Richard Nixon’s legacy will forever be linked with the scandal that prematurely ended his presidency, leaving his many forward-looking political achievements to languish in the shadow of Watergate.
Among groundbreaking pieces of legislation signed into law during his time in the White House were the Clean Air, Clean Water, Endangered Species, Consumer Protection and Occupational Safety and Health acts.
It was during Nixon’s watch that relations with China were normalized, Medicare was expanded to include coverage for those under 65 who are disabled, and Title IX was enacted, increasing opportunities for women athletes in collegiate sports. While Nixon may not have harbored warm and fuzzy feelings for anti-war protestors or those he saw as political enemies, he did his bit to save the whales by championing the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
On Thursday, the 50th anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency — another creation of the 37th president — was observed during ceremonies at the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library in California.
The site of the observance made me wonder what form the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library will take, now that 45th president’s time in office is ticking down to a few dozen more tee times.
Given that the President’s passion for reading books and paying taxes are about equal, and that POTUS has a habit of tearing up whatever papers land on his desk, I envisioned a few racks of TV Guides and a gift shop selling MAGA hats and shirts in a sparse, escalator-equipped building at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump is entitled to a presidential library and two official, taxpayer-financed portraits of himself and one of the First Lady, as perks available to departing commanders-in-chief. But the soon-to-be-ex-POTUS has yet to face a future outside the White House as his Election Attorney Full Employment Act plays out at courthouses across a dwindling number of battleground states.
Meanwhile, others have taken on the the task of imagining what a Trump presidential library could look like. A newly established website for the Donald J. Trump Library (djtrumplibrary.com) at first blush appears to be real, but it quickly becomes obvious that it is fake and not the work of fans.
For instance, the site features images of the “library’s” Twitter Gallery, Wall of Enablers, COVID Memorial and a Grift Shop, where Trump University paraphernalia and other souvenirs are sold.
As to Trump’s official portrait selections, a painting by presidential artist Andy Thomas called “The Republican Club” could be the president’s selection to go on permanent display in the White House, where it already hangs.
The portrait features a party scene in a bustling, upscale club, in which a smiling, unusually trim Trump, holding a Diet Coke, appears to be sharing a joke with eight Republican presidents of the past. The happy group includes Nixon, Ike Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, George W. and George H.W. Bush, Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Gerald Ford.
Another Republican group scene, “Crossing the Swamp” by Jon McNaughton, could be the choice for the second official portrait, traditionally hung in the National Portrait Gallery. McNaughton’s painting is a new take on “Washington Crossing the Delaware” following the Valley Forge campaign in December of 1776.
The wooden boat and battle-weary soldiers paddling it across the icy river as George Washington stands near the bow as seen in Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting of the event is transformed into a scene in which Trump and assorted cabinet members and staffers paddle across a murky, croc-infested marsh. In McNaughton’s work, Trump, clad in a presidential ball cap and leather jacket, takes Washington’s place in the bow, holding a lantern to guide the craft to shore, as the U.S. Capitol glimmers in the background.
The bedraggled crew of Trump’s boat includes the First Lady and Vice President Mike Pence steadying a partially furled American flag, while just behind them, Ivanka Trump huddles, apparently adjusting an unruly lock of hair.
But, like a winter at Valley Forge, a couple of years on the White House staff can be brutal. Since the painting was completed in 2018, 7 of the 12 loyalists shown making the swamp crossing with Trump have since jumped ship. They are former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former National Security Advisor John Bolton and former presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, all packing shotguns in the painting, along with oar handlers James Mattis, Nikki Haley, Sarah Sanders and John Kelly. Maybe including POTUS in that painting of the dogs playing poker would be a safer, if even more whimsical, bet.
Oh, wait. Trump doesn’t like dogs. Never mind.