Saturday, November 2, 2013

Jonathan Aitken's Nixon: A Life 2

I was thinking about Fawn Brodie's biography of Richard Nixon while I was reading Jonathan Aitken's more positive portrayal.  Brodie speculated that Richard Nixon was unloved by his parents, and that this contributed to his political hunger.  But Aitken referred to examples of Nixon being loved by his father, and also by his extended family.  On page 84, Aitken talks about how Nixon's father, Frank, worked at Nixon's orange juice company (or, actually, Nixon was one of the owners of it), Citrifrost, for free.  Aitken also tells about how Richard was a favorite of his grandmother, Almira Milhous, and how many in Nixon's family envisioned him accomplishing great things, perhaps even being President.

Brodie chooses to focus on other things, however.  If I recall correctly, she made the point that Frank Nixon required his son Richard to pay him back for the time that Frank contributed to Nixon's expenses at law school.  Sounds cold?  Sure, but Frank also worked at Nixon's orange juice company for free.  Doesn't that count?  Both are part of a larger picture.

I was thinking about Brodie's discussion of Nixon's war record when reading Aitken's narration of that.  Brodie essentially argues that Nixon exaggerated his own war record, and she bases that (among other things) on contradictory stories that Nixon himself told about it.  Aitken, however, appears to accept Nixon's story that he was in foxholes due to bombing.  Incidentally, it interested me when reading Julie Nixon Eisenhower's biography of Pat that Julie did not mention foxholes or bombing when discussing Nixon's war record.

Roger Morris' biography also came to my mind as I was reading Aitken.  Morris argued that Nixon was heavily financed by wealthy special interests in his 1946 congressional campaign.  Aitken, however, depicts a time when Nixon was actually outspent and out-staffed by the Democrats in 1946, and he notes that Nixon used a lot of his poker winnings for his campaign.  Aitken quotes an eyewitness who related that Pat was complaining to him about the lack of money.  Aitken, however, goes on to say that Republican money started to come in.  That makes me wonder: perhaps Morris and Aitken are both correct.  Maybe there was a time when Nixon's campaign was financially struggling, but that problem was soon corrected.  One would have to set up a timeline and plot when authors say events happened in order to get a fairly accurate view of the situation, perhaps.

I'd like to make one more point, which is not particularly relevant to my discussion in this post thus far.  James Stewart----not the actor----served with Nixon in World War II, and Stewart said that Nixon at that time did not particularly care for General Douglas MacArthur.  Stewart stated that Nixon felt MacArthur "was prolonging the hostilities through personal vanity" (Stewart's words, quoted on page 104).  That's pretty intriguing, considering Nixon's support for MacArthur during the Korean War, and Nixon's rather positive portrayal of MacArthur in his book, Leaders (though Nixon does criticize MacArthur's insensitivity at least one time in that book).  That makes me wonder about the stages of evolution of Richard Nixon's belief system, and I have been curious about this topic before.  Irwin Gellman in The Contender narrates that Richard Nixon was not anti-Soviet during World War II, since he deemed Hitler to be the greater threat, and that Nixon's awareness of the threat of internal Communism really took off when he began serving on the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  But, if that is correct, I wondered, why did Nixon run a Red-baiting campaign in 1946, before he even became a Congressman?  From what I have read in many books about Nixon, Nixon during his youth was a Republican; and yet that wasn't an absolute, for Nixon admired Woodrow Wilson, and Nixon could manifest certain liberal ideas in an essay that he wrote as a Whittier College student.  One can probably put Nixon into a box as effectively as one can put his father in a box: both had convictions, on some level (Frank probably more so than Richard), but their beliefs could fluctuate.

Anyway, that's my rambling Nixon post for the day!

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