On page 411 of The Ends of Power, H.R. Haldeman (with Joseph DiMona) states the following:
“By presenting Nixon, or attempting to, as 100 percent pure and good,
we were setting him up for a disastrous fall when it was demonstrated
that he fell short of that absolute—-as all humans must. Had he been
more accurately portrayed as he really was, complete with flaws, there
is no doubt in my mind that he would have succeeded mightily because his
reality, the total balance of light and dark, was more than enough to
place him in the topmost echelons of great American presidents. The
problem was that there was no way to present an objective portrayal of
Nixon as he really was. There was only the adversary process of the
opposition portrayal of absolute bad and our portrayal of absolute
good. Neither was on the mark. We were much closer to right, but the
opposition had more resources than we did in getting their story
Politics is ridiculous when one side tries to demonize the other,
while portraying its own side as infallible. We see that too often on
both sides, Republican and Democrat. It’s so phony. How stupid do
politicians think Americans are?
Are there ways to see the human side of politicians, good and bad?
Well, yes. Biographies can give a fairly decent picture of that—-not
perfect, mind you, but fairly decent. At least when I read a biography,
I usually don’t walk away thinking that a person is totally good or
totally bad. This also applies to biographies that I have seen on
But then there are people who claim that what we read in biographies
is not the full picture of who these politicians really are—-that there
are sinister things that politicians do behind closed doors. They’re
probably right. I wouldn’t say that certain politicians are actually
lizards, as some conspiracy theorists suggest, but I wouldn’t be
surprised if there are a number of politicians who are selfish, cynical,
and just plain corrupt.
What discourages me about political mudslinging is that it takes
attention off of important issues. Case in point: the health care
debate. Maybe President Obama was wrong to go around the country
telling people that, under his plan, they would be able to keep their
health insurance plans if they liked them. Perhaps Obama made a mistake
there. But that’s not as important to me as the need to cover the
uninsured, both because people need access to affordable health care
that does not bankrupt them, and also because covering the uninsured can
save the health care system money. All politicians are flawed.
There’s no question about that. The question should be what policies
will help people.