I finished Monica Crowley's Nixon in Winter, which is about Monica's time working for Richard Nixon in the 1990's.
My latest reading covered a lot of ground, but here are some items that I noticed:
says that Nixon was a voracious reader, and she discusses her
conversations with him about political theory, as Nixon interacted with
the thoughts of Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Locke, Rousseau, and
others. I identified with what Nixon said about Hegel: "Most of the
time I can't make out a...thing in this stuff, but once in a while I
come across something that makes sense" (page 353). I feel that way
about certain books, myself: I may have a hard time understanding them,
but they have a jewel here and there.
----Monica talks about
Richard Nixon's relationship with his wife Pat. She portrays it as a
relationship of tenderness and mutual consideration. And, to be honest,
I believe Monica on this. I've read plenty of books that depict
Richard and Pat's marriage to each other quite negatively: I've read
that Nixon was dismissive of Pat (and a few authors even say he was
abusive), that Pat dressed Nixon down in public, that Nixon and Pat
hadn't made love with each other in years, etc. But it wouldn't
surprise me if they still had some mutual respect and affection for each
other that grew over the years. And maybe their relationship was
better after Nixon left the political arena and could spend more time
with her (though he continued to participate in the political arena as
an elder statesman).
----I enjoyed reading about Nixon's Halloween
party in his lawn, which he opened up to people on Halloween. Nixon
saw a guy wearing a Richard Nixon mask, and Nixon said to him, "Hello,
Mr. President!" As Nixon looked at the party and saw people wearing
Nixon and Reagan masks, Nixon remarked to Monica that he never saw that
many Presidents in one place in his life!
of Nixon's response to his wife's sickness and death was sad and
highlighted Nixon's humanity and vulnerability.
to portray Nixon as one who was racing against death, who perhaps was
hoping to cheat death by keeping active (through writing books and
articles, visiting foreign countries, etc.), or was trying to accomplish
as much as he could before he died. But people Nixon loved, respected,
or knew----Pat, John Connally, H.R. Haldeman, Tip O'Neill, etc.----were
dying around him. Monica said that Nixon's career, even his life, was
characterized by him making comebacks after experiencing setbacks.
Monica even goes back to when Nixon fell out of a buggy at a very young
age and got back up again, an incident that some like to mention in
attempting to account for Nixon's insecurity, but which Monica
highlights as an example of his tenacity. But Nixon could not make a
comeback after death, Monica notes (though the possibility of an
afterlife comes up in her book at least once).
Nixon as somewhat of a scapegoat. On page 407, she states: "In order
to justify both his removal from office in view of our failure to hold
others to the same high ethical standards and our provision of excuses
for them where we would allow none for Nixon, we have told ourselves
repeatedly that we did the right thing to him. [T]he relentless attack
on him, even as others commit crimes as egregious and are allowed to
survive, has evolved into a national psychological exercise aimed at
convincing ourselves that our recent history is not as damaging as it
seems----and that it was solely Nixon's fault...In him, we found a
receptacle for all of our self-hatred and misguided upheaval. In his
wrongdoing, we found shelter from our own."
----In light of that
passage on page 407, I should say a word or two about Nixon's responses
to scandals in Monica's book. A lot of times, it is Nixon whining about
how the Republicans get the shaft while the Democrats get away with
immoralities. Nixon and Monica talked about the issue of sexual
harassment during the Clarence Thomas hearings and the Bob Packwood
scandal, and, while Monica was explaining to Nixon why sexual harassment
was wrong, Nixon's focus seemed to be on partisanship: how Democrats
did the same things that Republicans were being criticized for doing,
yet it was a scandal when Republicans did them. (Monica does discuss
other things that Nixon asked about sexual harassment, however, such as
what it was, how it could be proved, etc.) That just gets old after a
while. Shouldn't our focus be on what is right and what is wrong, and
why, rather than the double-standards that exist in the world?
the same time, Monica in her book does discuss the degeneration of
standards in American politics: that politicians in the past did not get
by with the things that politicians today get by with. An affair sank
Gary Hart, but not Bill Clinton. And Monica on page 320 mentions
Iran-Contra and how that was not as big of a deal to many Americans as
Watergate was. Remember that Iran-Contra was a Republican scandal.
There is still arguably a double-standard: as Nixon said, Iran-Contra
was no worse than Kennedy going over Congress' head and attempting to
overthrow Castro, yet Kennedy is rarely criticized for that. But
there's something more going on than Republicans getting the shaft for
things that the Democrats do, too: there is a degeneration going on.
(NOTE: there is more to Monica's argument, so I may not be
characterizing it with complete accuracy. She talks about how "Personal
character was deemed less important to the responsible execution of
public duties while political character was still expected to be
unimpeachable." She also criticizes certain ethics laws as unrealistic
in light of human nature. Still, my impression is that she does portray
a degeneration going on, and she contends that Nixon was in some way a
scapegoat for the country's moral failings.)
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