Questions For Nixon's 2nd Term
It made a peculiar kind of sense: President Nixon's last inauguration and what could be the last Vietnam peace demonstration, both happening on the same day.
It had been a long four years, both for the peace movement and the Administration. The antiwar movement had grown through the Moratorium to what appeared to be a peak during the Cambodia invasion. Then it seemed to die slowly away.
For Nixon, the troop withdrawals began, but so did the bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong. Peace was in hand, out of hand, and in hand again as fast as one could say "light at the end of the tunnel."
January 20 marked a kind of triumph for both sides. For Nixon, it was a chance to gloat and smile. He would never have to face another confrontation with the electorate and he looked more confident than he had in a long time--perhaps ever. He also talked tough.
The antiwar movement appeared to have a new life. Almost 100,000 people gathered at the Washington Monument and yelled "Stop the War" loud enough to be heard at the site of the swearing-in. And it was an older crowd than previously, with a lot of children in baby carriages. The movement seemed to have broadened its base; perhaps it was on the move again.
And then, on Wednesday night, the President announced that it was over. The troops would be home in 60 days and so would the POWs.
If all this holds up, what is in store for the two groups who were in Washington last weekend, divided by two blocks of policemen and miles of political differences?
During the antiwar rally, speaker after speaker called upon protesters to stay together. "We're going to have to keep lighting," they were told. But for what? Will the end of a war which divided a country and held together a movement mean the end of the movement and a reunification of the country? Or will the Left, which usually fares better with domestic issues than with foreign policy, come out of it all the stronger?
For the Administration, the course seems a little clearer. "Do not ask just what can the government do for me," declared Nixon. "Ask what can I do for myself." It's a return to normalcy he seeks.