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.).