Nixonland Nitpick 7
In 1969, says Nixonland, the new president “was sworn in by Justice Black” (p. 357). No, it was Chief Justice Earl Warren. The book thus misses a delicious irony. Nixon and Warren had been at odds since their days in California politics. In 1968, Warren had sought to retire early so that Johnson, not Nixon, would name his successor. (Abe Fortas’s ethical problems blocked that move). And Nixon had campaigned against the Warren Court’s decisions on criminal law.
Explaining that “Nixon didn’t like senators or congressmen,” the book says of 1969: “A new president’s first-year State of the Union address was where he traditionally unveiled his legislative program; Nixon did not even give a State of the Union” (p. 388). It is true that Nixon did not give the 1969 State of the Union address. Lyndon Johnson did. Nixon had no obligation to deliver one of his own. He could have done so, but on February 14, the New York Times reported White House concern that Nixon was not yet prepared to offer a detailed agenda.
A few weeks earlier, Nixon had visited the floor of the House of Representatives for informal handshaking and conversation. No president had done that in the previous 20 years. Nixon may have privately harbored ill will toward the lawmakers, and he would surely have titanic fights with them in the years ahead. But in early 1969, he was making nice with Congress.