POLITICS

Nixonites celebrate their president's 100th birthday

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Yeas and Nays,Politics,Nikki Schwab

Although he died at 81 in 1994, it was Richard Nixon who serenaded the crowd at his 100th birthday gala Wednesday.

As a packed room of guests began to sing, a decades-old video popped up of Nixon, playing the piano and singing "Happy Birthday." The crowd took the late president's lead.

Prominent figures from Nixon's administration, including Brent Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger, Nixon's daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, and even a 99-year-old former Whittier College football teammate, all came to remember the president.

Former Gov. Haley Barbour, R-Miss., and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan also attended. Buchanan made the room erupt with laughter he jokingly mused, "Alger Hiss became an MSNBC commentator, didn't he?," referencing the former State Department official and accused spy.

Ben Stein, Nixon's former speechwriter-turned media personality told Yeas & Nays that he believes Nixon's brand of conservatism is lost today. When asked why, Stein replied: "People started believing in magical formulas and incantations and the hocus-pocus and voodoo and stopped believing in reasonable activities."

Kissinger, whose entrance caused a buzz, told Yeas & Nays that his former boss is unlike any politician today.

"I think Nixon was a unique individual. He was unique in ... his knowledge, his complexity," Kissinger said.

Unexpected guest Harry Shearer, of "Spinal Tap" and "Simpsons" fame, was invited to the gala due to his interest in Nixon.

"He's the great American tragic-comic character of the 20th century, of Greek proportions; a self-made, self-destroyed man who couldn't forgive his enemies for losing to him. I just think his whole personality structure is fascinating," Shearer said. Shearer also revealed that he has just completed a series for British TV where he played Nixon.

The birthday cake was a detailed replica of the Nixon Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif.

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