Once again, this country has the opportunity to recapture the glory that was America by reelecting Richard M. Nixon to the White House in 1980. An early announcement is necessary. Nixon must move now. Let us examine the prospect of a Nixon candidacy for 1980.
The most obvious phenomenon of the 1976 election year was the public's lack of exuberance for any candidate. Sure, there was varied support for different potential nominees, but none of the unbridled enthusiasm we had seen in past years. Perhaps the Vietnam and Watergate experiences had so eroded blind faith and authority that we would never again have the masses looking for messiahs. Some called this resignation or cynicism; we saw it as a new sophistication, the inability of would be demigods to mystify and hypnotize the masses. We have today, we believe, a public that demands substance in presidential candidates. No longer is style sufficient in the New America to sustain mass arousal.
Denuded of all pretense of false imagery, we have now a straightforward, no-need-to-pretend New Nixon. He is what New America needs to close out the Sophisticated Seventies and adumbrate a new frontier for the 1980s. There will be denunciations of this proposal, and we would like to address these while showing that, in fact, the areas of objection are erroneous and in some cases even point to additional support for Richard Nixon. The areas we will address concern arguments of constitutionalism, Watergate and competence.
The nattering nabobs of negativism will carp about Nixon's eligibility to run according to the Constitution. Let us look at the legal status of that objection. The 22nd Amendment of the Constitution states: "No person shall be elected to office of the president more than twice, and no person who has held the office of president, or acted as president, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected president, shall be elected to the office of president more than once."
It is necessary to look to the underlying purpose of this amendment in order to understand why the former president is eligible to run in 1980. Surely the amendment was not designed merely to regulate the number of campaigns and elections an individual is permitted to be involved in; rather, its purpose was to limit to a total of eight years the length of time any one person could sit in the Oval Office. Since Nixon served as president for less than 5 2/3 years of his constitutionally allotted eight years, he has more than 2 1/3 years of eligibility remaining under the 22nd Amendment.
By permitting Nixon to be elected in 1980, we will, of course, have to allow him to exceed slightly his eight-year limit. However, in keeping with our Constitution, we should permit Nixon an additional 2 1/3 years in office rather than deprive the nation of his experience and wisdom for the more than 2 1/3 years he has coming to him under the 22nd Amendment.
Furthermore, former president Gerald Ford is barred by the 22nd Amendment from seeking two more terms. So if the time Ford spent in the remaining years of the Nixon administration is sufficient to preclude him from running for two more terms, one would have to assume the time Nixon served in his second term would be insufficient to preclude him from running for another term. As a matter of constitutional interpretation, the amendment must be read as making someone eligible to serve the time remaining in the tragically aborted second term of President Nixon.
Second is Watergate. As a great democracy, we faced Watergate while Nixon was in office and, similarly, we should not run away from it in 1980, even though it will be eight years after the fact. Sure, it would be politically easy to support a candidate who was totally uninvolved or even outside Washington during our great scandal -- as we did with Jimmy Carter. It would show that we were nervous Nellies and America is a pitiful helpless giant unable to confront its own internal crisis. Nixon himself would rather be a one-term president than to have this, the world's greatest scandal, swept under the rug. What, then, you might ask, is the relevance of Watergate to the 1980 election?
The president we elect in 1980 must be totally free of the taint of the Watergate scandal. He must be free also of all potential legal entanglements growing out of the break-in and cover-up. Only former president Nixon, who received a pardon from this country's highest official (who must still answer for that) can be seen as possessing such a clean bill of legal health. Only a man who is so plainly involved yet permanently divorced from Watergate merits the trust of a skeptical and hardened electorate in future election years.
The voters in 1980 will still be trying to put Watergate and the issue of government lawlessness behind them. To achieve this, they must find a candidate who will not be accused or indicted based on future revelations about the Nixon years. Only in Richard M. Nixon do we find a man totally legally insulated from the official lawlessness of the period 1968-1974, yet sufficiently familiar with it to guarantee that it will never happen again.
Finally, there is the most crucial argument of executive leadership and competence. Nixon is our most able politician in foreign affairs, as even most of his critics will acknowledge. It is just coincidence that since he left office, European communistic parties have gained strength? No, it is not: only Richard M. Nixon can resurrect this country's stature around the world. Only he could have made that successful Chinese trip where only 2 1/2 months earlier President Ford had failed and President Carter has since feared to tread. Nixon is, in fact, the only man inside or outside the administration who knows the difference between Hua Kuo-feng and Deng Xiaoping.
Nixon is the one man who can respond to the "new Cold War" because of this vast experience of the old one. As events in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the entire region begin to unfold, we believe that the next president will have to demonstrate a tough posture toward the Soviet Union. Richard Nixon can do that best.
Nixon realized there are those who would say it was he who embraced detente as well as embracing Brezhnev himself. Indeed, some of his closest aides have warned him that this could be used against him in the presidential campaign. Therefore, it would be politically easy for Nixon to avoid this issue by not running. But that would be the cowardly thing to do. Nixon should argue that, just as his experience with corruption would help him avoid it in the future, his experience in misperceiving detente will help him avoid doing that again in the future.
Yes, experience counts. In 1980 Richard Nixon will be the only man in America with more presidential experience than Jimmy Carter. We will need him then more than ever. And for the Republican Party, perennially without leadership and charisma, Nixon is the One, constitutionally able and always willing to serve his country.