A Nixon Court: How Supreme?

This post first appeared in The Prices Do DC

Nowhere is the legacy of a president more lasting than in his (and someday her) power to appoint Supreme Court justices who serve for life. And no one was more cognizant of that fact than Richard Nixon, who appointed 4 justices in his time in office to the 9-member court. In fact Nixon called his judicial appointments “the most constructive and far reaching impact of my presidency.”

This afternoon, The Richard Nixon Foundation and the National Archives presented the program Nixon and the Court: The Story Behind President Nixon’s Supreme Court Appointments, another in a series of the 37th president’s legacy forums.

Five distinguished panelists, all prominent political and legal players during the Nixon era, took part in the forum at the Archives. Fred Fielding, who served as counsel to Nixon, moderated. Panelists were headed by former Nixon speechwriter, 3-time presidential candidate, and uber conservative Pat Buchanan. Buchanan was joined by Robert Blakey, former Chief Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and later of the House Select Committee on Assassinations; Wallace Johnson, former Associate Deputy Attorney General; and Earl Silbert, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney.

The mid 1960s, when ex-Vice President Nixon re-emerged politically, were turbulent times. The Vietnam War. Racial unrest. The Black power movement and the Black Panthers. Student riots. Police engaged in street war with protesters on almost a daily basis. “It seemed like the country was coming apart,” Buchanan said. “For Middle America and the Silent Majority, it seemed the country they grew up in was disintegrating before their very eyes.”

Many conservatives blamed Supreme Court leader Earl Warren and his court for issuing rulings that, according to Buchanan read “their own (liberal) ideology into the Constitution.” Nixon made his view of restoration of law and order a cornerstone of his campaign. And, once elected, he used his power to appoint philosophical conservatives to the nation’s highest court, including then 47-year-old William Rehnquist, who ended up serving 33 years, several of those as Chief Justice. 

The panelists agreed that the legal world is constantly trying to the balance the rights of the individual with public safety. Johnson said Nixon’s appointments “moved the pendulum.” According to Johnson, it was “a major, major triumph” for the president, who, ironically given his law and order stance, was driven from office by the outgrowths from the Watergate break-in.

“There was a perception (when Nixon took office) that things were tilting more toward protecting the rights of individuals who had been accused or indicted than public safety,” Silbert, agreeing,  said. “Some thought it was leading to an explosion in crime. I could not myself make that connection, but many did.”                                                                                                                                                      

Blakey contended that the Nixon era was “the golden age of Federal Criminal Law.” This was especially true in the area of organized crime. For example, Blakely said when Nixon took office, there were about 5,000 members of the Mafia distributed between 22 families nationwide. Today, that estimated number stands at about only 1,500 members with only 2 strong families both based in New York. “Nixon gets a bad rap,” Blakely, now a law professor at Notre Dame, said. “But he said ‘go get the crooks.'”

Roy Lichtenstein: The Art World’s Prince of Pop

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC – December 23, 2012

In 1961, at the urging of a fellow Rutgers University art professor, Roy Lichtenstein loaded up a station wagon with a few pieces of his new art work, and, accompanied by his colleague, headed across the river to New York to try to convince an influential gallery owner that his work should be exhibited. Among those paintings was “Look Mickey, 1961.” On a first look, the gallery owner was impressed and Lichtenstein was on his way to sharing billing with Andy Warhol as the 2 most noted artists in the school of visual creation that came to be known as Pop Art.

But as art historian Avis Berman points out, Lichtenstein was no overnight sensation. “His life was divided into 2 roughly symmetrical halves: 38 years of obscurity and 36 years of permanent fame,” Berman says. “He hung in and hung on.”

Berman’s remarks came during a lecture entitled Roy Lichtenstein: Voices from the Archive she recently delivered at the National Gallery of Art as part of that institution’s major retrospective of Lichtenstein’s work now on display.

As consultant for the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, Berman has conducted more than 200 interviews with the artist, his family, and those who knew him. One of the most unusual aspects of her talk was that it was punctuated more than a dozen times by the actual words recorded from Lichtenstein himself. “Call it an art historian’s version of a Tony Bennett duet,” Berman joked before she began her talk.

Berman said Lichtenstein, best known for his trademark use of benday dots that he used to create works lifted from cartoons and comic strips, was constantly intrigued by the question – what is art? As Lichtenstein put it, “I was always baffled by why are these few marks art and these few marks are not art? Why is one valued and the other one isn’t?”

On Pop art, Lichtenstein said, “Part of the intention on Pop is to mask its intentions with humor. But Pop should also tell you something you didn’t know.”

Berman said the oral interviews have greatly expanded the understanding of both Lichtenstein and his work. “He had no impulse to accumulate documentation and he lived in a time when the telephone was replacing the letter as the means of communication,” she noted. “The more we can understand the background of an artist the more easy it is to understand the art.”

