In my latest reading of Richard Nixon's 1962 book Six Crises, Nixon talks about his visit as Vice-President to Latin America, where he was attacked by Communist-inspired mobs. I'd like to comment on two items:
1. On page 204, Nixon talks about a time when he was in
Peru and a person in the mob spit in Nixon's face. Nixon relates that
he wanted to tear the man's face to pieces, but someone restrained Nixon
"from handling the man personally." Nixon states, however, that he
still got to give the person who had spit in his face "a healthy kick on
his shins", and Nixon goes on to say that "Nothing I did all day made
me feel better."
Don Fulsom, in his anti-Nixon book Nixon's Darkest Secrets
(which I will read and blog about at some point in the future), says on
page 205 that "probably no other American politician [than Nixon]
actually punched, slapped, shouldered, shoved or upended as many folks
who'd ignited----usually without malicious intent----his volcanic
temper." On page 204 of Six Crises, we see an example of Nixon kicking in the shins someone who (actually with malicious intent) had spit in Nixon's face, and getting satisfaction out of doing so. On page 568 of Nixon: The Education of a Politician,
Stephen Ambrose tells a story about Nixon during the 1960 Presidential
election. Nixon was upset because John Ehrlichman made a blunder that
caused Nixon to waste a whole day of campaigning, plus Nixon was
probably still sick with the flu and was very tired. Nixon lost his
temper in the back-seat of the car and was repeatedly kicking the back
of campaign-aide Don Hughes' seat, leading Hughes to leave the car
angrily. Moreover, on a note that's unrelated to violence but which may
pertain to Nixon's temper, Ambrose states on page 652 that "few people
managed to stay on Nixon's staff for very long" because people tended to
fall out of Nixon's favor pretty quickly.
In Six Crises,
we see Nixon losing his temper more than once, and Nixon acknowledges
this, attributing it to being tired or frustration. The incident on
page 204 of Six Crises is the only time in the book (at least
in what I have read so far) when Nixon refers to an act of violence that
he committed. Overall, Nixon narrates that he was quite restrained
when he was attacked by mobs in Latin America. Nixon chose to continue
standing for the Venezuelan national anthem rather than attacking back,
for example, because he wanted to show that he respected the anthem.
And Nixon sought to identify and to respect the humanity of the
protesters: he said that they were teens around the age of his daughter
Tricia, and that he hated that they were being exploited by the
Nixon was someone who could be quite measured and reflective----who
could reasonably look at situations from different angles. Yet, Nixon
had a temper, which sometimes (or, if Fulsom is correct, more than
sometimes) was expressed through violence.
2. On pages 190-191,
Nixon favorably refers to an Argentinian leader who devised "a formula
for the development of Argentina's vast oil resources by privately-owned
companies while retaining 'ownership' of the oil by the people..."
This sounds like a combination of privatization with nationalization.
I'm not sure how exactly that worked, but I admire Nixon's apparent
openness to the idea. Overall, Nixon appears in Six Crises to
be sensitive to the problems of poverty and inequality of wealth in
Latin America. I respect that, and I hope that he had that sensitivity
when he was President.
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