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The Happiest Place on Earth


They say that Orange County is home to the Happiest Place on Earth. For most people, that’s Disneyland. For a cynical left-wing historian, it is the Nixon Library. When I visited Orange County last month, it was my top priority to visit, way more than the beach (which was nice too). I was not disappointed.

Presidential libraries occupy a weird space. They are operated in association with the National Archives, but the museum section is usually put together by some sort of private group. That means that there is a real tendency for hagiography, especially with recent presidents. The downside and the upside is exactly the same–eyerollingly ridiculous interpretation of controversial events. Although opened in 1990, the Nixon Library is still mostly in the hagiographic phase, with Nixon’s partisans talking about how great he was. There is one exception here. The historians have taken over the Watergate section so that whereas I understand that section actually stuck to the claim that the 18 1/2 deleted minutes of tape was totally an accident, today, it says that Nixon was really wrong. It is however so detailed and confusing that there’s almost no way any regular visitor is coming out of it with a good understanding of just what happened.

For the sake of learning about history, let’s hope the rest of the Nixon Library follows into more professional interpretation. But I am glad to visit before it did. Because it is amazing. Now it’s time for a photo tour. Here’s the first thing I saw when I went into the bookstore.


The blue ones read “Silent Majority: Tanned, Rested, and Ready”. I was sorely tempted to buy one, but you just can’t wear that ironically. I did however get a “What Would Nixon Do?” bumper sticker for my office. My friend bought some Nixon Library hand sanitizer as well. It was very exciting.

The books available for sale? Only the finest in politics and history:


Prominently displayed is also the book by the next president of the United States, Dr. Ben Carson. Rick Perlstein? What are you a commie? Of course that’s not for sale. I’m also curious about that secret plot to make Ted Kennedy president. Was that the 1980 Democratic primary?

The museum’s presentation of policy is uniformly horrible, combining cheap and ancient yellowing displays, way too much text that no one is going to read, and right-wing talking points. Nixon was the true environmental president because he signed legislation that passed the House 372-15. He was the true civil rights president because Jackie Robinson voted for him or something. I won’t even bother with most of it, except to say that the My Lai section was “under renovation.” Yeah, I’ll bet. If I have to sum up the policy displays in 1 image, this discussion of Miranda rights will suffice:


I’m not sure the museum staff, who were obvious Nixon partisans, appreciated my friends and I openly mocking this stuff.

One thing presidential libraries often feature is the gifts presidents receive from other heads of state. So it was just natural to display the maté set given to Nixon by Augusto Pinochet.


Gifts from other really nice leaders like the Shah, Suharto, and Ferdinand Marcos are also there for you to see. As are weird things that people gave Nixon. Like this, possibly the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen displayed in a museum.


“Dear Dick,

I was hiking around my ranch and I saw this rock that looks like your head. I thought you would enjoy it.



Finally, there is the greatest thing ever. Out back is the helicopter Nixon took from the White House to Camp David when he resigned. And you can go inside! Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures inside, but if you could you would see the amazing shag carpet that is preserved in the cockpit. However, you can imitate Nixon’s wave goodbye to the nation when he got on the helicopter. I don’t know that anyone had ever done that before; certainly the tour guide was taken aback by my sheer joy at this opportunity. This was really one of the greatest moments of my life.


My wave was so vigorous that my shirt got out of whack. I guess that’s my version of Nixon sweating during the 1960 debate. That’s OK, I can own it. Because I got to imitate Nixon’s wave. If I ever get kicked off this blog, my last line is “You won’t have Loomis to kick around anymore!” I’ve always wanted to use that.

After seeing this, as well as the bed where Nixon was birthed (look at this cute little baby!) we were on the way out when we realized that a wedding was about to begin. Yes, someone had rented out the Nixon Library for their wedding. Where the couple was going to take their vows was about 20 feet from Nixon’s grave. Now, I think we’ve all wanted to play a little Dick and Pat on our wedding night, but this was a bit ridiculous. This was the least romantic spot for a wedding ever. Although I hope I am invited to an irony-themed wedding there in the future.