For example, her interviews revealed that despite his fame, Lichtenstein was extremely generous. “He gave anyone who did something nice for him or anyone who worked for him some of his art work,” Berman said.

Much of Lichtenstein’s reputation rests on the fact that he upended virtually every prejudice of high art that existed at the time he began his Pop work. However, Lichtenstein admitted that his breakthrough was really unplanned. “My ability was way above my awareness. The rationales came later. I guess anyone can become a crazed genius for a second,” he joked during one of his interviews.”

Lichtenstein definitely believed that all art isn’t really new, but is based on the art of the past. “It takes a lot of generations of artists looking at other artists to produce new art,” he said.

Berman said she doesn’t agree with the contention that Lichtenstein was simply aping work others had originally created. “He didn’t just copy. He changed and strengthened the original completely. He looked at what had been overlooked,” she said.

The art historian maintains that Lichtenstein and Warhol will remain significant figures in the history of art. “Pop was denigrated but it has come to be recognized as a legitimate school of art. It captured the zeitgeist of the 1960s,” she contended.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips

Welcome to Talking ‘Bout My Generation: How the Formative Years of The Baby Boomer Experience (1945 to 1985) Changed America and Continue to Influence Our Nation Today

Hello. My name is Dave Price and I’m the creator, curator, and chief content producer for Talking ‘Bout My Generation, a project which deals with some of the most important events, people, ideas, and topics from the first 40 years of the Baby Boomer Experience that changed, helped shape, and continue to influence the America we live in today.

History tells us the Baby Boomers are the large generation born between 1946 (the 1st year after World War II) to 1964 (the year the Beatles came to America). However, for the purposes of Talking ‘Bout My Generation, I have changed the initial year of the Baby Boomer Experience to 1945 (the year the dropping of the first atomic bombs in history on Japan ended World War II and sent American home to father all these babies) and extended the ending date of the formative years to 1985, the year the last of the Baby Boomers turned 21 and Ronald Reagan began a 2nd term as President of the United States

Since I Was born in 1952, I have been around to personally witness all but the first 6 years of Baby Boom times. When I retired from the 9-to-5 work world in 2017, I decided to use the skills I had developed in my 12 years in journalism, 20 years in high school English teaching, 5 years as as teacher trainer and instructional coach for the Talent Development Program of Johns Hopkins, and 4 years as a DC-based national educational consultant to create and operate the project. (And yes, for those of you who know your rock music, I did steal the title from the 1965 British Invasion single by Pete Townshend and The Who).

During our first 4 years, highlights included the researching, writing, and publishing of my 1st book Come Together: How the Baby Boomers, the Beatles, and a Youth Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock Generation. (And yes, I did steal that title from the Beatles 1969 single – I’m sure you see a pattern developing here). I also guided Baby-Boom-themed tours at the former museum of news the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue, designed and delivered a walking tour on famous DC protests for Smithsonian Associates, and presented a series of interactive lectures at the Smithsonian and other DC venues.

I believe there is much here for you to enjoy whether you are a Baby Boomer, or someone from a younger generation who wants to learn more how the past is directly influencing all our lives today. If you do like what we’re offering, please subscribe to the email link above so you can get regular updates on what’s new and what’s news at Talking ‘Bout My Generation: The Baby Boomer Experience.

Gifts for Grandkids: How to Turn Christmas Gift No-No-Nos into Hearty Ho-Ho-Hos

With two weeks left until Christmas, family members all over the world are making silent, solemn, last-minute promises to be nice and not naughty this season when they gather together to celebrate the holidays.

No time signifies the special bonds of family more than Christmas. But too often, instead of familial peace, such gatherings disintegrate into verbal free-for-alls followed by abrupt, dramatic exits.

There are almost as many culprits for these explosions as there are white whiskers in Santa’s beard. Generational conflicts. Political differences. Seasonal pressures. Too much eggnog. Grandma getting run over by a reindeer.

Why even the wonderful tradition of exchanging gifts can lead to Grinch-like misadventures.

Obviously, not all the reasons for family holiday disputes are easy to address, but in the spirit of the season, here are a few last-minute offerings for grandparents (and actually all relatives) about gifting that, if followed, should greatly reduce any potential problems in that area.

Talk To The Parents First

You may be excited because you assume that you have found just the perfect gift for each of your grandchildren, special ones that will show your great love and they will enjoy forever.

However, we all know what can happen when we assume. Always consult parents before actually delivering your gifts to your grandkids. In this case, fathers (and even more often mothers) actually do know best.

Avoid Giving Gifts That Are Loud

You might be convinced that your grandson is destined to become the next Ringo Starr or John Bonham. But think before purchasing that 7-piece drum kit the music store salesman swears is just perfect for the budding young drummer. In fact, don’t ever even consider any loud gift until following suggestion #1.

Avoid Christmas Gifts That Are Large

Does your granddaughter really need a McMansion-size doll house with sleeping room for 16? Of course, if you followed suggestion #1 and the parents have said OK, then buy away. You can even add the six-car garage extension if you want.

