Saturday, August 31, 2013

Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full 7

For my post today about Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, I'll use as my starting-point something that Black says on page 246.  The context is the controversy about Richard Nixon's fund during the 1952 Presidential election.  Nixon was the Republican candidate for Vice-President at the time, and a fund that he had from the donations of businessmen was controversial, to the point that there were many who were urging Republican Presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower to drop Nixon from the ticket.  For some time in 1952, neither Dwight Eisenhower nor Thomas Dewey----an eastern Republican who helped advance Nixon's political career----would vigorously step forward to defend Richard Nixon, whereas more conservative Republicans such as Robert Taft and Joseph McCarthy did.  What follows is something that Black says about how Nixon would narrate an interaction that he had with Dewey about the fund controversy:

"In his mid-career memoir, Six Crises, Nixon wrote that he discerned that Dewey 'did not have his heart in what he told me.'  In his memoirs fifteen years later, written after Dewey had died, he omitted any reduction of implicit criticism of Dewey's role."

According to Black, in Six Crises, which Nixon wrote while Dewey was still alive, Nixon was toning down any criticism that he had of Dewey's advice about what Nixon should do in light of the fund controversy (namely, for Nixon to offer his resignation to Eisenhower in the Fund speech that he was about to give).  Nixon said that he could tell that Dewey's heart was not in what he was saying.  But Nixon in his memoirs, which he wrote after Dewey had died, and even after the Nixon Presidency itself had ended, omitted that little part about Dewey's heart not being in what Dewey had told him.  As I look at the passages----on page 110 of Six Crises and pages 125-129 of volume 1 of Richard Nixon's memoirs----I can see Black's point.  In Six Crises, Nixon talks about his anger at what Dewey was telling him, but Nixon mitigates any implied criticism of Dewey by saying that he could tell that Dewey's heart wasn't in what Dewey was telling him.  In Nixon's memoirs, however, Nixon simply narrates that he was angry at what Dewey was telling him.

I'd like to make two points:

1.  In my post here, I talked about Stephen Ambrose's discussion of what type of President Nixon might have been had he won in 1960, and how that would have compared with the type of President that he was in 1969-1974.  Ambrose is not particularly dogmatic in this discussion, for he considers different scenarios.  But one scenario that he considers is that, had Nixon won in 1960, Nixon would have surrounded himself with Establishment types such as Dwight Eisenhower and Thomas Dewey, rather than "us vs. them" types like Haldeman, Colson, Agnew, etc.  Black says that the Fund controversy in 1952 alienated Nixon from the Eastern Establishment Republican types, since Thomas Dewey did not go to bat for him, whereas right-wing Republicans did.  Would a President Nixon who had won in 1960 have drawn from the wisdom of Eisenhower and Dewey, if Nixon was arguably bitter about their failure to vigorously support him during the fund crisis?

I can see it going both ways, but what I think would have likely happened is that Nixon would have continued to draw from the insights of Dewey and Eisenhower.  Whatever his disappointments with them may have been, Nixon owed them for his political advancement, and he probably would have still needed them on account of their influence within the Republican Party.  After all, Nixon still felt compelled in Six Crises to mitigate any criticism of Dewey.  Moreover, Nixon himself speculated that, had he won in 1960, the "establishment types" would have remained in power and Nixon wouldn't have been able to do what was necessary for the country.  Nixon knew himself better than anybody, and he could envision himself keeping the establishment types in power.  At the same time, I can envision a President Nixon who had won in 1960 feeling free to stray from advice that Eisenhower would give him.  Nixon was for beefing up the U.S. military and cutting taxes, whereas Eisenhower was not for these things at the same level.  But my impression is that Nixon in 1960 ran on his own ideas rather than those of Eisenhower, and he probably would have been committed to his own ideas as President.

2.  Nixon probably felt that he could be more honest in his memoirs than in Six Crises.  When he wrote his memoirs, he was no longer pursuing political office, for he had just been President, and thus he didn't need to be as worried about appeasing the right people.  Plus, Nixon could be more honest about his thoughts regarding Dewey and Eisenhower, for both men had died.  That reminds me of how hard it is for one to be completely honest in writing, for people out there can take offense at what one wrote.  I am not completely honest in my own writing, to be candid with you.  Honest writing is better writing, but it's not always feasible----unless one wants to take risks and alienate people.

Psalm 123

I have two items for this my blog post about Psalm 123.

