or to deny them without giving details. I believe we have had enough of that in the United States, particularly with the present administration in Washington D.C. To me, the office of the Vice-presidency of the United States is a great office, and I feel that the people have got to have confidence in the integrity of the men who run for that office and who might attain them.

Die Substantive honesty und integrity sind ja nun zwei Wörter, die man nicht unbedingt mit Nixon verbindet. Mit der Checkers Rede beginnt das öffentliche Lügen vor der Fernsehkamera. Man sollte mal die Top Ten der TV Lügen zusammenstellen. Nixon wäre immer dabei. Aber auch ➱Ulbricht (Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten) und Barschel (gebe ich den Bürgerinnen und Bürgern des Landes Schleswig-Holsteins und der gesamten deutschen Öffentlichkeit mein Ehrenwort, ich wiederhole: mein Ehrenwort). Und den Baron von und zu ➱Guttenberg wollen wir doch nicht vergessen: Meine von mir verfasste Dissertation ist kein Plagiat, und den Vorwurf weise ich mit allem Nachdruck von mir.

Tricky Dick scheidet nicht still und leise aus dem Amt, er hält natürlich noch eine RedeWhen I first took the oath of office as President five and a half years ago, I made this sacred commitment, to "consecrate my office, my energies, and all the wisdom I can summon to the cause of peace among nations." I have done my very best in all the days since to be true to that pledge. As a result of these efforts, I am confident that the world is a safer place today, not only for the people of America but for the people of all nations, and that all of our children have a better chance than before of living in peace rather than dying in war. This, more than anything, is what I hoped to achieve when I sought the Presidency. This, more than anything, is what I hope will be my legacy to you, to our country, as I leave the Presidency. To have served in this office is to have felt a very personal sense of kinship with each and every American. In leaving it, I do so with this prayer: May God's grace be with you in all the days ahead.

Den Gründungsvätern Amerikas ging das Wort God nicht so leicht von den Lippen wie Richard Nixon. Washington sprach in seiner Antrittsrede von that Almighty Being, Adams nannte das numinose Wesen His providence, und Jefferson redete von that Being in whose hands we are. Die Inflation des Gottesbegriffes in der Rhetorik der Präsidenten hatte noch nicht stattgefunden. Wie sagte George Bush, der Gott häufiger zitierte als alle anderen amerikanischen Präsidenten, nach dem 11. September: Fellow citizens, we’ll meet violence with patient justice, assured of the rightness of our cause and confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.

May God's grace be with you in all the days ahead - may God grant us wisdom, sind diese frommen Wünsche je erhört worden?

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