Harvey and I were breaking out the Doritos when there was a knock on the door.
It was Richard Nixon and a guy with a serious 5 o’clock shadow.
“Do come in!” I said. “Harvey, hop over to the fridge and get our guests a couple of restoratives.”
Harvey is a 6-foot-3½-inch-tall rabbit who used to hang out at the Rocky Mountain News with Molly Mayfield, Gene Amole and Amole’s Idea Fairy. But then Molly and Gene met the Final Deadline and the paper folded, and one day Harvey and iFairy showed up at my place and announced they were moving in.
“Why me?” I asked.
“We newsroom apparitions have to stick together,” iFairy said sweetly, perching on the top of my computer screen.
But we digress.
Back to Nixon.
“What brings you up from Purgatory on this fine spring day?” I asked. “I thought you hated sunshine.”
“I do, but I had some personal business I had to take care of.”
“What sort of personal business?” I asked.
Just then Harvey hopped in with a tray of beers. Nixon grabbed a bottle and took a long pull on it.
“I’ve decided to change my voter registration from Republican to Democrat,” he said, avoiding eye contact.
“Why on earth do you need to change your party affiliation?” iFairy exclaimed. “You’re dead, for God’s sake!” “That’s never stopped anyone from registering as a Democrat,” he replied a little defensively. “I had a long talk with Dick Daley about this very point.”
“But why do you, of all people, want to join the Democratic Party, of all parties?” I asked. “For one thing, you spent your entire political career deliberately mispronouncing its name. You called it the ‘Democrat Party,’ even though all it did was piss off Democrats and make you sound constipated. Now you’re telling me you want to be one?” “Times change,” he said. “Anyway, I have a lot in common with the Democrats and Obama.”
“Come on, man,” I scoffed. “You and the Democrats couldn’t be more different. For one thing, the Democratic Party is fully of environmentalists and…”
“…and I created the Environmental Protection Agency, and signed both the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, which introduced environment impact statements into national life,” he said. “I also supported the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is why America is well on the way to becoming the first country in history where everyone wears a helmet.”
“But you vetoed the Clean Water Act of 1972,” I finished weakly.
“It was a great idea, but I thought it cost way too much,” he shot back. “We were fighting inflation at the time. Anyway, Congress overrode the veto.
“And speaking of inflation,” he went on, “I imposed wage and price controls to fight it. The Democrats in Congress came up with the idea and gave me the power to do it — and to their amazement I did it in 1971.”
“OK, but what about civil rights?” I asked.
“What about them?” he snapped.
“My administration implemented the Philadelphia Plan in 1970, the first federal affirmative action plan. Kennedy and Johnson talked a lot about school integration, but it was on my watch that desegregation actually started to happen on a meaningful scale.
“And, by the way, I supported the Equal Rights Amendment starting in 1968.”
“My hero,” iFairy said, planting a kiss on his cheek. “For a political monster, you’re really sweet. And progressive.”
“And let’s not forget foreign policy,” he went on. “I normalized relations with China and negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Brezhnev and started winding down the Cold War. All of which came straight out of the Democratic playbook.”
He paused and got thoughtful. “The truth is I put as much liberal legislation on the books as Obama has. So why shouldn’t I be a Democrat?” “But what about Watergate?” I said.
“How can you show your face in the Democratic Party after that?” “Up until recently, that was a problem area,” he said. “But lately Democrats have started to play by Watergate rules.”
“You mean the IRS thing?” I said.
He nodded. “Exactly.
“I was doing the same thing — using the IRS to investigate hostile political organizations and deny them tax-exempt status — back in 1969,” he said. “It was a great way to stick it to my enemies, too, until a federal judge shot it down at the end of 1973.
“Democrats used to get all holy about this sort of stuff — using the IRS to screw people was one of their articles of impeachment against me — but now that the IRS is trying to do the same thing to the Tea Party, I see there are no real differences remaining between me and Obama. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he keeps an enemies list like I used to.”
He emptied his bottle. “Anyway, I gotta run,” he said.
“Nice to see you,” I said. “By the way, who’s your pal?”
“That’s Tail-Gunner Joe,” he said. “He’s decided to change his voter registration too.”
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