I have three items for my blog post today about Julie Nixon Eisenhower’s Pat Nixon: The Untold Story.
1. I wrote in my post yesterday that “Julie throughout the book (at least in what I have read thus far) very rarely questions her father’s presidential decisions…” Well, as my reading of the book goes on, Julie questions more and more her father’s judgment. In my latest reading, for example, she appeared to be criticizing her father’s heavy dependence on his aide, H.R. Haldeman. Julie relates a few stories about how Haldeman would tell Nixon that someone wanted to resign, when actually that person was unaware that his resignation was even on the table! Julie expresses understanding, however, for her father’s desire to consolidate his staff.
Julie also seems to imply that her father was wrong to demand the resignations of every “noncareer government employee” in his Administration when he began his second term, which was Nixon’s symbolic way of declaring a new beginning. Although Nixon did not plan to accept most of the resignations, his move hurt morale, according to Julie. Julie narrates that her mother, Pat Nixon, was “surprised and unhappy about the request for resignations” (page 361). Nixon later would regret his move.
Later in the book, Julie implies that her father and John Mitchell, Nixon’s Attorney General, were wrong to laugh off the eccentricities of Mitchell’s wife, Martha, for those eccentricities turned out to be serious problems.
I’m not sure if Julie ever explicitly says that her father was “right” or “wrong”, per se, but her usual manner seems to be to tell the story in such a way that the reader would arrive at a specific conclusion.
Overall, at least in my reading so far, Julie does not question her father’s policies. On once occasion, however, she mentions a slight difference of opinion between her father and mother: Pat Nixon supported the Equal Rights Amendment, whereas Richard Nixon had some reservations about it.
2. I read in Anthony Summers’ The Arrogance of Power that there were rumors in 1960 that Pat Nixon had been married prior to her marriage to Richard. Summers says that the question of whether this is true “may now be unanswerable” because it’s hard to hunt “down old marriage records in New York State” (page 29). Summers does not think it impossible that she had been married before, for Pat’s “alleged first husband” denied the marriage to a Washington Post reporter in a manner that she considered ambiguous, and some of the documentation that “should have included Pat Ryan’s marital status…seemed to have gone missing” (page 29). Summers also points out that Betty Ford’s previous marriage was unknown before “a Time magazine reporter dug into her background in 1974″, and he wonders if Pat could have had “a similar secret”.
In a note in the back, on page 488, Summers offers more nuances. He notes that Pat referred to herself as unmarried in letters home “as late as February 1934.” He does not think that Pat was married to Dr. Francis Vincent Duke, for that was not mentioned in Duke’s obituary, plus Pat’s alleged first husband whom the Washington Post reporter interviewed lived in New Orleans, whereas Duke did not.
As far as Julie’s book goes, Julie narrates that Dr. Duke asked Pat to marry him more than once, but Pat rejected his offers, since she wanted her independence, and she did not feel that she had truly lived yet, having been busy for much of her life up to that point.
3. On page 117, Julie tells a story about someone she encountered during the 1952 election, back when Julie was a child:
“When Jacqueline Bouvier (later Kennedy), the ‘Inquiring Photographer’ for the Times-Herald, encountered me playing outside our house, she asked, ‘Do you play with Democrats?’ My response was ‘What’s a Democrat?'”
When I was reading that, I was picturing Jackie as a paparazzi journalist! Julie may not have been painting that picture, but that’s what I was thinking!