On pages 596-597 of Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972, Stephen Ambrose talks about the role of Richard Nixon's wife, Pat, in his 1972 Presidential campaign.
Nixon was not comfortable giving speeches and having news conferences.
She had experience with public speaking, for she had been a teacher and
had acted in a number of plays. But she didn't give speeches during
Richard Nixon's political career, and she was uncomfortable with the
prospect of having to do more during Nixon's 1972 campaign for
re-election as President.
The thing is,
she was good at the public speaking, as nervous as she was before doing
it! On page 596, we read an answer that she gave at one press
conference, which delighted Richard Nixon. A reporter asked Pat to
comment on actress Jane Fonda's accusation that the U.S. Air Force
bombed dikes in Vietnam on purpose, and Pat responded: "I think she
should have been in Hanoi asking them to stop their aggression. Then
there wouldn't be any conflict. I'd have had her go over there and beg
on bended knees."
Richard recognized that Pat was an asset, yet he
wrote in his diary that "The only problem is that she goes through such
agony in preparing it that I hate to have her take on the assignments."
in his diary manifests a concern for Pat, and Nixon also apparently had
a high regard for her talent for public speaking and answering
questions at news conferences. Yet, Ambrose also says on pages 597-598
that Nixon often did not value her suggestions. Nixon wanted for Pat to
read the speeches that were prepared for her rather than to offer
suggestions. And, after she asked to see a film about Richard Nixon
that would be shown at the 1972 Republican National Convention, since
she heard it wasn't particularly good and wanted to suggest possible
improvements, Nixon put in his diary, "Needless to say, I don't intend
to look at [the film about me] and I'm going to see that some way we
avoid her seeing it too."
Another point that Ambrose makes is that
Pat and Nixon's aides did not particularly care for each other.
Ambrose states: "She resented being manipulated by Nixon's aides (they
did not much like her, either; behind her back, Haldeman called her
'Thelma'). She would take suggestions from her husband, but not from
his aides." That called to my mind what Nixon candidly said about his
wife and his daughters in his memoirs: that they could not stand some of
the people who worked for him! If I recall correctly, Murray Chotiner,
Nixon's ruthless campaign manager in his 1950 Senate race, was not very
popular with Pat!
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