Thursday, September 12, 2013

Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full 19

For my blog post today about Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, I will use as my starting-point something that Black says on page 614.  The context is the aftermath of a June 10, 1969 press conference that Nixon gave about the Vietnam War.

"It was a very strong performance, and Nixon engaged in what would become a drearily predictable habit: telephoning supporters to a late hour asking them how they thought he had done.  It is astonishing that a man of Nixon's intelligence would not realize how this demonstrable insecurity, when all he had to do was wait for a few hours and he would learn how people thought he had done, would undermine the confidence of his staff."

How are we doing?  Many of us would like to receive positive feedback, or some indication that we are on the right track.  Sometimes, we get that in this world.  At other times, we don't, and we're left wondering how exactly we are doing, and what we can do better.  I don't think that Nixon was always paralyzed by insecurity about how he was doing.  When he was a Congressman investigating the Alger Hiss case, for example, he just did the work that he needed to do, even though he did not know what the exact outcome would be in terms of his own political career.  (Even Roger Morris, who is quite critical of Nixon, acknowledges this.)  That's a good rule of thumb: just keep on doing the work, sowing the seeds, hoping that there will be a harvest.  If you try, you may or may not succeed; if you don't try, you won't succeed.  While being a self-starter is commendable, though, it's still nice to get a pat on the back, every once in a while.

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