Richard Nixon; War on Drugs took US off gold standard relationships with China at expense of Taiwan wage and price controls Vietnam? One of the enduring mysteries of Richard Nixon is why someone who had such a hard-right reputation turned out to be one of the most liberal presidents ever. He increased spending on Social Security, Medicare, the arts and public broadcasting. He was, Mr. Thomas writes, “by some measures, a bigger spender on social programs than LBJ had been.” He presided over the extension of the Voting Rights Act, the passage of the Clean Air Act and the creation of the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Amtrak. He imposed wage and price controls in an unsuccessful effort to stop inflation and, in 1973, proposed the creation of a national health-insurance scheme that anticipated ObamaCare by almost four decades. Nixon’s economic policies, along with the Arab oil boycott, helped create “stagflation” (stagnation and inflation) and thus contributed to his own downfall by tanking the economy. Nixon had many blind spots; one of the most damaging was his lack of economic acumen. Where Mr. Thomas is overly kind to Nixon is in exaggerating his achievements with his openings to Beijing and Moscow, which turned out to be more glitz than substance. The big changes in those countries would occur with the rises of Deng Xiaoping and Boris Yeltsin, not with Nixon’s visits. In any case, China and Russia remain our biggest geopolitical adversaries. Nixon’s diplomatic outreach did not even achieve his immediate objective of “peace with honor.” North Vietnam agreed to a peace treaty in 1973 but immediately began violating it. EPA

— worst president ever?  

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