1.  Psalm 123:2 says (in the King James Version): "Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us."

In this verse, waiting on the LORD's mercy is likened to servants looking at the hands of their masters.  The idea is probably that servants are attentive to their master's hands as they await their master's orders, and, similarly, God's people are eagerly attentive as they watch for God's mercy.

But I thought about a point that I once heard in a sermon series.  I was listening to Joe Good's series on the Book of Isaiah, and Good made the point (as I remember it) that waiting on the LORD is not sitting back and passively waiting for God to do something good, but rather it's being like a waiter: actively serving God, waiting on God's instructions.  As I read Psalm 123:2, however, I wondered: Could it be both?  Waiting on the LORD in Psalm 123:2 does entail waiting for God to do something good, for God's people in that verse are waiting for God's mercy.  At the same time, God's people in that verse are likened to servants, waiting on their master's instructions.  And perhaps one could make the case that God in that verse is likened to a master or mistress.

Perhaps one can reconcile the two concepts by saying that the Israelites are doing their part of obeying God as they wait for God's mercy.  Or maybe God's act of mercy will entail a responsive obedience on Israel's part.  I think of Second Isaiah: the Jews in exile are waiting for God to restore Israel, and yet the restoration will coincide with their obedience to God's program of restoration, in the sense that they will have to participate in leaving Babylon.  Many Jews in exile were not willing to take that step, for they may have been afraid of the Babylonians considering them treasonous, or they were comfortable with their exilic lives.  But God was telling them that it was time for them to act, that now was the time of God's mercy and their restoration, that they needed to join God in what God was doing.  In this case, waiting for God's mercy coincides with waiting for God's instructions.

2.  Psalm 123:3-4 states: "Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.  Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud" (KJV).

The most prominent interpretation of these verses (as far as I can gather) is that God's people have had their fill of the contempt and scorn that others have shown them, and so they want for their God to intervene and presumably put the scorners to shame.  I'd like to note, however, that what the KJV translates as "the contempt of the proud" is literally "the contempt to the proud."  Perhaps that is consistent with the idea that the contempt is being shown by the proud towards God's people, for "contempt to the proud" can arguably mean that the proud are the ones who own the contempt that they are showing to others, that it belongs to them.  And yet, the LXX does not appear to be satisfied with this particular interpretation, for it understands the verse to be saying that God should show contempt to the proud, that the proud are recipients of the contempt.

I have an idea, but I'm not particularly dogmatic about it: Could the Psalmist in Psalm 123:3-4 be saying that the ones who have contempt and scorn towards others are God's people, not the enemies of God's people?  Could the Psalmist be lamenting that the scorn and contempt by God's people towards the proud and those who are at ease are poisoning the souls of God's people?  Could the Psalmist be desiring spiritual liberation, while asking for physical liberation of God's people so that their minds can be set at ease, so that they can be spiritually healed?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full 6

For my blog post today about Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, I will highlight what Conrad Black says on pages 211-212 about Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate for President in 1952.  Black mentions Stevenson's background as part of a wealthy family and chronicles Stevenson's career in public service.  Black states that, as Governor of Illinois, Stevenson "had run an effective, reforming administration."  But Black goes on to critique Stevenson's acceptance speech before the 1952 Democratic National Convention:

"In his acceptance speech, he had asked that this 'cup pass from me,' and had expressed admiration for Eisenhower, but said that he had been called upon to heal a terminal case 'of political schizophrenia.'  It was eloquent, as Stevenson always was, but it was not the right note.  It was too pious about the nomination, too deferential to his opponent, and not believable in claiming that the man who had received the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany in the West could not control the Republican Party."

I have two items:

1.  The part about Stevenson as Governor running an "effective, reforming administration" stood out to me because I wondered what that meant.  Did it mean that Stevenson cracked down on corruption?  And, if so, was he able to distance himself somewhat from the notorious corruption of the Democratic Truman Administration?  I'd say that, on some level, it did mean that Stevenson made government less corrupt.  According to this wikipedia article, which draws from Porter McKeever's 1989 book Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy, "Principal among Stevenson's achievements as Illinois governor were reorganizing the state police by removing political considerations from hiring practices and instituting a merit system for employment and promotion, cracking down on illegal gambling, and improving the state highways."

