Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Ends of Power 4

On pages 110-111 of The Ends of Power, H.R. Haldeman (with Joseph DiMona) offers an opinion as to why President Richard Nixon did not have personal friends, such as Herb Klein and Bob Finch, close to him in his Administration, whereas Haldeman actually did serve close to Nixon:

“Nixon viewed Klein and Finch in human terms, as people, which meant he would have had trouble dealing with them on an official basis.

“He didn’t see me as a person or even, I believe, as a human being.  I was a machine.  A robot.  Shortly after it came out I saw the movie Star Wars: there is a robot, a metal machine clanking along doing what it’s told by a computer-like mind.  From Nixon’s viewpoint, that’s what I was.  And I was a good machine.  I was efficient, I didn’t require a lot of ‘oiling’—-and he wasn’t good at ‘oiling’; or what LBJ called ‘schmoozing.’”

I wouldn’t exactly treat what Haldeman says here as absolutely true, though there may be some truth in it.  Granted, Nixon may have treated Haldeman in an impersonal manner, but I read in The Final Days that Nixon regarded Pat Buchanan almost as a son, and Buchanan was a fairly influential adviser within the Nixon Administration.

But this passage from The Ends of Power got me thinking: would I like to work with friends in an official capacity?  I was watching The Wonder Years recently, and there was an episode in which Paul got Kevin a job at a Chinese restaurant.  Paul was the assistant manager, and Kevin was chopping onions!  I was thinking to myself that this would not be a bad set-up.  You have a friend getting you a job, which means that you’re more of a shoe-in: you’re not submitting an application, only to be forgotten, or to be given the brush-off.  And, because your boss is your friend, your boss may be more understanding.  I’m not saying that therefore you can be a bad worker, but rather that you’re not walking on eggshells as much as you may be if you were going into a new, unfamiliar setting where you knew nobody, and you were afraid of making mistakes.  (I say “you” here, but that may not be appropriate, since some people reading this are not as timid as others.)

But there are downsides to working with friends in an official capacity.  It can destroy the friendship.  For example, if I were to write a book, I would prefer for it to be edited and critiqued by someone I did not know.  I would take criticism harder and more personally were it to come from a friend.  But, from someone I did not really know, I wouldn’t care as much.  On the other hand, though, perhaps there are situations in which criticism can come from a friend much more smoothly: the friend may know how to be diplomatic with you, or how to offer constructive criticism that is tailored towards your unique personality.  (Again, I can’t really say “you” here, since some people are stronger and more receptive to criticism than others.)

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