Obviously, if you are ever near Yorba Linda, you need to experience this joy for yourself.

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  • c u n d gulag

    The Nixon Library seems like Disneyland for liberals!

    Thanks for the mini-tour, Erik!

    Many of us Nixon-haters will, thanks to the politics that started with him, never be able to afford to go there.

    Btw – if they had a pay-toilet on top of his grave, I’d pay at least a $100 bucks to defecate and pee on that evil old bastards remains.

  • postmodulator

    It says it all that in Orange County they’re able to find enough “Nixon Partisans” to staff a museum.

    • STH

      Yeah, I was kind of amazed at that phrase. This is a species that exists?

    • Jackov

      They probably could staff the museum with just people from Yorba Linda and pull the volunteers from nearby Anaheim Hills and Villa Park. The are two very different ‘sides’ of Orange County with the 55 as a decent dividing line.

  • MAJeff

    Yes, someone had rented out the Nixon Library for their wedding.

    People I most definitely do not want to know.

    • Derelict

      I want to know them! They obviously have some disposable cash in the family, and they’re evidently immune to intrusions of reality. So maybe I can interest them in buying some gold, or at least some gold futures. Or maybe a spot in my soon-to-open libertarian paradise development somewhere in Patagonia. After all, I think I have an affirmative moral duty to separate them from their money before they use to further evil.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Is it really that expensive to book the Nixon library for a wedding? As compared to “normal” venues?

        If not, then I’d guess that it’s more a matter of “youngsters who have NO IDEA what they’re doing” (always a good assumption, with weddings)

        Otherwise, (hey, it’s behind the Orange Curtain, amirite?) I’d guess that the John Birch Society HQ was booked up.

        • postmodulator

          Could’ve been hipsters up from Silverlake who wanted their wedding day drenched ironic detachment.

          • Keaaukane

            It’s only ironic if it is raining. That would drench them.

    • ExpatJK

      I want to know who they are, so I can avoid them.

  • Gwen

    I will be driving through Arkansas next Thursday. A big part of me wants to stop at the Clinton library but I want to make good time to Memphis so I can see Graceland before it closes. I have arranged to stay at the Days Inn nearby that has a guitar-shaped pool, 24/7 Elvis channel, etc.

    But If I oversleep and leave Texas (Arlington) too late to beat the clock, I might just stop in Little Rock instead.

    But you know, the thing about Clinton is he’s just not as lulzy as Nixon. Nixon was such a pathetic worm, it’s like even if he hadn’t gotten booted for Watergate we’d still be making fun of him to this day.

    Clinton, besides the whole sex-lies-and-videotape thing, was a pretty normal guy. The closest thing to a non-Lewinsky-related vice might be the McDonalds thing they poked fun at on SNL.



    • TriforceofNature

      My only experience with presidential libraries was JFK’s in Boston, which I enjoyed, although probably not enough to go back next time I’m in Boston. I do want to visit more of them, especially Republican ones, out of sheer curiosity. Right now the closest one to me is the FDR library, I figure I’ll take a day trip up there.

      Anyway-do Graceland. That was a hell of a lot of fun. I would go back to Graceland.

      And I dunno, boinking interns is pretty quotidian-just ask Newt Gingrich.

      • Keaaukane

        My only Presidential Library was the Herbert Hoover, in Iowa. It was pathetic.

        • Amity Schlaes

          Don’t be fooled by liberal pointy-headed intellectuals – the Herbert Hoover library is terrific! The best in the world! It gets wrongly blamed for the failings of the FDR library!

          • Captain Haddock

            Well played.

          • Keaaukane

            Mathguy down thread seems to agree with with me. Or, as he posted first, I agree with him.

        • Murc

          My only Presidential Library was the Herbert Hoover, in Iowa. It was pathetic

          That actually saddens me. Herbert Hoover lived a remarkable life that I wish more people knew about. His years prior to assuming the Presidency are super-interesting and also reflect well on the man.

