When Nixon became president, all of the other presidents died.
First there was Dwight Eisenhower—liberator of France, the hero of WWII, Great America’s godfather. He had a heart attack while standing naked in the mirror. He refused aid as he tried to dress himself. Unable to fasten the medals to his uniform, he died before he could leave the house.
Then there was Harry Truman. The plainspoken haberdasher from Missouri, who dropped the atom bomb on two paper cities—but never lost a night of sleep. He was a little man with a small mind. And when he died, he died a small death. It was Christmas Day. A rattling gasp took Harry by surprise. A flash lit up in his pupils and he was gone. “Give ‘em Hell, Harry!” the nation cried and Truman was laid in the ground. His eyes—for the first time—wide open.
Lyndon Baines Johnson died of a broken heart. Nixon had promised to keep together LBJ’s Great Society—civil rights and voting rights and medicare—as long as Johnson didn’t try any funny stuff during the ‘68 election. Like stop the Vietnam War. Both men crossed their fingers and shook each other’s hands:
“Forget the war, Dick. You’ve gotta save the village!”
“…I know, Lyndon, I know…”
“My legacy, Dick—it’s all I’ve got, you cocksucking sonofabitch…!”
“…Of course, Lyndon, of course…”
“That and Jumbo—my big dumb cock. Jumbo’s heavier than a wet mongoose!”
“…I believe you, Lyndon,” promised Dick, “I believe you…”
When Nixon came to Washington, Lyndon rode out to Texas on a spent horse. He bought a ranch, a gun, and a microwave. He paid off his biographers and cashed in on all of the unpaid favors from his years in Congress. He started drinking again and smoking again and grew his hair out long. He tried LSD and moved to Haight Street. He watched the war drag on in horror—‘70, ‘71, ‘72, ‘73—but never visited a single soldier’s grave. Baines took Death as a lover—it was personal. It was vindictive. Almost brave. And so it came to pass, LBJ died alone with his dick in his hand. Jumbo.
Great America had died—and Nixon was the last president alive.
Nixon was a sick bastard.
Colder than Ike. Less self-assured than Truman. More paranoid and imperial than LBJ. He was sneakier too. He learned to be sneaky as a boy when he and his brothers would have to mount the stairs past their father in the adjacent bedroom who, prone to drunken rages, often slept until noon unless disturbed. For this reason, young Dick developed a formidable femininity to his step. Even in his older age—and with the White House being nearly two-hundred years old—the floor never creaked when Nixon roamed the west wing late into the night. He would glide—able to walk a pace behind anyone and not give away his position. He evaded the Secret Service, wandering the streets ‘til dawn, looking for strangers with whom he’d gossip and wax poetic. His favorites were those who could not recognize him. He would ask them:
“What would you do about the war? What would you do about communism? What would you do about China and that commie rat Ellsberg? What about the Fondas? Whose side are you on—Julius Caesar or the Roman Republic? What would you have done had Caesar crossed the Rubicon one day later? Would you have fought alongside Cato? Do you believe in God? Do you use no. 2 pencils? What’s your favorite brand of pen? Are you a San Francisco fairy? Do you know one? What do you think of our President, Richard Milhous Nixon?” but no answer would satisfy him.
Arguing with the ghosts of his predecessors made him feel superior. For they could only watch helplessly from their portraits as he undid—or threatened to undo—each of their legacies, executive order by executive order. Everbitter. Ever petulant. Still smoldering from Kennedy’s upset victory over him in the ‘60 general, cursing himself, cursing his friends, muttering into the darkness:
“Goddamn sonofabitch Mick Kennedy—how many presidencies did Daddy Joe steal for you? Just one, rich boy? Two, Jack. I won two, you taig motherfucker…you creeping jesus—I’m your Judas, you Mick bastard…” drinking himself deeper and deeper into oblivion—as the war wore on, as the leaks sprang out, as his plumbers got caught and confessed one by one.
Nixon spent his last four months contemplating suicide, finishing off the white house reserve of Château Rothschild ‘45, and watching George C. Scott’s opening speech from “Patton” on repeat. He never once considered turning a new leaf or starting over. Because when Nixon became President, he became the last President. Alone in the world. With no one to share his burden, his weakness, his pain. Somewhere along the way he lost control. On August 9, 1974, the President resigned in disgrace after months of denying any involvement in Watergate. That’s the day Richard Nixon, the man, died. Though he outlived his presidency by twenty years, Richard never left the white house. His soul remains to this day, gliding the halls without a sound, trapped between portraits, trembling with awe and wonder and rage—
“…you don’t have tricky Dick to kick around anymore…”
Written by Pancho Morris with artwork by Nicole Monk
Inspired by: “There are 6 living presidents in America. This is the first time this has happened in nearly 150 years.”