'A Fundamental Dignity to the Man': Morning Joe's Sudden Respect For Richard Nixon

April 1st, 2022 4:05 PM

People too young to remember the Nixon era, or who haven't studied it, might assume that the left's seething hostility to Donald Trump is unprecedented. In fact, back in his day, the left's loathing of President Richard Nixon was overwhelming. When he was ultimately driven to resign over Watergate, there was great glee and rejoicing in liberal land.

But, file this one under NewsBusters' "Sudden Respect," rubric. Friday's Morning Joe, playing off a Peggy Noonan column, actually celebrated Richard Nixon! It did so because, in contrast with Donald Trump regarding the 2020 election, Nixon conceded the 1960 presidential election to JFK, despite strong evidence that the results in Illinois and Texas had been stolen on behalf of the Democrat, throwing the election to Kennedy.



There was even the spectacle of the Washington Post's David Ignatius, describing Nixon, speaking of "the fundamental dignity of the man." Who could ever imagine a leading light of the Post, whose reporters Woodward and Bernstein led the charge in bringing down Nixon, speaking of their former foe in such admiring terms? Ignatius did get in a jab at Nixon, adding that it was "hard to concede" Nixon's fundamental dignity, given "what happened later"—an allusion to Watergate.

Old-time liberal Mike Barnicle joined in the praise of Nixon. He conceded that "Nixon could certainly have contested that election in two states especially, Texas and Illinois," but that because he did not, "the country moved forward." Nixon's decision not to contest the election was "a vivid example of democracy at work," said Barnicle.

Willie Geist ended the segment by adding Al Gore to the list of praiseworthy people for having conceded the 200 presidential election. But Gore did so only after dragging the country through 35 days of hanging-chad uncertainty. He exhausted every possible means of contesting the election until the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore effectively closed off any further avenue for his fight. 

Morning Joe's sudden respect for Richard Nixon was sponsored in part by Jackson Hewitt.

Here's the transcript.

Morning Joe
6:44 am ET

WILLIE GEIST: Peggy Noonan. Peggy Noonan, I say. Her latest column for the Wall Street Journal and titled "Nixon's Example of Sanity in Washington." In it, she recalls in 1961, a stop-the-steal movement might well have been justified, but Richard Nixon did the right thing, and conceded. 

First, here is part of Nixon presiding over the formal certification of his opponent's election, and then we'll read some of what Peggy writes this morning.

RICHARD NIXON: This is the first time in 100 years that a candidate for the presidency announced the results of an election in which he was defeated, and announced the victory of his opponent. I do not think that we could have a more striking and eloquent example of the stability of our constitutional system. 
. . . 

GEIST: That was Richard Nixon on January the 6th, 1961, presiding over the certification of John F. Kennedy's victory. Here's part of what Peggy Noonan writes about that moment. Quote, we should remember the man who may well have had a presidential election stolen from him, but who ended a stop-the-steal movement before it could take off. 
. . . 

MIKE BARNICLE: Well, that clip that we just showed, Willie, and the portion of Peggy's column this weekend, sadly, in the Wall Street Journal, is a vivid example of democracy at work. Richard Nixon could certainly have contested that election in two states especially, Texas and Illinois. But he did not. And the country moved forward.

. . . 

DAVID IGNATIUS: Watching that Nixon clip, I felt, as I'm sure you did, that there was a sort of fundamental dignity to the man. It's hard to concede given what happened later with Nixon, but it's evident there. He felt that it was important for the United States to remain united, not to sow divisions, because our standing in the world mattered . . . At some point, a Republican has to stand up and say defending our country and its interests is crucial to me. Not just as a Republican, but as an American citizen. That's the moment that we'll know we're heading in a better direction. But, boy, it sure seems far off to me.

GEIST: You can add Al Gore to that conversation in 2000 as well.