But my impression is that Stevenson could not distance himself from the corruption of the Truman Administration.  For one, Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Richard Nixon was harping on that corruption.  Second, rather than trying to distance himself from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman record, Stevenson was seeking to hitch himself to it, since FDR had a reputation for getting the U.S. out of the Great Depression and winning World War II (and Truman as President played a role in the latter).  And, third, while Democrats and others were criticizing Nixon for having a fund from the donations of businessmen, Stevenson himself had his own fund.  While Nixon's fund was for political purposes, however, Stevenson used some of his fund for personal purposes (according to Black).  Stevenson's fund was legal, but it probably didn't look too good, when the Democrats were criticizing Nixon's fund.  (Nixon was upset, however, that Stevenson's fund was not criticized as much as his own fund.)

2.  Black says that a downside of Stevenson's speech was that it was "too deferential to" Eisenhower, the Republican nominee for President in 1952.  There are plenty of political strategists who maintain that going negative is an effective political strategy.  Democrats James Carville and Paul Begala argue this in their book, Take It Back, as they critique John Kerry's 2004 Presidential campaign.  I'm all for candidates setting up a clear contrast between themselves and their opponent, and yet I actually like it when candidates find something to praise about their opponent.  I think of Al Gore in the 1996 Vice-Presidential debate praising Republican VP candidate Jack Kemp's record on affirmative action, civility, and race, or Republican Presidential candidate Arnold Vinick on the West Wing praising the grace, dignity, and leadership of the President he hoped to replace, Democrat Josiah Bartlet (see here).  There may have been sincerity in what the men were saying, but there was also a likely political motive.  Al Gore probably wanted to highlight that Jack Kemp flip-flopped on affirmative action when Kemp joined Bob Dole's ticket, and Vinick (according to Bartlet) was seeking to gain Democratic votes, while (according to Toby Ziegler) Vinick was exalting himself as Bartlet's natural successor, as the Democrats running for the nomination came across as little kids trying to get a place at the adult table.  Granted, there aren't many things in politics that are done out of a pure motive.  Still, I for one tend to respect candidates when they find something to praise about the other side.  To me, that comes across as mature. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Purification of Body and Soul

On page 287 of Verus Israel (translated into the English by H. McKeating), Marcel Simon talks about how ancient Christians distinguished Jewish baptism from Christian baptism:

"Sometime when they use the word baptism they are thinking of the regular ablutions, which is why these authors sometimes emphasize, as a contrast between Jewish baptism and Christian, the fact that the Jewish rite is repeated.  Most frequently they are thinking of proselyte baptism and purificatory baths at the same time.  But they always put the Jewish rite and Christian baptism side by side, and set themselves to demonstrate the conspicuous superiority of the latter.  The former can have no effect except on the body.  Only Christian baptism is capable of purifying the soul.  St. John Chrysostom does allow to Jewish baptism a religious value, which distinguishes it from the ordinary bath taken for hygienic reasons."

Here are some thoughts about this:

1.  The part about Jewish baptism only affecting the body, whereas Christian baptism purifies the soul, reminds me of what Josephus said about John the Baptist's baptism in Antiquities 18:117: "for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness toward one another, and piety toward God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body: supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness" (Whiston's translation). 

The idea here seems to be that baptism purifies the body, whereas something else was necessary for the purification of the soul, namely, righteousness.  Why would the body need to be purified, though?  Is this referring to ritual purification?

2.  The endnote for Simon's claim that certain ancient Christians said that Jewish baptism only affects the body refers to Apostolic Constitutions 7.44.  That includes the following (see here): "O Lord God, who is without generation, and without a superior, the Lord of the whole world, who has scattered the sweet odour of the knowledge of the Gospel among all nations, grant at this time that this ointment may be efficacious upon him that is baptized, that so the sweet odour of Your Christ may continue upon him firm and fixed; and that now he has died with Him, he may arise and live with Him. Let him say these and the like things, for this is the efficacy of the laying on of hands on every one; for unless there be such a recital made by a pious priest over every one of these, the candidate for baptism does only descend into the water as do the Jews, and he only puts off the filth of the body, not the filth of the soul. After this let him stand up, and pray that prayer which the Lord taught us. But, of necessity, he who is risen again ought to stand up and pray, because he that is raised up stands upright. Let him, therefore, who has been dead with Christ, and is raised up with Him, stand up." 

The idea here seems to be that, while Christian baptism is powerful because it entails becoming dead and rising again with Christ, it is not enough for the cleansing of the soul.  Unless baptism is followed by the laying on of hands and prayer by a pious priest, it amounts to mere purification of the body, not cleansing of the soul.

