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Friday, August 8, 2014
THE GETAWAY HELICOPTER
SO LONG, DICK--President Nixon Leaves the White House 1974 on this day in 1974.
EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT—Forty
years ago, today, [August 8, 1974] U. S. President Richard Nixon resigned via a
national TV address. The resignation would be effective the next day [August 9,
Nixon awoke at 7 a.m. on his final day in office after a fitful night.
Following a light breakfast, he signed his one-sentence letter of resignation
and said goodbye to his house staff.
Shortly after 9 a.m. he entered the East Room and made a
brief farewell address to an overflow crowd of White House staff and Cabinet members.
He then joined then Vice President Gerald Ford for a walk across the South Lawn
to a helicopter that would whisk him into history. George H.W. Bush (later Vice
President and then President) was the Chairman of the Republican Party. He
attended Nixon's farewell address and kept a diary of the experience:
George H.W. Bush as CIA Director 1975
FROM PRESIDENT BUSH’S
"August 9, 1974
There is no way to really describe the emotion of the day.
Bar [Bush’s wife, Barbara] and I went down and had breakfast at the White
House. Dean and Pat Burch and the Buchanans were there in the Conference Mess.
There was an aura of sadness, like somebody died. Grief. Saw Tricia and Eddie
Cox [President Nixon's daughter and her husband] in the Rose Garden – talked to
them on the way to the ceremony.
President Nixon looked just awful. He used glasses – the
first time I ever saw them. Close to breaking down – understandably. Everyone
in the room in tears.
The speech was vintage Nixon – a kick or two at the press –
enormous strains. One couldn’t help but look at the family and the whole thing
and think of his accomplishments and then think of the shame and wonder kind of
man is this really.
No morality – kicking his friends in those tapes – all of
them. Gratuitous abuse. Caring for no one yet doing so much. When he used the
word ‘plumbers’ [in his speech] meaning it [as] ‘laboring with his hands’, the
connotation was a shock to me.
The Nixon farewell speech was masterful. In spite of his
inability to totally resist a dig at the press, that argument about hating –
only if you hate do you join the haters.
Behind him stood his daughter Julie and her husband David
Eisenhower. People who have labored next to Nixon’s side forever were not
invited. It’s weird.
We walked through the bottom lobby to go out. After the Ford
swearing-in, many of the pictures were changed with a great emphasis on the new
President. We went over and hung around waiting for the swearing in of Ford.
And then the whole mood changed. It was quiet, respectful,
sorrowful, but in one sense, upbeat. The music and the band seemed cheerier,
the talking and babbling of voices after Ford’s fantastic speech, crowds of
friends, indeed a new spirit, a new lift. I walked through the line and the
President was warm and friendly, kissing the wives, telling Bar he appreciated
my job, and on and on. It was much more relaxed. There of course were a lot of
people that didn’t know what they were going to do. There was great turmoil in
I went back to the National Committee and addressed them. I
tired to identify with the feelings I am sure they all felt – of betrayal and
distrust and yet pride. I told them we had been through the toughest year and a
half in history and yet I now felt we were coming on an optimistic period. I
told them that the President asked me to stay on. All in all it was a pretty
good meeting although I felt drained emotionally and tired."
"President Nixon Leaves the White House 1974,"
EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2007).