Nixon Fundraiser

Posted September 7, 2004 at 6:35pm

So, maybe time really does heal all wounds. Of all the places a Republican could hold a fundraiser and brag about it, the Watergate might be last on the list. Stranger still, who would have thought that Ed Nixon, the younger brother of the late president whose career was ended by said office building, would end up as the headline speaker? [IMGCAP(1)]

HOH certainly wouldn’t have. But next Monday, Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) will hold a fundraiser with Ed Nixon, a former geologist, as the special host.

“I think it’s just designed to have some fun,” said Glen Downs, Jones’ chief of staff. “It’s lighthearted. I think the fellas who are doing it wanted to do something different.”

Even Nixon said, “If it attracts a crowd, then great.” Nixon told HOH that he doesn’t have a speech prepared but will talk, if he must, about the Watergate break-in that ruined his brother’s presidency.

“If somebody asks me a question, I can respond. … The sad part was that it was a tragedy for the whole country. It was pretty hard on my family, but we will survive and move on,” said Nixon, whose voice and manner eerily mirrors those of his late brother.

Nixon, Downs added, “resembles his brother, too. The nose, the hairline, a bit of the shoulder thing. You know what I mean?

“It’s Nixon comeback time. I’m telling ya!” Downs exclaimed. He explained that while there were “obvious mistakes and flaws which ultimately ended in resignation” for Richard Nixon, “there probably has been some reassessment” among Americans and historians.

Though Nixon remains the only U.S. president ever to resign from office amid scandal, he’s been having something of a revival.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told delegates at the GOP convention last week that it was Nixon who inspired him to become a Republican. Listening to Nixon speak sounded “like a breath of fresh air,” Schwarzenegger said.

Even some Democrats depressed by the George W. Bush presidency look wistfully back upon a Republican White House that implemented far-reaching environmental protections, pushed for international detente and predated the emergence of a hard-line conservative social agenda.

GOP donor Frank Salinger, the mastermind behind next week’s Watergate fundraiser, thinks his idea is both hilarious and a serious opportunity to explore the repercussions of Watergate with Ed Nixon. “He’s going to reminisce about his brother,” said Salinger, who is vice president of the Advanta credit-card company.

Salinger chuckled as he took credit for the invitation’s title: “Nixon returns to the Watergate.”

Though the building brought much shame, Nixon said that the Watergate also conjures some happy memories for him. “The Watergate to me is the old restaurant that had wonderful popovers,” he reminisced.

Asked if he was retired now, Nixon said: “Well, I’m not ready to play golf yet. Let’s put it that way. I’m 74. Have to be 90 at least to play golf.”

Deadheads for Leahy. The Dead may have been shut out of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. But they’ll never be shut out by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Congress Deadhead in Chief.

“Calling All Deadheads,” the flier reads: Mickey Hart and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead will be performing at a Leahy fundraiser on Sept. 20 at — get this — the Ritz-Carlton.

The various donation levels are: “Wave that Flag” for a $100; “Roadie” for $250; “Playing in the Band” for $500; and the ultimate “Deadhead — VIP Reception & Photo with Band Members” for $1,000. PAC contributors get the same for their buck on a converted scale of $500 through $5,000.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) was scheduled to have a Dead fundraiser during the Democratic convention, but, according to sources, jittery officials high up in the Democratic hierarchy feared “High on Cocaine” headlines. They pulled the plug after a New York Times story in advance of the convention referred to the band as an “acid era” group.

Carolyn Dwyer, Leahy’s campaign manager, said she was unaware of the controversy in Boston but added that her boss would never waver as a committed Deadhead.

“Senator Leahy is confident there are lots of aging Deadheads out there who still have tie-dyed souls under their pin stripe suits,” Dwyer said.

Pushing the Wrong Button? A new anti-Bush political button dredges up the very issue that recuperating former President Bill Clinton advised Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to steer clear of: Vietnam.

The new button, created by Democratic political strategist Michael Fraioli and manufactured by Tigereye Design, highlights Kerry’s Vietnam service while decrying Bush’s lack of military service.

The button lists Kerry’s medals: a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. At the bottom it adds, “George Bush: 2 cavities.”

The punch line, of course, refers to the service records released earlier this year by the White House, which included a copy of a dental exam Bush had in January 1973 — a dental exam, the White House said, that proved Bush served at an Alabama air base. (The dentist told news organizations he didn’t remember treating Bush, though he said he recognized his signature on the dental record.)

Fraioli says he was inspired by a political cartoon he saw some time ago. He says he hopes the Kerry campaign won’t be too disappointed, now that the new mantra is to move away from the Democratic candidate’s Vietnam experience and pay more attention to domestic issues. The New York Times reported on Monday that Clinton personally gave that advice to Kerry from his hospital room before undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery.

“I’m a Democrat,” Fraioli said. “I’d do anything to get John Kerry elected.” But he acknowledged that the campaign “may see this button and hate me because they’re trying to get this stuff off the front page.”

Pointed Memorial. Reps. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Jim Turner (D-Texas) are pushing to arrange for a temporary “tribute to fallen troops” in the Capitol Rotunda.

In a letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) the two Democratic lawmakers, wrote, “As of this writing, we have lost 133 servicemen and women in Afghanistan and 971 in Iraq. This is an opportunity for the entire U.S. Congress to show its strong support for the families and respect for the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Turner and Emanuel — who aren’t making a larger political point about the war, are they? — are proposing that a temporary memorial be erected in the Rotunda with pictures and biographical information for each service member and space for visitors to write notes and tributes to display at the site.

John Feehery, the Speaker’s spokesman, said Hastert would “support anything to honor our troops. He values each and every one of those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.” And, yes, Feehery said, Hastert will consider the request from Emanual and Turner.

Problem is, using the Rotunda to honor fallen soldiers — which wasn’t done during any other war — would require resolutions from both the House and Senate. And since bipartisanship is a word that has largely disappeared from the Capitol, Emanuel and Turner shouldn’t hold their breath on getting their wish fulfilled.

Meanwhile, Remembering 9/11 Victims. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), whose district includes the Pentagon, has arranged for a public viewing of a model of the planned Pentagon memorial to those killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Moran, in a “Dear Colleague” letter, says the design is “both impressive in that it captures the important emotions of September 11th and innovative in the way it faithfully honors the wishes of victims’ families.”

The permanent memorial will be built on the Pentagon grounds near the location of Flight 77’s point of impact. The model will be on display in the Rayburn Foyer on Thursday and Friday.