Sometimes modern life in America is so weird it’s hard to really take it all in. The increasingly bizarre twists and turns of our politics and political leaders, the corrosive effect of simplistic social media platforms, the constant craving for attention and celebrity status — all combine to create a world where the strange has become routine.
Consider, for example, how the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum reacted to President Trump’s decision to discharge FBI Director James Comey. Trump’s abrupt firing reminded people of the “Saturday Night Massacre” during the Nixon Administration, in which Nixon’s zeal to discharge Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal, resulted in the resignation of the Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General.
So what did the Nixon Library do in response to this newfound attention? Did it supply the press with the actual background facts of the incident that the Washington Post called, at the time, “the most traumatic government upheaval of the Watergate crisis,” so that people could make their own comparisons and draw their own conclusions?
Nah. It sent out a tweet that said: “FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian.” Ha ha! Boy, that Nixon Library is a laugh riot, isn’t it? And a class act, besides! And it sure helps to be reminded that, before Nixon resigned in disgrace after being impeached, there were some bad and ill-advised things that Nixon didn’t do, doesn’t it?
To its credit, the National Archives and Records Administration, which administers the presidential libraries, issued a statement about the Nixon Library tweet. It noted that “[a]s a federal government agency, the National Archives does not condone or engage in partisan or political conversations,” added that the tweet “was not representative of the policies of the Library or the National Archives,” and noted that the Archives would be “examining the training provided to employees who post to official social media channels as well as reviewing work flows and approval processes to ensure that our social media efforts engage the public in constructive conversations in line with agency policies.” Fortunately, there apparently is at least one adult in the room.
It’s hard to imagine that anybody in the Nixon Library gave much thought to the snotty tweet; they probably were reveling in the attention they were receiving in connection with the Comey firing and just couldn’t resist getting in a little dig that would boost the trending line of Tricky Dick and his library. And that’s really the basic problem these days, isn’t it? People just don’t think twice, or even try to resist their baser impulses.