"The reappearance of Richard M. Nixon on the forefront of the stage of national politics recalls the ancient Egyptian myth of the Phoenix. This fabulous bird was born to be periodically consumed in fire by its own act, but each time to rise again, young and vigorous, from its own ashes. Considering the virtually unanimous judgment of the soothsayers, after Nixon's defeat for Governor in 1962, that the Republican Presidential candidate of 1960 was finished as a national political leader, the fact that he is now playing a successful return engagement in this very role shows that resurrection is not necessarily a miracle reserved for theology alone."
-Arthur Krock, New York Times, 1964
"He will rest for a while now, then come back to haunt us again. His mushwit son-in-law, David Eisenhower, is urging him to run for the U.S. Senate from California in 1976, and Richard Nixon is shameless enough to do it. Or if not the Senate, he will turn up somewhere else. The only thing we can be absolutely sure of, at this point in time, is that we are going to have Richard Milhous Nixon to kick around for at least a little while longer."
-Hunter S. Thompson, October 10, 1974Richard Nixon, in 1974, had been driven from the White House in disgrace. Thoroughly discredited, he had no public support, very little money, and few remaining staff members that had not either abandoned him or gone to jail. Haldeman, Erlichmann, Dean, Mitchell, Liddy, and Colson had all either fallen in Watergate's wake already, or would to do so in the months to come. The 1973 recession continued to grind on, inflation and unemployment rising in tandem. Nixon seemed poised to go down as among the worst Presidents in American history, with nothing but broken hopes and shattered dreams left behind him. He had poisioned the entire GOP, judging by Ford's approval rating and the Republican performance in the 1974 midterms. By all accounts, he was a broken man.
Nixon's Seventh Crisis had been his doom.
But Nixon had never been one to go down easily. In 1952, he had held on to the Vice Presidential nomination by the skin of his teeth. After losing the 1960 election to Kennedy and the 1962 Gubernatorial election to Brown, he had conceded final defeat and rode off into the sunset, only to claw his way back into politics and seize the presidency. If anyone could resuscitate their public image following Watergate, it was Nixon.
In September, he accepted a pardon from President Ford, but refused to admit any wrongdoing. He remained locked in conflict with the federal government over the possession of the fabled White House Tapes. He remained out of the public eye for some time, and spent most of his time working on his memoirs. He resurfaced in early 1977 for a series of interviews with British journalist David Frost. The interviews appeared in five parts on CBS's 60 Minutes program, and were the most watched political interview in American history. However, due to a number of factors, including Nixon's health and the ongoing dispute over possession of the tapes, Frost lacked the time and resources to properly evaluate specific minutiae of the Watergate scandal. Frost would later write in his own memoirs that if he could do the interview over again, he would have pressed Nixon harder on several areas, including the details of a conversation he had with Charles Colson that was not public knowledge prior to the interview.
Nixon remained unpopular after the Frost interviews, but they did improve his image somewhat. A Gallup poll found that 50 percent of the public believed that Nixon was still trying to cover up, while 60 percent believed he had obstructed justice and 34 percent believed he had been treated unfairly. A poll in the summer of 1977 found that 40 percent believed Nixon should have served out the remainder of his term. The continued poor economic performance under Carter retroactively improved many people's impression of Nixon's economy. In addition to his memoirs, Nixon published a book, titled Real Peace, as well as numerous editorials for various newspapers outlining his views on current events and the Whitehouse's policies. By 1978 he had emerged as a well-known, if not entirely well-liked, critic of the Carter Administration.
But Nixon's ambition could not be sated as a mere pundit. As the sun set on the 1970s, Nixon's unquenchable thirst would turn towards Democratic Senator Alan Cranston of California. Nixon's career was far from over.