What stood out to me in my latest reading of Monica Crowley’s Nixon in Winter was something that Nixon said on pages 71-72, about a speech that he gave concerning the Soviet Union when he was campaigning for U.S. Senate candidate Christine Todd Whitman in New Jersey:
“‘A speech is a conversation—-remember that. It’s important that you connect with the audience even if they have no idea what you are talking about. It’s hard to talk about, say, Soviet reform with people who are not clued in to it as well as you are. It’s hard to bring your arguments down to a level they can understand. It’s not that they’re not smart; it’s just that foreign policy isn’t their bag. And it’s hard to simplify it when it’s your bag. But you’ve got to do it, or you’re going to lose them.”
What Nixon tried to highlight to the American people and their leaders during the 1990’s was the importance of aiding Yeltsin and the development of a free market economy in Russia. Otherwise, ultra-conservatives could take over in Russia, launching a new Cold War, which would effect Americans because of the money that it would take to wage it.
Foreign policy is not exactly my bag. Nixon thought that foreign policy was more interesting than domestic policy, and I can understand why one would feel that way. There’s arguably more to know when it comes to foreign policy—-there are more countries, more cultures, more histories, more economies. When one studies domestic policy, however, he or she is looking at only one country: the United States. And yet, then again, come to think of it, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to domestic policy, too: the policies of the various 50 states, how a proposal would impact different people, a proposal’s positives and negatives, and the question of whether or not the U.S. can successfully apply ideas that other countries have tried (i.e., national health insurance).
For some reason, I’m more interested in domestic policy than I am in foreign policy. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because it affects me. And yet, even when I was a child and was not entirely clear about how public policies affected me personally, I was still more interested in domestic policy than foreign policy.
At the same time, I do enjoy reading what Nixon has to say about foreign policy, for he’s a lucid thinker and an engaging writer.
What Nixon said about trying to break things down caught my eye, too, since that is a challenge for me. Often, when I make a point, it can easily come across as a bunch of verbiage. What I need to work on is breaking things down for my audience, which is smart (in fact, smarter than me on a lot of things), but which wants to hear things in an accessible manner.