On page 345 of Kennedy & Nixon, Chris Matthews states the following:
“At his death, Nixon made the cover of Time for the
fifty-sixth time, a record…Yet within the month, the Nixon funeral dirge
was overtaken by the classic, spritely tones of Mozart. When his
rival’s widow succumbed to her illness just weeks later, there was a
stirring in the national air, a momentary glimpse back to the magic of
More than once in this book, Matthews uses the rivalry between Mozart
and Salieri as a metaphor for that between John F. Kennedy and Richard
Nixon. The legend is that Mozart had inborn talent, whereas Salieri was
a composer who worked hard yet never attained the level of artistry
that was so effortless for Mozart. Similarly, Kennedy was naturally
charming and charismatic, whereas Nixon was one who worked hard at
politics yet could not attain the adoration and glamor that belonged to
John F. Kennedy.
Matthews says in the passage that I just quoted that Jackie Kennedy’s
death upstaged that of Richard Nixon, as Jackie’s death reminded
Americans of Camelot. The thing is, though, I remember Richard Nixon’s
death, whereas I do not remember Jackie Kennedy’s. More than once,
when I have seen something about Jackie Kennedy on television, I have
had to consult wikipedia to see when exactly she died, for I rarely
remember. But I do recall when Nixon died.
Why is that? Perhaps it’s because, even back in 1994, when I was
still in high school, I was drawn to the notion that a person who did
something wrong still had some good within him and the capacity to
rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the public. That was not a time
when I was all that deep, and I did not really think about what made
people and characters tick. I was just interested in promoting my
ideology, doing well in school, my resentments, and religion. I saw
things in black and white terms. But maybe Nixon’s death stood out to
me because there was a part of me, even then, that acknowledged and
appreciated the complexity of human beings.
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