Today’s grandmothers should call out Trump, as this GOP grandmother did to Nixon in 1974
The recent passing of my husband’s uncle brought the inevitable sorting of photos, papers, letters, and other memorabilia. Unearthed in all of this was a letter my husband’s grandmother wrote to Richard Nixon in 1974 asking him to ‘fess up to his part in the Watergate conspiracy.
It’s doubtful that he followed her advice (or even read the letter). I hope he at least apologized to his family, those around him, and some of his supporters, as she advised him to do.
It’s even more doubtful that Donald Trump would ever confess to, much less feel contrite about, his involvement in any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and any attempts to cover up Russian involvement. Actually, it’s doubtful that Trump ever feels contrite about anything.
Nevertheless, it’s nice to discover that Grandmother McConnell, as the family always called her, who was definitely a lifelong Republican, felt moved to call out Tricky Dick. Maybe some grandmothers of today’s generation will get a similar urge to call out Trump.
When the Watergate scandal and its coverup were unraveling, the exposure of Nixon’s tape recording system was the smoking gun. That came during congressional testimony from Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s former deputy chief of staff, in July 1973. Over the next year, partial tapes were released (with some parts “accidentally” erased) as Nixon, the special prosecutors, and Congress battled over the release of the tapes’ content.
A year later, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that Nixon must turn over all the tapes. Facing a growing likelihood of impeachment, Nixon resigned 15 days later, on August 9, 1974, and Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in as president. Ford issued a complete pardon for the disgraced former president on Sept. 8.
She apparently wrote it out in longhand on her own personal stationery before mailing it. She also typed it as a record for posterity. (She obviously was not a skilled typist.)
Grandmother McConnell was a woman who stayed home to raise five children instead of working outside the home. She was one of those often described as a “pillar of the church” in her home Presbyterian church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, so the inclusion of scripture and the advice to meet with religious leaders to seek forgiveness comes as no surprise. No doubt it pained her to go against her Republican leanings and write something critical of Nixon, but she must have felt compelled to write and send this missive.
As this letter was written before Ford’s pardon of Nixon, she likely thought Nixon might still face a trial and be forced to testify under oath. It would have been satisfying for the country to listen to him give such testimony, but we never got that chance. Nixon did offer at least a partial apology for Watergate in a series of interviews he did with David Frost in 1977. But in the same series, he also offered the infamous words, “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”
August 21, 1974
Dear Richard Nixon,
This letter is being written not out of malice, but in mercy and charity. I have only pity and hope for you, extreme sorrow for Pat, your two daughters, and their husbands.
In view of the past, will you be believed as a witness when under oath?
I believe you were sincere and contrite and that the family agreed with you, that you should suffer the consequences of impeachment and conviction (no ex-president pension and perquisites).
You have admitted “wrong judgments.” Would it not be better if you “came clean” and asked the country and those who, under your leadership, have been and may be in legal difficulties, to forgive you and your dissembling? (My father always said no one had good enough memory to lie consistently.) And to ask your family for their forgiveness?
Then above all, ask the good Lord, God our Father, to forgive you for disgracing the Presidency of the Unites States of America and being untrue to your family (Julie must not have known, either) and to so many of your supporters. This will be difficult to do, either publicly or privately, but it is necessary.
Jesus Christ said confession with true repentance is forgiven. “Go and sin no more.” Read David’s Psalm 51, asking for forgiveness.
Have you not been untrue to the Lord even more than to your country and your family?
If you alone cannot get the needed guidance and help through the words of the Bible and Jesus’ teachings, etc., maybe Billy Graham or Norman Vincent Peale would be glad to help you. You need something. My heart goes out to you and to your family.
I do not expect a reply to this, but I pray that this may all come about and President Ford’s hope that prayers for your peace will be fulfilled.
Helen S. McConnell
(Just a grandmother with five married children, twenty grandchildren, six and three-quarters “great grands”)
If any grandmother today wrote a similar letter to Trump, I have a feeling the language would be much stronger and not nearly so polite. “Dear President Trump: Why do you lie all the time? Why are you destroying the country?” might be one such offering. It’s hard to imagine a grandmother starting a letter with “Dear Slimeball” or a similar epithet. But you never know.
Helen Slagle McConnell died in 1985 at the age of 96. This photo, while undated, is likely to have been taken in the late 1960s or 1970s, possibly around the time she wrote the letter in 1974, as it is marked as being taken in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Presumably, Grandmother McConnell would have been as mortified about Donald Trump as she was about Richard Nixon. No doubt she would have asked him to apologize to his family and the country and would have offered some scripture to guide him.
Since her suggested religious leaders are no longer around, I’m sure she could name others to give Trump spiritual guidance. But I bet she could do better than some of the evangelical leaders who are so eager to suck up to Trump, such as Franklin Graham and James Dobson.
And although her father told her that “no one had good enough memory to lie consistently,” Trump is certainly doing his best to try — even if his lies are never consistent.
Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 16, 2018.