Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nice Guy Nixon, Longing to Belong

Even in the White House, he felt the whole world was a club that wouldn’t take him in as a member.

New documents and tapes released yesterday by custodians of the de-sanitized Nixon Library and Museum only add to the picture of an angry, isolated, paranoid President plotting to get everybody else before they got him and, at the same time, wanting to be perceived as a regular guy.

There is an 11-page memo from 1970 complaining that he never got credit for being “nicey-nice,” listing all his "good deeds"--calling sick people, writing to those who were experiencing hard times, giving parties for the poor. "There are innumerable examples of warm items," he wrote, echoing his exaggerated sense of being unappreciated.

Typically Nixon wanted to manipulate an outcome without getting caught doing it. "With regard to the whole warmth business, a very important point to underline is that we do not try to broker such items," he wrote, not wanting the White House to be seen as promoting them but letting them be "discovered."

Somewhere under all that insecurity and misplaced guile was the man Nixon wanted to be. I got a glimpse of him in 1966 when the former Vice President and failed candidate for Governor of California was practicing law in Manhattan.

When conversation at the dinner table turned to baseball, his calculating manner gave way to enthusiastic fan talk. That led me to suggest there was a perfect job opening for him--Commissioner of Baseball.

His eyes lit up. “Can you get it for me?” he asked.

If he had gotten that job, there would be no library and museum now, but he might have had a happier life, as would we all.

1 comment:

Jeff Hess said...

Shalom Robert,

Isn't it interesting that this is also the one job that President Bush wanted and could never get?