I finished Jonathan Aitken's Nixon: A Life. In this post, I'd like to share one of my favorite stories. I don't have any profound thoughts to add about it, but I just liked it.
On page 566,
Aitken is talking about the dedication of Richard Nixon's Presidential
Library and Birthplace. Back when Nixon was President, Nixon's close
adviser, H.R. Haldeman, did not get along with Nixon's long-time
secretary, Rose Mary Woods. Haldeman tended to restrict access to the
President, and he could be quite intimidating, which was why Nixon
entrusted him with the tasks that he himself was uncomfortable doing.
And Woods herself was one tough lady! Incidentally, Woods reportedly
did not get along with Henry Kissinger, either, and Aitken tells a story
about how she really dressed Kissinger down when Kissinger proudly did
not want Alexander Haig to be Chief of Staff because Haig had served
under him in the past; to his credit, Kissinger agreed to play ball!
back to the dedication of Richard Nixon's Presidential Library and
Birthplace! Aitken narrates: "Resplendent in a green silk dress,
[Woods] was meeting and greeting like a Hollywood hostess, even giving
her old adversary Bob Haldeman a warm embrace after he whispered: 'I'm
so sorry Rose, and for so many things.'"
I have to respect
Haldeman for apologizing. I've wondered about his human side,
underneath his gruff exterior. Some day, I may read his book and his
diary, but I most likely won't do so for My Year (or More) of Nixon,
since I'm in the process of winding that down, and I'm getting eager to
move on to other things. Haldeman did have a human side, beyond being
Nixon's stern functionary. He had children. He (like John Ehrlichman)
was a devout Christian Scientist. And I have to give him credit for
being loyal to Nixon throughout Nixon's life, when there were others who
bitterly deserted him, for Haldeman attended Pat Nixon's funeral.
Haldeman's book about his time in the Nixon Administration was not
particularly flattering to Nixon, as I understand it, but he would come
to be reconciled with Nixon. Moreover, it's also interesting to me that
Haldeman was generous with his time when it came to people who were
writing about Nixon, for he gave interviews. I've wondered if I would
be too intimidated to interview a no-nonsense man like Bob Haldeman,
but, from what I read of his responses in interviews, he seemed to be
quite open and helpful.
I'm glad that I read Aitken's book. It's
probably my favorite biography of Nixon that I have read so far,
especially because of its anecdotes about Nixon's kindness, as well as
its interviews. Plus, Aitken is a really good writer: I like his
easygoing prose! I suppose that his book speaks to the side of me that
loves The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie,
which seeks good in people, notwithstanding their flaws. I think that
it's important to balance out Aitken with books that are more
anti-Nixon, if one is interested in studying Nixon. But I'm definitely
glad that I read Aitken's work, and I someday may read some of the other
books that he has written.
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