3.  The endnote for Simon's statement that Chrysostom believed that Jewish baptism has religious value refers to Chrystostom's Instruction to Catechumens 1:2, which includes the following (see here): "There is that laver by means of the baths, common to all men, which is wont to wipe off bodily uncleanness; and there is the Jewish laver, more honorable than the other, but far inferior to that of grace; and it too wipes off bodily uncleanness but not simply uncleanness of body, since it even reaches to the weak conscience. For there are many matters, which by nature indeed are not unclean, but which become unclean from the weakness of the conscience. And as in the case of little children, masks, and other bugbears are not in themselves alarming, but seem to little children to be alarming, by reason of the weakness of their nature, so it is in the case of those things of which I was speaking; just as to touch dead bodies is not naturally unclean, but when this comes into contact with a weak conscience, it makes him who touches them unclean. For that the thing in question is not unclean naturally, Moses himself who ordained this law showed, when he bore off the entire corpse of Joseph, and yet remained clean. On this account Paul also, discoursing to us about this uncleanness which does not come naturally but by reason of the weakness of the conscience, speaks somewhat in this way, 'Nothing is common of itself save to him who accounts anything to be common.'  Romans 14:14.  Do you not see that uncleanness does not arise from the nature of the thing, but from the weakness of the reasoning about it? And again: 'All things indeed are clean, howbeit it is evil to that man who eats with offense.'  Romans 14:20.  Do you see that it is not to eat, but to eat with offense, that is the cause of uncleanness?"

The idea here appears to be that Jewish rites of washing had the religious value of cleansing Jews' weak consciences when they touched something that they considered to be impure, but which was not impure in itself. 

4.  There are passages in the New Testament about the purification of the body or flesh, and the purification of the conscience or soul.  I'll give you some samples.  I Peter 3:21 (KJV): "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ..."  Hebrews 10:22: "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."  II Corinthians 7:1: "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 

What do these mean?  There is a belief that the conscience needs to be cleansed.  That makes sense to me: that our guilt needs to addressed.  In I Peter 3:21, baptism is associated with that.  But, at least in Hebrews 10:22 and II Corinthians 7:1, there is an acknowledgement that the body needs to be cleansed.  Does that relate to ritual purity?  Or are the passages saying there that the body needs to be pure, in terms of not engaging in sexual immorality?  Sexual immorality is a prominent issue in I Corinthians.

Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full 5

I have two items for my post today about Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full.  We're in the time of the Truman Administration, and Richard Nixon is a United States Senator representing the state of California.  These two items, in my opinion, exemplify Conrad Black's treatment of Nixon and the events surrounding him.

1.  On pages 170-173, Black talks about General Douglas MacArthur's desired strategy for the Korean War, which would lead MacArthur into conflict with President Harry S Truman.  On page 170, Black summarizes MacArthur's stance: "He considered Korea an opportunity to suck into the peninsula and destroy the Chinese Communist army, to bomb China's industrial areas to rubble, and so to weaken the People's Republic that Chiang Kaishek's Nationalists, who had just been chased off the mainland to Taiwan, could return."  Black says that MacArthur has been accused of advocating that the U.S. threaten to use nuclear weapons, but Black believes that this is false (though Black notes on page 171 that President Dwight Eisenhower "would discretely threaten this, to his and America's profit").  Black's opinion is that MacArthur using Chiang's soldiers and providing them with air support "would certainly have broken the stalemate in Korea, with interesting results" (page 171).  Yet, Black doubts that Chiang would have been able to resurrect his own rule in mainland China, for Chiang was corrupt, inept, and unpopular with many in that country.

As Senator, Richard Nixon introduced a bill that would reverse President Truman's recall of General MacArthur.  Nixon in his book, Leaders, says that his speech to the Senate at the time actually distributed the blame between Truman and MacArthur.  Nixon on pages 98-99 of that book quotes himself as saying in that speech: "Let me say that I am not among those who believe that General MacArthur is infallible...I am not among those who think that he has not made decisions which are subject to criticism.  But I do say that in this particular instance he offers an alternative policy which the American people can and will support.  He offers a change from the policies which have led us almost to the brink of disaster in Asia----and that means in the world."  Black not only considers Nixon's proposal in the Senate to be "an unconstitutional usurpation of the prerogatives of the commander in chief", but he also dismisses what Nixon would say in Leaders as "a reinterpretive reading of his remarks" (page 172).  Black goes on to say that MacArthur was insubordinate, but Black is also critical of how Truman handled the situation.  According to Black, Truman could have warned MacArthur privately, or Truman could have left MacArthur as governor of Japan, where MacArthur's contribution was widely acclaimed.  Black states that this "would have blunted the impact of MacArthur's removal", and that the "general was seventy-one and retirement, if decorously executed, would not have been premature" (page 173).

