George McGovern Spreads Peace at the Warring Nixon Library

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George McGovern, peacemaker
It took former U.S. Senator George McGovern (D-South Dakota) to bring peace to the library and museum dedicated to the memory of his opponent in the 1972 presidential election, Richard Nixon.
 
Ten weeks after the private Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation announced it was ending co-sponsorships with the federally funded Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum over the museum-sponsored, June 17 appearance by John Dean, the foundation and museum are teaming up to present McGovern's visit to the Yorba Linda historical landmark on Wednesday.

"The Nixon Foundation is proud to co-sponsor this event," says Ron Walker, who became president of the foundation after the Dean dust-up. "We believe there is much for Americans to learn from studying the Nixon administration and Abraham Lincoln, one of President Nixon's favorite predecessors."

McGovern, who is making his first visit to the Nixon Library since he attended the president's funeral in 1994, is scheduled to discuss and sign copies of his new book Abraham Lincoln (Times Books) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the museum, 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda. (The program is free and open to the public, but you should call 714-983-9120 or email nixon@nara.gov for tickets because space is limited.)


"It's a unique pleasure for me, as a historian and lifelong Democrat, to be the guest of the Nixon Library, where I'll be talking about Abraham Lincoln, the founder of the Republican Party and our greatest president," says McGovern, in a statement co-distributed by the museum and foundation.

Earlier in the day, McGovern is scheduled to participate in a convocation, press conference, Dialogue with Doti and Dodge TV show taping, public book discussion and signing and audience Q&A at Chapman University in nearby Orange.

"Senator McGovern's visit is an exciting opportunity for all Americans to learn more about history--both the history that he experienced and the history he has now written about," states Timothy Naftali, the library's National Archives-appointed executive director, who earned the wrath of the foundation for booking Dean.


Many Nixonites despise Dean, who was special counsel to the Nixon White House, for having spoken, testified and written critically of Nixon's role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up. Some even claim Dean has purposely diverted attention away from his own criminal masterminding of the events that ultimately doomed the Nixon presidency.

Sandy Quinn, the foundation's assistant director, blasted Naftali at the time for not "consulting" with the foundation before deciding to bring Dean to Yorba Linda to sign copies of a new edition of his book Blind Ambition. Of Dean, Quinn told the Orange County Register, "He's disgraced and has been disbarred. He's so controversial ... and [Blind Ambition] is not a new book. It's 33 years old. It would have been more serving and non-partisan if it would [have been] point-counterpoint."

The foundation later announced it would withhold $150,000 it had pledged to co-sponsor events at the library and museum, a sum Naftali was able to make up thanks to the National Archives. But because the private foundation donation had helped fund food and refreshments for volunteers who set up an annual Christmas train exhibit for schoolchildren, and federal funds cannot be spent on food by law, Naftali was forced to scramble for even more charity.

The Dean appearance drew 300 people, the largest non-foundation-sponsored event ever held at the museum. Naftali told the Weekly that many of those who came to hear Dean had never before been to the library and have now joined a database for notification on future events there. So far, 400 people have RSVP'd for McGovern, Naftali said.

Dean, who returned to Orange County on Aug. 11 to sign copies of Blind Ambition at Fullerton Library, called the controversy about his Nixon library appearance "petty."

"I don't see what the benefit is," he told the Register. "The foundation is reviving the dark side of Richard Nixon."

Naftali diplomatically points out that the private foundation's leadership has changed since they kicked John Dean around.


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