Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Julie Nixon Eisenhower's Pat Nixon: The Untold Story 2

One feature that I noticed in my latest reading of Julie Nixon Eisenhower's Pat Nixon: The Untold Story, which I haven't really seen in other books about Richard Nixon that I have read, is that Julie quotes extensively from the love letters between Richard and Pat, both from the time when they were courting, and also after they had married and Richard was in the navy.  Other books I have read quote some of those letters, or they refer to bits of information in the letters in an attempt to make a specific argument (in Fawn Brodie's case, that Nixon's later stories about his war record were exaggerations).  But Julie quotes from them more extensively.

When I have read pieces of Nixon's love letters in other books about Nixon, they come across to me as cheesy and over-the-top.  But I actually liked some of the letters between Richard and Pat when I was reading passages from them in Julie's book, and the reason is that each was saying what he or she liked about the other.  Richard commended Pat's energy, and Pat praised Richard for the consideration that he showed at a party.  I'd actually like to quote from the latter letter.  Nixon in the navy had a hamburger stand, where he gave out coffee, juice, and food.  More than once in my reading of books about Nixon, I have seen the navy Nixon compared with Henry Fonda's character in Mister Roberts, a movie that I now want to see!  In any case, after Richard wrote Pat about a get-together at his hamburger stand, Pat wrote back:

"I always like to hear of your get togethers too----you always make people have a good time.  Our parties have always been your successes.  Remember the time you even made the chop suey!!  When I think of all the wonderfulnesses for me----didn't I take advantage?----but, dearest, it was appreciated then and now.  I never shall forget how sweet you were the night Margaret and I had the teachers for a wiener roast----You carted, helped with the salad, bought the pies, went to LA for Mary's gift."

Okay, I'll admit that "wonderfulnesses" is a little over the top, but I still like this letter, for a variety of reasons.  For one, it exemplifies Julie's portrayal of her father, at least in what I have read thus far.  Julie acknowledges that her father was a shy introvert, and yet he comes across as a bit more fun and sociable in her book, as compared with other books about Nixon that I have read.  Second, I like how Pat highlights what she specifically likes about Richard.  Anthony Summers, in The Arrogance of Power, argues that Richard did not really know Pat when he married her, and some people I have read argue that Nixon tended to idealize Pat in his love letters to her, or perhaps even treated her as a project when he was courting her.  I'm not sure what to say about this, but their letters to one another convince me that they genuinely admired qualities in each other.

And, third, what Pat said Nixon did at her party reminds me of what I, as a shy and socially-awkward introvert, would most likely do at a party.   I one time read a post by a lady with Asperger's, and she suggested that what people with Asperger's should do at parties is help out: set out the food, help in the kitchen.  That way, they're at the party, meaning that they're not offending the host by not showing up, but they're not exactly interacting with people and making small talk, for they're busy helping out!  That seems to be what Richard was doing at the wiener roast for teachers that he and Pat attended.

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