I have two items for my write-up today on volume 2 of Richard Nixon’s memoirs.
1. On pages 631-632, we read the following:
“Finally, there were the media. I felt that, consciously or subconsciously, they had a vested interest in my impeachment. After all the months of leaks and accusations and innuendo, the media stood to lose if I were vindicated. The defenses never caught up with the charges. For example, after all the damaging press and television coverage of alleged abuses of the IRS, when IRS Commissioner Donald Alexander announced the conclusions of a report that found no one had in fact been harassed as a result of White House intervention—-a conclusion later supported by the findings of a joint congressional committee investigation—-it was run on page thirty-nine of the New York Times and received scant coverage elsewhere. Most of the reporters and commentators were still filtering everything through their Watergate obsessions. For example, Douglas Kiker of NBC reported that the White House was seeking to create the ‘impression’ of a ‘busy President, back from an important and exhausting peacekeeping mission, trying to do his job’ despite harassment from the House Judiciary Committee. Months later, House Judiciary Committee impeachment firebrand Jerome Waldie said that he doubted that I would have been forced from office ‘if the press had not desired it.'”
The theme of Nixon being a victim of the media is not new, in terms of Nixon’s writings. He portrayed himself as such in his 1962 book, Six Crises, and throughout volumes 1-2 of his memoirs. I admire Nixon for being tough in the midst of the attacks on him, and yet there is a part of me that does not feel sorry for him that much, especially after reading Greg Mitchell’s Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady. In Mitchell’s depiction of the 1950 U.S. Senate race in California between Richard Nixon and Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas, Mitchell essentially presents Douglas as a victim of Nixon’s slick and well-funded campaign, of Nixon’s attacks, and of wealthy special interests and a press who were largely in favor of Nixon. (Mitchell acknowledges, however, that Douglas herself made mistakes in her campaign, and that there were attacks against her even before she ran against Nixon, for she was seen as too far to the left and as soft on Communism.) The 1950 Senate race effectively ended Douglas’ political career. Governor Earl Warren himself lamented that Nixon tried to destroy his opponents, not just beat them. In light of that, I had a slightly hard time feeling sorry for Nixon when he complained about being the victim of John F. Kennedy’s slick campaign and media bias. I saw what he was going through as justice. But I’m sure that Nixon would see things differently: he’d probably say that his attacks on Douglas were fair in that they simply highlighted her record, whereas many charges against him were not fair.
2. On page 650, Nixon quotes his daughter Tricia’s diary, which said: “Daddy, of course, is always protective of everyone but himself.” That’s essentially how Nixon portrays himself in his memoirs: he cares for his family and for those who work for him, and it pains him when he has to take hard yet necessary measures, such as asking H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman to resign. The reason that Tricia’s statement stood out to me in my latest reading is that I have been looking at Amazon book reviews of books by those who were within Nixon’s inner circle during Watergate—-Haldeman, Ehrlichman, etc.—-and some of the reviews say that Nixon basically threw others under the bus in order to save his own skin. I may read those books, or I may not. I don’t know what the truth of the matter is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s somewhere in between the two extremes: Nixon was caring, yet he was also self-protective, on some level.