          • Keaaukane

            I think he also did fairly well post Presidency. I seem to recall he was useful in WW2. But the library was really bad.

    • drkrick

      I saw Truman’s on a visit to Kansas City in ’75, about the time Harry’s reputation was on the upswing, in no small part due to the contract with Nixon. While there was no devil’s advocacy, they didn’t seem to be trying to sell him, either. As a point of reference, Truman had been out of office about half as long then as Nixon has been now.

  • When I was far too young to know any better I actually liked Nixon. I would have probably been 8 to 10 years at the time.

    Once, when my parents were badmouthing Nixon I asked “What did Nixon do?”

    My father pulled out a copy of Life Magazine (I think), and showed me the iconic picture of the little Vietnamese girl who’d been hit my napalm.

    “THAT’S what Nixon did!”

  • I assume the Nixon Library Hand Sanitizer leaves your hands dirtier than they were before you used it.

    • Lee Rudolph

      Following up on Major Kong’s post immediately above: it’s napalm. The disposable lighter costs extra, though.

      • Barry Freed

        Don’t use the G. Gordon Liddy soap. It has LSD in it.

        • Hogan

          And you have to hold your hand over a lit candle to get it off.

  • Barry Freed

    This is such a great post.

    but if you could you would see the amazing shag carpet that is preserved in the cockpit.

    Please tell me its color was “Harvest Gold.”

    • Lee Rudolph

      What, not Avocado?

    • It was a really dark blue.

      • ChrisTS

        Aw. Like Lee, I was rooting for avocado.

      • Murc

        Most likely “presidential blue”, Erik.

        Yes. That’s a real color.

  • Emily68

    “Dear Dick,

    I was hiking around my ranch and I saw this rock that looks like your head. I thought you would enjoy it.



    Not too long after Watergate, I saw an eggplant in the grocery story that looked just like Nixon’s head. It was like two eggplants grown together, so it had the droopy jowls, and there was even a little nose. I would have bought it, but I didn’t have a camera in those days. A minute or so after I was done admiring it, another person picked it up and said, “Wow!”

    • Vance Maverick

      Whoa, like, people used to look at things with their eyes and remember them with their brains.

      Trying to imagine it, the eggplant sounds a bit like Philip Guston’s Poor Richard (which I believe I’ve recommended in these parts before) — though he modeled the jowls with other bulbous organic processes.

    • CD

      Is that note real, or is Loomis … improving the archive?

      Either way, Goldwater had a drier sense of humor than we realized.

    • The Temporary Name

      There is some eggplant history here, and by coincidence I have been mentioning it a fair amount today, as a very small person I know just had dental surgery and has developed jowls.

  • my name here

    The priest at my in-laws church is John Taylor, former director of the Nixon Library. If anyone is interested he recently wrote a historical fiction novel about what if Nixon didn’t resign. It’s called Jackson Place.

    Amazingly even with this personal connection and family in the area I have never been to the library. Perhaps I will have to remedy this soon.

    • Davis X. Machina

      Tayolr has a blog. The Episconixonian.

      • Lee Rudolph

        The Rev. Canon John H. Taylor is father of two, stepfather of two more, husband of one, and priest of the Mighty One.

        Never heard Nixon called that before, but, hey.

    • Murc

      If anyone is interested he recently wrote a historical fiction novel about what if Nixon didn’t resign.

      That seems like it would be something of a boring book. Does anyone see a realistic way Nixon avoids impeachment?

      • DocAmazing

        Ritual suicide?

        • Hogan

          Military coup.

  • Warren Terra

    If I ever get kicked off this blog, my last line is “You won’t have Loomis to kick around anymore!”

    Long may we have Loomis to kick around.

    • Vance Maverick

      Nixon lasted a long time after delivering that line. Indeed, we’re still kicking him around today!

