Monday, November 18, 2013

President Nixon: Alone in the White House 4

On pages 137-138 of President Nixon: Alone in the White House, Richard Reeves talks about the children of prominent Nixon White House workers who were protesting against the Vietnam War.  (I mean that the children were protesting, not the workers.)  Reeves states:

"Two of Ehrlichman's children were demonstrating at their schools.  Haldeman's daughter Susan was demonstrating at Stanford in Palo Alto, California, along with Ehrlichman's son Peter.  Vice President Agnew's fourteen-year-old daughter Kim wanted to join the crowds, but he was able to stop her.  William Watts, a Kissinger assistant working on the November 3 speech, came up from his National Security Council office for fresh air and saw his wife and daughter walk by outside the White House fence holding their candles."

This was interesting to me, the same way that the political ideology of Richard Nixon's daughters, Julie and Tricia, has been interesting to me.  By and large, Julie and Tricia stood by their father's Vietnam policy.  But the children of some prominent people within the Nixon White House, such as H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Vice President Spiro Agnew, were against the war.  What was that like: for the children to disagree with their father politically?  Did that disrupt the children's relationship with their father?  Were these children like Patti Davis, one of Ronald Reagan's daughters, who was allegedly resentful of her father's conservatism, and seemed to make no bones about challenging her father in public?

I was not able to do a thorough research project on this question, but I found a couple of things.  This passage from the book Anti-Americanism: Historical Perspectives talks about how disagreement about the Vietnam War was common in a number of conservatives' families.  William F. Buckley, Jr. was defending a hawkish approach to the Vietnam War, but his son Christopher got student deferments from the draft.  Pat Buchanan's brother, Brian, participated in anti-war protests as a Xavier College student.  (Come to think of it, I do recall Pat talking in Right from the Beginning about debates he would have about the Vietnam War at his father's meal-table.)  Susan Haldeman not only protested against the Vietnam War, but that passage states that she actually visited Chile to support its leftist leader, Salvador Allende.

The thing is, though, from what I have read online, it does not seem to me that Susan Haldeman expressed any public hostility towards her father.  Rather, she seemed to be loyal to him.  Her brother Peter wrote, "In the spring, just before my father resigned, a reporter had tracked down my sister at college; the interview ran in a local paper under the headline 'Susie Haldeman Calls Her Father a 'Fun Guy.''"  I recently found H.R. Haldeman's The Ends of Power at a local library giveaway, and, while I did not read all of it, I stumbled upon one part of the book where Haldeman talks affectionately about his children.  He says that they liked the comic strip Doonesbury (which, as you may know, is very left-wing), and H.R. Haldeman requested from its writer, Gary Trudeau, some originals of the strips that made fun of him (H.R. Haldeman), so that Haldeman could frame them.  I realize that H.R. Haldeman would repudiate parts of The Ends of Power and blame them on his co-author, but I'd like to think that this story is true and that he had a good relationship with his children, even though there may have been political disagreements.

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