On page 957 of Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, Conrad Black states:
“Nixon’s plucky and generally very popular daughter, Julie Eisenhower, had gone out speaking in support of her father. She invariably made a very good impression, and even Norman Mailer acknowledged that his demonized view of Nixon did not allow for loyal and attractive daughters.”
As I read this, I thought about Don Fulsom’s claim in Nixon’s Darkest Secrets that Richard Nixon was physically and verbally abusive to his wife, Pat. On what does Fulsom base this claim? On page 69, Fulsom quotes a statement by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that “There was a serious empirical basis for believing [Nixon] was a wife-beater, and had done so—-at least hospitalized her a number of times…I’m talking about trauma, and three distinct cases.” What specifically led Hersh to this conclusion, we are not told, but Fulsom is quoting from this article in which Hersh explains why he chose not to write a story about this topic. On page 71, Fulsom refers to Time magazine reporter Frank McCullough, who came to Nixon’s home in 1950 to interview him and heard Nixon call his wife a “dumb f***ing b***h”. McCullough promised Nixon that he would not report this in the magazine, but McCullough did tell Fulsom about it in a 2010 telephone conversation. And, on page 212, Fulsom appeals to anonymous sources: “In the mid-’60s, clued-in Capitol Hill reporters, including yours truly, heard from completely reliable sources that Nixon had also beat Pat when he was a member of Congress.”
Whether or not you consider that to be solid evidence is up to you. I know that Anthony Summers, in The Arrogance of Power, also argues that Nixon was physically abusive towards his wife, and it will be interesting to see how he supports this claim. But suppose that Nixon indeed did physically and verbally abuse his wife. How could his daughters have been so loyal to him? If Nixon abused his wife, did that take place away from the children? Was his daughters’ loyalty to and love for their father merely an act? Did Julie write that glowing book about her father and mother just to make money? I’m very reluctant to question the loyalty and love that Nixon’s daughters had for their father. I don’t know them, but their loyalty comes across to me, a simple observer, as authentic.
People nowadays can listen to some of the Nixon tapes online, and I’ve heard a few of them on YouTube. I’ve read some people who comment that Nixon was loving towards his wife, Pat, and they base that on what they heard of Nixon’s interactions with her on the White House tapes. They are entitled to their impressions, but allow me to offer mine, as unreliable as they might be. Whenever I listen to Nixon’s conversations with Tricia, Julie, or Pat, the ladies come across to me as rather nervous, like they don’t want to rock the boat. I could be completely wrong about this, but I know that I tend to talk fast when I am nervous in social situations, as if that will somehow mitigate my nerves. Tricia, Julie, and Pat, at least on the tapes, seem to me to talk rather fast. You can judge for yourself by going to YouTube and typing in their names. Does that mean, however, that they were intimidated by Nixon because he was an abuser? Not necessarily. All kinds of people can be intimidated by their father or husband, even if the father or husband is not abusive. And maybe they weren’t even nervous, for there are women who can talk fast without being nervous. I’m just offering my impressions as a listener, and I may be off-base. After all, people with Asperger’s (like myself) are supposedly inept at reading people!