  • djw

    I was sent a copy of that Secret Plot book back in 2008 to my work address at Seattle U, with a long rambling incoherent letter asking me to review it on the blog. I used to get emails from that guy; he’s completely nuts.

    • Lee Rudolph

      Or, as Wikipedia puts it, “Shepard’s book espousing an alternative view of Watergate, The Secret Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President was published by Penguin Sentinel in 2008.”

      • djw

        Gosh, I wonder who wrote that wikipedia entry.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          One of Mary Rosh’s sock puppets.

    • Warren Terra

      Why does your comment have a time stamp at least three minutes in the future? As in, it was there when I read the thread and then I posted my own comment, which is time-stamped three minutes earlier …

      • Lee Rudolph

        With luck, I can reply to this before you post it!!!

        (Seriously, ever since the great Logging-In, somehow time has become more fluid.)

        [Well, I didn’t manage it. But at least now, your reply to djw is timestamped only ONE minute earlier.]

        • djw

          I do seem to be five minutes in the future for some unspecified reason.

          • Warren Terra

            Got any stock tips?

            • hickes01

              When will Adrian Peterson be able to rejoin my Fantasy Squad?

            • CD


          • DocAmazing

            Max Headroom? Is that you?

      • Gregor Sansa

        18.5 minutes were deleted by mistake.

        • Captain Haddock

          I’d be happy to be reimbursed 15 minutes now rather than the full 18.5 on my deathbed.

    • Hogan

      I think Hillary Clinton has a prominent role in that plot, so we may be seeing a new edition soon.

      • djw

        Yes! And if I recall correctly, John Dean is a major figure (he was in on the conspiracy. No wonder Nixon was so paranoid).

        According to Amazon, he’s got an all new book scheduled for August 2015 release (with, natch, Renegry): “The Real Watergate Scandal: Exposing the Illegal Conspiracy to Bring Down Nixon.” Since ‘illegal conspiracy’ and ‘watergate’ seem to go together so naturally it takes a minute to realize how cracked out the title is.

    • Murc

      God, djw, you should have done it. I would love to have seen that review.

      • Lee Rudolph

        The NY Post review, linked to from the Wiki article, is not sympathetic, to put it mildly. But it isn’t djw-worthy.

  • Warren Terra

    This post inspired me to to a Google Images query for Nixon’s grave. Some wiseacre fond of the non-sequitur has put an epitaph on his grave marker: “The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker”. Not an awful sentiment, but what’s it doing there?

    • Gregor Sansa

      It’s translated from the Chinese.

  • dl

    why can’t you wear that shirt ironically?

    • The fabric is steeped in anti-irony solution.

    • Too many people would take it seriously and either a) come up to you and shake your hand or b) think you are an asshole. In both cases, the reaction would the opposite of intended.

  • Mandos

    I visited distant relatives in Orange County a few years ago, and during that visit, I too visited the Nixon Library and thought it was the best part of my California experience. Orange County itself was enormously interesting from an “armchair anthropology” perspective. I visited the Nixon Library on Memorial Day and got to shake the hands of his youngest brother.

    They had special events for Memorial Day, and the museum was full of elderly ladies in elegant clothes, bleach-blond hair, and frilly floral hats. I had stepped into another universe, looking *very* out of place. These were Nixon People come out to play.

  • mathguy

    I wonder if the Hoover Library in West Branch, IA inspired similar sentiment for Depression era folks. I was there for research work and it was one of the saddest places I’ve ever visited. The librarian was thrilled that someone wanted to use the archives.

    • drkrick

      I went to Herbert Hoover Elementary School (I leave it to you to consider how Republican a town would have to be to open a school with that name in 1933, decades before I got there). In the library they had a framed telegram from their namesake from his suite in the Waldorf Astoria thanking them for the honor on the day the school opened. I always wondered if he was a little bemused about the whole thing.

  • Cheerful

    A banker tried to give me an Andrew Johnson coin the other day, which I indignantly declined. But at least at his library a guy could probably get a drink.

