The good, the bad and the ugly

Malcolm has lately felt immortal longings on him. This tristesse is, we believe, in large part the result of recent deaths.

First there was Tony Tyler, for years (alternating with Charles Shaar Murray, who did The Guardian’s obit) the wit behind the tail-gunner slot in MacUser. Another obituary, by Chris Salewicz, in The Indie is an equal delight. Malcolm would not add anything, except his thanks for years of amusement and, even, education.

Then one that seems to have slipped under the radar: Joseph Ungaro. Who he, Malcolm hears you saying.

Well, Ungaro was the editor of the Providence Evening Bulletin.

He hit the spot, and earned at least a footnote in the Decency Hall of Fame with one pertinent question. Ungaro was one of 400 media types at a convention run by AP. In a Q&A session, Ungaro asked President Richard Nixon if he had always correctly reported his income for taxation. Nixon was suffiently piqued to return to this later with the comment: “I am not a crook”. [The full Washington Post report of the event is on line here.] The effect was to focus on Nixon’s guilt: indeed, the episode is now treated as an exemplar of forensic revelation [see here].

The consequences were:

  • to fire up Woodward and Bernstein to even greater efforts;
  • to provoke Jack White, a reporter of the Providence news chain, to keep digging (and profitably so, for it earned him a 1974 Pulitzer Prize); and
  • it cost Nixon $432,787.13 in back taxes. In part this was because Nixon had claimed against security improvements to his property. The security provisions included chairs and lamps, bed clothes, a swimming-pool heater and an ice-machine.
  • This must be taken as a sample of Nixon’s wholesale greed: in total he had claimed $10m from federal funds to “improve” his homes in Florida and California.

To the end and beyond, though, Nixon was bilking the IRS. As late as last year, public access was being denied to historians of papers for which the Nixon Estate had been paid by federal funds.

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1 Comment

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  1. Anonymous

    Why is Malcolm so obsessed with Nixon? He’s dead, dammit. Move on. Get with the plot.

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