Avoid Overly Luxurious Gifts

What child wouldn’t want to take an all-expense week-long trip with grandmom and grandpop to London, Paris or New York City. The answer is many. And probably even more parents might have some reservations about such as excursion.

But what if you really want to give this? Again, before making any concrete plans, follow suggestion #1. Maybe mom and dad will be so excited that they will want to join in, too.

Avoid Age Inappropriate Christmas Gifts

Of course, your grandchildren are absolutely advanced geniuses. I know mine are. But that doesn’t mean they are ready for the collected works of William Shakespeare or William Faulkner at age five.

The age idea should also be applied in reverse. Season tickets to the Children’s Puppetry Center probably won’t be appreciated by your teenage grandchildren unless they are planning on becoming the next Jim Henson.

Consider Your Other Grandchildren In The House

Your 10-year-old granddaughter Leia or your 9-your-old grandson Luke might really love the latest Rogue One Star Wars Lego set. However, consider how many Lego sets remain unopened in closets for fear that younger brothers or sisters might swallow the pieces.

Consider The Other Grandparents

In an ideal world, grandparenting would not be a competition. However, not all grandparents are financially equal. Others grandparents (or parents) may consider your gift an attempt to show them up or buy love from your grandchildren. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy the gifts you want; it just means to consider the other family implications before you do.

Some Final Words: Consider My Aunt Florence

Some people are naturally good at giving gifts. Some aren’t. But don’t despair if you are in the second category. People can change, especially at Christmas time. Think Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch.

I know from real-life experience that this is true. When I was a teenager in the 1960s, invariably my Aunt Florence would give me the worst gifts every Christmas. I can’t recall all the seasonal horrors, but I do remember on my 16th Christmas she gave me a size 3X orange and yellow sweater and a pair of bright baby blue socks. I never wore either gift. Although, now that I think about it, I might have used the sweater for a blanket on a few occasions.

But, by the time our son Michael was a teenager in the 1980s, Aunt Florence had really upped her giving game. Knowing that Michael was a 3-sport athlete for his high school and that his team stopped at McDonald’s after every away game or match, she would give him a few books of McDonald’s coupons, which truly was a great gift that kept on giving.

So, if you find yourself mired in a Christmas gift quandary, just ask yourself this question – what would (the new, improved) Aunt Florence do?

Equipped with that answer (and remembering to follow suggestion #1 above), rest assured that even Santa himself couldn’t select a better gift.

Obviously, the suggestions above don’t cover all the tips grandparents could use about Christmas gifts. What suggestions or advice would you offer to keep family Christmas time merry and bright?

Our Talks/Lectures/Presentations Available for Any Group, Organization, or Venue

Talks from my book Come Together

Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On: How Did Rock and Roll Come to Be?

  • 12 Changes That Paved the Way for the Rock and Roll of the 50s
  • What Was the 1st Rock and Roll Record?
  • Rockin’ ‘Round the Clock: DJ Alan Freed, the combo band Bill Haley and His Comets, and the movie Blackboard Jungle ignite a rock and roll explosion

Setting the Stage for the Beatles

  • The King and Court: Elvis and 6 other rock and roll pioneers who greatly influenced the Beatles
  • A New Frontier: The music of the Kennedy years (1960 to 1963)

From Rock and Roll to Rock: A 6-year musical road trip from Liverpool to Woodstock

  • 1964 – The Beatles and the Music of the British Invasion
  • 1965 – With Rubber Soul, The Beatles, Under the Influence of Bob Dylan and Pot, Create Song Lyrics with More Mature Meanings
  • 1966 – Garage Rock Rules, but Albums like the Beatles’ Revolver Begin Making LPs More Important Than 45 Singles
  • 1967 – With the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s as Its Soundtrack, a Summer of Love Gives Birth to Psychedelic Rock and the Hippie Lifestyle
  • 1968 – The Music of the Beatles, the Stones, and Others Reflect Turbulent Times
  • 1969 – The Beatles Stay Home But from Atlantic Pop to Woodstock to the Isle of Wright to Altamont, It’s a Year of the Big Music Festival
  • from Our Rock and Pop Culture Division – Rock of Agers Icons

Rock Icons and the Real World Series

The Bands

  • Here, There, and Everywhere: How the World Would Be Much Different Without the Influences of the Beatles
  • What a Drag It Is Getting Old: What the Rolling Stones Can Teach All of Us About Aging
  • A Traveling Show of Deadheads and Tie-Dye: The Radical, Yet Highly Successful Business Plan of the Grateful Dead

Individual Artists

  • The Answer Is Blowin’ in the Wind: The Great Protest Anthems of Bob Dylan
  • Is a Dream a Lie If It Don’t Come True or Is It Something Worse: Bruce Springsteen and the Unfilled Promise of the American Dream
  • Rebel, Rebel: David Bowie Drives GlamRock, Androgyny, and Gay Life Style