Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Ends of Power 2

My main topic for my blog post today on H.R. Haldeman’s (and Joseph DiMona’s) The Ends of Power will be change.

The topic of change came up more than once in my latest reading.  Disputing biographies about him, Haldeman narrates that he was not interested in politics when he was in college, that when he initially became involved in politics it was on behalf of a leftist, and that he turned to politics because he was bored with his advertising job.  Haldeman also states that he gravitated towards Nixon because Nixon was in the center of things, and he admired Nixon’s courage in the Hiss case and the Checkers Speech.

Haldeman also talks some about his temperament and his management-style.  Haldeman states that he was much more easygoing when he was in advertising, but that he was a harsh iron-wall within the Nixon Administration out of a desire to do his job well.  He sought results, and he was very particular about who would meet with the President because he did not want to waste the President’s time.  You would think that Haldeman is saying that he’s actually a fun guy, and that he chose to become harsh or strictly-business out of professional necessity.  But Haldeman also seems to be saying that he is who he is.  He says that he prefers to spend time with his family rather than going to parties.  He contrasts himself with John Dean, Alexander Butterfield, and Ron Ziegler, saying that they liked to have fun, whereas he was strictly business on trips.  Haldeman expresses regret at his harsh management style, but he also tells the story of when Nixon’s friend, Bebe Rebozo, was trying to encourage Haldeman to be more diplomatic, even as Rebozo was snapping his fingers at a busboy.  Haldeman states, “I, of course, couldn’t have changed my character any more than Nixon could his, and so Bebe’s mission was a failure” (page 89).

Can people change?  Sometimes, change is not something that we choose, but rather it’s something that happens to us:  Haldeman’s boredom with advertising and his search for something exciting comes to my mind.  Circumstances may also lead us to change: Haldeman could be easygoing within advertising, but he felt that he had to be down-to-business and harsh as Nixon’s Chief of Staff.  But change may be inhibited by our preferences and desires: Haldeman liked spending time with his family rather than going to parties, for example.  And change can also be hindered because we continue to see the rationale behind the status quo, viewing that as the best option out there: Although Haldeman would acknowledge flaws in his management style, he still believed that there was a rationale for it (i.e., not wanting to waste the President’s time, desiring results, etc.).

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