  • Joe_JP

    Given control of the Congress pursuant to 2014, those silent majority t-shirts might have a somewhat different function these days.

  • GeoX

    One good idea would be to sell Robert Coover’s Public Burning in the bookstore.

  • KmCO

    I’m mildly disappointed you didn’t go with the V sign pose.

    • Hmmm…. Good point.

      • Ahenobarbus

        Did they play You’re So Vain when you walked out to the plane?

        Was there a Dan Hedaya sighting?

      • Jackov

        The photo/story makes me think you hit
        the Bruery before the tour.

        • We went after actually. It was a weird place. So many beers. With rather varying quality. Had some super delicious ones and some really bad ones (had a sampler). Interesting place.

  • FYWP

    I occasionally get mail from the Nixon library. Weird, to be sure, but they have my address because I got a Christmas ornament for my uncle from there a few years ago:

    The President and the King

    My uncle thought it was a hoot, as did I. It’s a great ironic gift, and I’m surprised Loomis didn’t grab a couple if they had them in the brick and mortar gift shop.

    Thanks for inspiring me to look it up again. They were sold out (for obvious reasons!) when I last looked.

    • Lee Rudolph

      They were sold out (for obvious reasons!) when I last looked.

      If any object ever cried out for copyright infringement, that does.

      —Wait, you mean to say that “ironic deployment” is not covered by the Fair Use exemption?

  • Protip for real obsessives: when in the area visit Whittier College, Nixon’s alma mater, and ask in the library to see the collection of the old reprobate’s vice-presidential gifts. It’s open to the public at no charge, but you have to ask a librarian to let you in. There’s nothing there as good as the head-shaped rock, but as long as you’re mocking Nixoniana, you might as well mock the complete set. They also have a reflecting pool with a plaque commemorating Nixon’s founding of a fraternity which, oddly, is still active at the college.

    • Hogan

      Petit-bourgeois resentment is a hardy perennial.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      “…a plaque commemorating Nixon’s founding of a fraternity which, oddly, is still active at the college.”

      That would be the Rho Phi Kappa, aka Ratfuckers?

  • ChrisTS

    Perhaps this evidences my naivete, but I’m astonished that there are [living] people who regard Nixon with anything other than contempt. Or, at least disgusted amusement.

    • DocAmazing

      I work with a lot of Mexican and Central American families, and a surprising number of little boys and young men are named “Nixon”.

      I think something get lost in translation.

    • efgoldman

      I’m astonished that there are [living] people who regard Nixon with anything other than contempt.

      Well, some of Tricky’s defenders at the time are still alive. Trent Lott, for instance.

  • Gwen
  • Tehanu

    We visited the Nixon Library some years back, not long after it first opened, and I remember being gobsmacked by the Robot President who would answer your questions about various topics. It wasn’t a figure of Nixon like the Hall of Prezzes at Disneyland; it was more of an interactive voice thingy. Of course, what we wanted to ask, but couldn’t, was “Well, Mr. President, it’s the bees and the spiders again! Where can I get a job?”

    Erik: that picture of you is great. Muchos kudos. On the other hand, that quote about the extra “equipment” is everything that’s still wrong with the Greedy Oligarchs Party.

    • The robot is no longer there. It makes me sad.

      • pseudonymous in nc

        Perhaps it got moved to Franklin Graham’s Billypalooza in Charlotte to stand next to the talking cow.

  • gtomkins

    Presidential libraries are all basically places of worship for cargo cults. But yes, that rock pushes the likeness pretty far.

    “That rock. It fell from the skies. It bears the image of Tuan Nixon. It must be put in a place of worship whether it means the Tuan Nixon has been cast out from among Those Who Dwell on High, or that TWDOH are sending a sign of their displeasure that he was rejected by our tribe. Either way, TWDOH must be appeased.”

  • Doesn’t putting that shirt on automatically eliminate you from the “silent majority”?

    • DocAmazing

      To quote the old joke: “It doesn’t say anything–you have to read it.”

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