Richard Milhous Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, who was the only President in more than two centuries of American history to resign from office, died last night at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.
He was 81 years old and lapsed into a deep coma on Thursday morning after suffering a stroke on Monday.
His daughters, Julie Nixon Eisenhower and Tricia Nixon Cox, were at Mr. Nixon’s bedside when he died.
Jonathan Weil, a spokesman for New York Hospital, issued a statement that said: “President Richard M. Nixon died at 9:08 P.M. as a result of a massive stroke which he suffered on Monday, April 18. His family was with him.”
Mr. Nixon had indicated an unwillingness to receive extraordinary medical measures to revive him, and had slipped into a coma by Thursday.
President Clinton paid tribute in a short address from the Rose Garden, saying, “He understood the threat of Communism, but he also had the wisdom to know when it was time to reach out to the Soviet Union and to China.”
Mr. Nixon was driven from office by the Watergate scandal, resigning in the face of certain impeachment on Aug. 9, 1974. He often acknowledged that the event would inevitably stain his pages in history, and despite strenuous and partly successful efforts over two decades to rehabilitate his reputation, he was right. It was a spot that would not out. He never completely dispelled the sense of shame that clung to his last days in the White House.
In some ways, American politics has never fully recovered, either. The break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington on June 17, 1972, and the frenzied, protracted efforts to cover it up, helped to convince many Americans that they could not trust their Government — an idea that had begun to take hold in the earlier deceptions about Vietnam under previous Administrations of both parties.
Yet Mr. Nixon, surely one of the half-dozen pivotal figures of American politics in the quarter-century that followed World War II, wrought foreign policy accomplishments of historic proportions that had proved beyond the reach of his Democratic foes.
Once a leading member of the China Lobby, an anti-Beijing organization, he reopened American relations with China in 1972. He began the rapprochement with the Soviet Union with the signing of the first treaty limiting the potentially deadly nuclear arms race. And after at first broadening and intensifying the conflict in Indochina, he ended American involvement in the fighting there.
Mr. Nixon’s funeral will be at 4 P.M. on Wednesday at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif., the family said. They had asked that there be no official ceremony in Washington. President Clinton, who will be among the funeral speakers, said the Government had made an Air Force plane available to carry the body to the West Coast.
The Nixon Library said the body would arrive in California at 1 P.M. on Tuesday and be taken to the library by motorcade. The Rev. Billy Graham, a longtime friend of Mr. Nixon’s, will officiate at the services, and Senator Bob Dole, the minority leader, and Gov. Pete Wilson of California will deliver eulogies along with Mr. Clinton. The body will remain at the library overnight for public viewing. The burial, on Thursday, will be private.
Mr. Nixon’s tumultuous political career was born in the anti-Communist fervor of the cold war. In the early days of that struggle and afterward, he employed slashing tactics that provoked strong emotions among voters. He was demonized on the left and lionized on the right. “Nixon’s the One,” supporters chanted; “Would you buy a used car from this man?” detractors sneered.
Even his biographer, the historian Stephen E. Ambrose, found the inconsistencies difficult to resolve, the balance difficult to strike.
“It is mealymouthed, even cowardly, to end an assessment by saying that Nixon deserved to be re-elected and to be repudiated,” Mr. Ambrose wrote in 1989. “But a contradictory judgment seems inescapable with this contradictory man, the author of detente and the author of the Watergate cover-up.”
In his 1990 memoir, “In the Arena,” the former President himself conspicuously avoided elegiac tones in summarizing his long political life. “Only when you have been in the depths,” he wrote, “can you appreciate the heights. Without risks you will suffer no defeats. But without defeats you will win no victories.” Combative and Partisan
Combative, suspicious and sometimes vengeful, as the Watergate tapes demonstrated, Mr. Nixon was a fiercely partisan Republican as a Representative and then as a Senator from California in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, as Vice President under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961 and as President from 1969 to 1974.
Always formal, always awkward, even in his farewell wave from the White House helicopter, seemingly bereft of spontaneity and charm, he comported oddly with the hail-fellows, well met, who typify American politics.
