For my blog post today for My Year (or More) of Nixon, I will feature two quotes. The first is from the book that I am reading now, Conrad Black’s Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full. The second is from Roger Morris’ Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician.
On page 449 of Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, Black states the following about Nixon’s frustration with Dwight Eisenhower:
“Nixon steadily ran strongly in polls of Republicans expressing a presidential preference, but always said that he was not a candidate for the 1964 nomination. When Eisenhower enumerated for the press ten Republicans that he thought would be good presidents, and left Nixon out, Nixon let his displeasure be known at a fashionable dinner table. He knew this would be reported to Eisenhower, who called the next day and said that Nixon had made his point many times that he was not a candidate. Nixon pointed out that, as reported, Eisenhower was not confining himself to declared, or even likely, candidates, and the former president told a reporter the following week that if there were a ‘sudden wave of support’ for Nixon, he would certainly be qualified. Nixon had had about as much of Eisenhower’s condescensions as he could take, and referred to his former boss from time to time as ‘that senile old bastard,’ which was in fact the opinion that he had intermittently had of him since the fund crisis thirteen years before. Nixon was aware of Eisenhower’s qualities and of his historic status, but it was a relief to drop the mask of exaggerated deference, at least occasionally and in private.”
On pages 135-136 of Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician, Roger Morris talks about a possible reason that Richard Nixon as a young man loved football:
“Later, reporters were ever puzzled at why he had played football so long and so punishingly at Whittier and, even with the cheers when he finally got in the game, with such failure and humiliation. In the end, thought Wood Glover, ‘He just enjoyed the game. He enjoyed being around it.’ He found among the football team, even apart from their locker room bull sessions, the candor and freedom from artifice that he had seen in his father, and that was missing in much of the rest of his universe. If the Milhouses were a tribe of quiet, compelling women, if debate and academics demanded subtlety and maneuver, the football field was a world of men and a kind of raw honesty. ‘I think he liked the contact with those people,’ Ingrum said. ‘And I’m not too sure that he didn’t enjoy it more than he did with just the scholar type, because I think he was challenged from a different standpoint. You know, the athletes don’t give a hoot what they say or when they say it…and I think Dick enjoyed the comradeship and the straightforwardness.”
So end the readings!
The reason that I love these passages is that they express how artificial and intimidating the social world can be. There are so many subtleties and nit-pickings and politics and jerks in the world today, that it’s a challenge for neurotypical people to get through this jungle, let alone people with Asperger’s, or others who feel as if they don’t have a social map! Nixon was happy when he could take a brief break from his need to be obsequious towards Eisenhower and could express what he really thought about Eisenhower and his history of condescension towards Nixon, even if Nixon could only take that break in private. And Nixon as a young man probably liked football because it was so raw and honest—-it didn’t have all the nuancing and subtleties of academia, or the repression of feelings from his Quaker heritage. Rather, athletes were blunt in saying what they thought, and football involved tackling. You’d think that people with Asperger’s would gravitate towards sports. But my impression is that this often does not happen. For one, there are many with Asperger’s who lack ability in sports (though there are exceptions). Second, because Aspies are different, they can be targets of bullying, sometimes by the blunt athletes, who may not feel bound by the rule of propriety that says that one person should not bully another. I’m not saying that all or even most athletes are like this, but this sort of thing does happen.