Julie Nixon Eisenhower’s Pat Nixon: The Untold Story 4

On page 227 of Pat Nixon: The Untold Story, Julie Nixon Eisenhower (the youngest daughter of Richard and Pat Nixon) talks about Pat Buchanan working for her father starting in 1966, which was a time in between Richard Nixon’s service as Vice-President and President.  Pat Buchanan worked in the same room as Rose Mary Woods (Nixon’s long-time secretary), Shelley Scarney (who would become Pat Buchanan’s wife), and Pat Nixon.  Julie tells some amusing anecdotes about Pat Buchanan.  She states that he “cursed and mumbled” (Pat Buchanan’s words) while he was typing, and that, while the people in that work-space didn’t have much time for small talk, Pat Buchanan “bummed cigarettes from my mother” in the afternoons, even though he “was trying to quit smoking.”

This passage stood out to me for two reasons.  First of all, it was interesting to me to read about Pat Buchanan’s human side.  Pat Buchanan was the first person I voted for in a presidential election.  I voted for him in the 1996 Republican primary, and also in the 2000 Presidential election.  (I lived in Massachusetts, which was going for Gore anyway, so I figured I could vote for the candidate I liked best.)  Although I am more to the left nowadays than I was then, and even though I can understand and sympathize with my friends’ criticisms of and reservations about Pat Buchanan, I still like the guy!  I don’t know him personally, but I like watching him on TV and reading his writings.

Second, the passage brought to my mind Pat Nixon’s smoking.  Earlier in the book, on page 89, Julie acknowledged that Pat Nixon smoked,  but she states that Pat didn’t smoke publicly when Richard was running for Congress in 1946.  Julie quotes Pat as saying: “It just wasn’t acceptable in Whittier for women to smoke then.  I was a very light smoker and felt why let something that’s not that important to me become an issue.”

Anthony Summers, in The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon, portrays Pat Nixon as a chain-smoker.  He states on page 38:

“Pat Nixon claimed she used neither cigarettes nor alcohol.  In fact, she smoked almost all her adult life and was to die of lung cancer.  By the time her husband was president, she was chain-smoking the moment she stepped out of the public eye.  ‘She smoked incessantly aboard Air Force One,’ said chief pilot Ralph Albertazzie.  ‘That was one of the little secrets she shared with the crew.  Sometimes, after a flight, the stewards counted the butts….'”

When I was growing up, I was taught that smoking was wrong.  If I’m not mistaken, my church said a couple of times that smoking was a sin because our bodies are the temple of God.  The thing is, when I was a child, I saw adults smoking!  I was confused.  Adults were telling me that smoking was wrong, yet I saw adults smoking.

I would occasionally tell strangers who were smoking that what they were doing was wrong, to the embarrassment of my parents!  The smokers would usually acknowledge that smoking wasn’t good for them, but they would say that they couldn’t quit.

One time, when I was in elementary school, my class was on a field trip in the woods.  From a distance, I saw my very own teacher smoking in the main cabin!  I brought my friend over so that he could see the event, and he shook his head in shame.  This teacher had taught us a whole curriculum about why smoking was wrong, and she admitted in class that she used to smoke, but no longer did so.  But there she was…smoking!

When I told my Mom after coming home that I saw my teacher smoking, my Mom was sympathetic to the teacher.  “Well, I’d smoke, too, if I had to be around a bunch of kids for four days!”, my Mom said.  My Mom herself did not smoke, but she knew why my teacher was smoking: it was a way for the teacher to relax.

I think it’s sad when people die from lung cancer due to smoking.  But I’d probably put smoking in the same category as eating fatty foods or lots of cholesterol—-something with which I’ve struggled: I wouldn’t consider a person immoral for doing that, but it’s not particularly healthy for the person.

Still, I have to be honest: there is a stigma that I attach in my mind to smokers.  Part of it is that I don’t like the smell of cigarettes, but it’s also because people are doing something that I was taught was wrong back in my childhood days.  This is one of the many ways in which I need to get past my prejudices so that I can respect and appreciate people.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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