Henry A. Kissinger, a partner in so many of Mr. Nixon’s proudest foreign policy achievements, first as his national security adviser and then as Secretary of State, wrote that he “had no truly close friends,” adding: “Fearful of rejection, he constructed his relationships so that a rebuff, if it came, would seem to have originated with him. Fiercely proud, he could neither admit his emotional dependence on approbation nor transcend it.” Astute and Innovative
But he had a thoughtful side, too, and many considered him a highly astute student of both domestic politics and international affairs. His abilities were apparent in some of his innovative policies, like his efforts to share Federal tax revenue with the states, to reorganize government and to overhaul both welfare and health care, as well as in the eight books and countless speeches and articles that he produced in the long years of his retirement.
Again and again, Mr. Nixon reinvented himself — so much so that people talked and wrote about “the new Nixon” and “the new, new Nixon.”
Carried to prominence first by his roles in the Alger Hiss case and in the “kitchen debate” in Moscow with Nikita S. Khrushchev, he was beaten in a tinglingly close Presidential race in 1960 by John F. Kennedy, a man whose coltish, patrician grace stirred profound envy in Mr. Nixon, who had grown up in straitened circumstances and felt ill at ease all his life with everyone but his wife of 53 years, Pat, who died last June, and their daughters.
Swallowing his pride, he stepped down a notch and ran for governor of California in 1962 and lost to Edmund G. (Pat) Brown. In a spasm of fury, he allowed his hatred of reporters to show, vowing that he had run his last race and telling his questioners, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more.” The Vietnam Factor
But, in fact, he had an extraordinary resilience. One of his most able aides, Bryce Harlow, said of him: “He is a cork. Push him down and he pops right back up. He verges on being indestructible.” With skill, cunning, patience and grit, he watched the Republican debacle of 1964 and then worked his way back to center stage.
Vietnam gave him his opening. The unpopularity of the war forced Lyndon B. Johnson to the sidelines, and obliged his would-be heir, Hubert H. Humphrey, to run the race carrying a backbreaking handicap. But Mr. Nixon proved a strong enough candidate to exploit the opportunity, winning a narrow victory.
Four years later, even in the face of the first disclosures of Watergate and its ancillary scandals, a tide of votes from those whom he called “the silent majority” gave him one of the great sweeps in American history. He carried 49 states, losing only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Bowed but Not Broken
But fate had lifted him on high only to cast him low. Less than two years later, his face wet with tears, he bade the remnants of his broken Administration goodbye with words that seemed to draw a moral from his own searing experience: “Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”
Resignation would have broken most men, but it did not break Richard Nixon. After a brief exile by the Pacific, he moved East, did some legal work and gradually re-entered politics — traveling abroad (five times to China alone) and contributing profusely to the public discourse at home, even if few if any Republican candidates sought his support in their campaigns.
By 1990, the wounds had healed enough for him to preside over the dedication of the new $21 million Nixon library near his birthplace in Yorba Linda, a small town in Orange County southeast of Los Angeles. Hailed as a statesman and a peacemaker, he said he had “many memories, some of them good, some of them not so good.” President George Bush was there, and Gerald R. Ford, the President who may have cost himself a full term by pardoning him, and Ronald Reagan, his fellow Californian.
Until Mr. Nixon’s death, the nation had five living ex-Presidents: Mr. Nixon, Mr. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush. Only one other time in American history had that been so, during the first year of Lincoln’s Presidency.
Almost until his final illness, Mr. Nixon worked hard, as he had all his life. He read deeply — biographies of Churchill, de Gaulle, Goethe, Orwell and Wilson in the months before his 80th birthday, he told an interviewer — wrote constantly and displayed the energy of a man in his 50’s as he roamed the world over.
Last month in Russia, he met with opponents of President Boris N. Yeltsin, who angrily called off his own scheduled meeting with Mr. Nixon. Once upon a time, Mr. Nixon might have bristled, perhaps publicly. But even he had mellowed. He made little of the rebuke, and when he fell ill, Mr. Yeltsin issued a supportive statement.
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