“When the President does it, that means it’s not illegal. If the President approves something because of a threat to internal peace and order, of significant magnitude, then the President’s decision, in that instance…enables those who carry [the President’s order] out to carry it out to do so without violating the law” – Richard M. Nixon
During all of the Vietnam protests, President Nixon became convinced that there was a foreign power/country/enterprise directing these American kids, so he wanted to find out who and how these directives were getting done. He signed an Executive Order that allowed the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans in the hopes of finding that foreign element that funded subversive groups that were planning protests and other crazy things. The FBI could tap more phones, open mail, and break into homes and offices w/o warrants. These powers were later curtailed by Congress in the mid 70s, but then expanded again recently in the name of securing the nation from another terrorist attack called the Patriot Act.
“Did Erlichmann inform me that these two men were going to California? He may well have. And if he had, I would have said, ‘Go right ahead’” – Nixon, in reference to Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt going to California to break into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office.
The movie takes some liberties with the truth in order to make it more dramatic – Nixon’s drunk dialing Frost the night before the final interview and Frost being inspired to meet Nixon’s challenge; the tough portrayal of Jack Brennan; he knew and had been dating Carol Cushing for five years before the interviews; why does there have to be a winner in the interviews? Did all of the flaws of the first three interviews get forgotten after the triumphant 4th interview? Was Nixon really that funny or likeable despite many reports to the contrary? Also, the script changed Nixon’s line near the end – see the difference:
“Then, through a sleight of hand, the script simply changes what Nixon actually said: the script of the play has Nixon admitting that he “…was involved in a ‘cover-up,’ as you call it.” The ellipsis is of course unknown to the audience, and is crucial: What Nixon actually said was, “You’re wanting to me to say that I participated in an illegal cover-up. No!”So, give me your comments on Nixon’s statements. (choose both questions).
1. Would you approve the idea that the president can do just about anything in the defense of the United States during a time of war? Why or why not? Do you agree with Nixon’s reasoning? Why or why not?
2. Do you think the Frost / Nixon filmmaker’s intent was to create sympathy for former President Nixon? Why or why not? Do you think that you might feel sympathy for Nixon despite not having lived through Watergate, whereas an older audience member might be angry with the portrayal?
Answers due Thursday, May 16 by class period.
Total word count for both answers should be a minimum of 300 words.