Hunter S. Thompson eulogizes Richard M. Nixon (1994): “He Was a Crook.”

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Arguably, the finest political obituary in American history. A Facebook friend linked to it yesterday, remarking that he rereads the piece every few months. It’s a sign that I should, too — and now it’s your turn.

It is impossible to read Dr. Thompson’s masterwork without laughing aloud. It is equally impossible to pull one representative passage. One simply must read the whole piece.

On occasion it will occur to me that I’ve borrowed a phrase from Thompson while writing. This is the reason why I limit my reading of his essays, because doing so influences my own style. Unconsciously, I try to emulate it. The same applies to H.L. Mencken.

My heroes are the polemicists. Ah, yes; always and forever.

He Was a Crook

By Hunter S. Thompson (The Atlantic; originally published in Rolling Stone on June 16, 1994)

DATE: MAY 1, 1994
FROM: DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON
SUBJECT: THE DEATH OF RICHARD NIXON: NOTES ON THE PASSING OF AN AMERICAN MONSTER…. HE WAS A LIAR AND A QUITTER, AND HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN BURIED AT SEA…. BUT HE WAS, AFTER ALL, THE PRESIDENT.

… It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he’s gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive — and he was, all the way to the end — we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard. He had the fighting instincts of a badger trapped by hounds. The badger will roll over on its back and emit a smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action. But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and tearing. It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by the head with all four claws.

That was Nixon’s style — and if you forgot, he would kill you as a lesson to the others. Badgers don’t fight fair, bubba. That’s why God made dachshunds …

… It is fitting that Richard Nixon’s final gesture to the American people was a clearly illegal series of 21 105-mm howitzer blasts that shattered the peace of a residential neighborhood and permanently disturbed many children. Neighbors also complained about another unsanctioned burial in the yard at the old Nixon place, which was brazenly illegal. “It makes the whole neighborhood like a graveyard,” said one. “And it fucks up my children’s sense of values” …

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