Overall, I found Black's discussion of Truman and MacArthur to be fair and balanced, in that Black talked about what he considered to be the positives and negatives of both men.  On how Black covered Nixon in terms of this situation, I wish that Black had gone into more detail about how Nixon's treatment of his Senate speech in Leaders was "a reinterpetive reading of his remarks", for Nixon in Leaders actually quoted from his own Senate speech.  How exactly would Black interpret Nixon's remarks, if he doesn't buy into how Nixon is interpreting them?  They sound pretty straightforward to me: Nixon did not see MacArthur as infallible!   At the same time, perhaps one could argue that, even if Senator Nixon tried to convey that he was being balanced and fair-minded, the big picture was that Nixon was backing MacArthur.

Incidentally, I read an Amazon review that critiqued Black's treatment of the Korean War.  It's by History Addict, who says:

"The Nixon biography is not quite as good as the FDR study. There are, for example, a few glaring geopolitical mistakes. On several occasions Black writes that the United States should have brought Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist army from Taiwan into the wars against Chinese proxies--North Korea and then North Vietnam--and, given that Chinese troops were advising those proxies, let them fight Chinese soldiers themselves. That would in fact have been an enormous error, for Chiang's primary goal in the 1950s and 1960s was to provoke a war between the United States and China both to prevent a Sino-American rapprochement and to increase the odds that the PRC would collapse and he could return in glory to the mainland. Given that goal--and Chiang's cynical and manipulative history--it would have been disastrous to make the United States dependent on his behavior and that of his military."

I'm not sure on what History Addict bases his claims, but my hunch is that they're based on something, since History Addict has read history.  What I'm getting from History Addict's remarks is that Chiang could have decided to sit back and let the U.S. and the Red Chinese duke it out, without involving his own soldiers.  That way, the Communists in China would be weakened and Chiang could return to power, without losing his own men.  History Addict's point is that Chiang would not have wanted for his own soldiers to be involved in the Korean War, so he'd be reluctant to participate in MacArthur's plan.

2.  On page 178, Black addresses the charge that Nixon in one case sought to craft policy to benefit contributors:

"Some critics and historians have made something of the fact that [Nixon] sent in a bill to enable two contributors to his fund to drill for oil on federal land in California.  Nixon did not push hard for the bill, which died.  Nixon didn't lift a finger for the people who had given him a few thousand dollars, which were uncontroversially spent."

I've seen this sort of thing more than once in Black's book: Black attempts to defend Nixon from charges that Nixon was unethical or corrupt.  I don't believe that Black reflexively defends Nixon, mind you, for there are plenty of times when Black is quite critical of Nixon.  Whereas Irwin Gellman in The Contender, for example, disputes that Nixon at the 1952 Republican National Convention was trying to undermine support for Earl Warren and was playing different sides (Robert Taft and Dwight Eisenhower), Black essentially says that Nixon was doing precisely that: that Nixon was claiming to be for Taft to undermine support for Warren, while also supporting Eisenhower (pages 189-190).  On one of the big accusations against Nixon, Black maintains that Nixon was rather shady.  And yet, here and there, Black dismisses some of the other charges that historians have made against Nixon.

The charge that Nixon favored special interests looms large in Roger Morris' Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician.  I'd say that it's a major theme of the entire tome, for, even when talking about California prior to Richard Nixon's birth, Morris refers to the special interests that sought to consolidate their wealth and power in the state.  Jerry Voorhis would go against these special interests, Morris argues, whereas Nixon as a politician would favor them.  Black appears to have a different perspective, however.  While Black acknowledges that Nixon in his campaigns for the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate received a considerable amount of money (something that historians who are more favorable to Nixon tend to downplay, or even deny), Black also disputes that the contributors to Nixon's fund were millionaires (not that Morris says that they were, but Morris does regard them as well-off special interests).  He also seems to deny that their contributions got them any favors from Richard Nixon.  For example, regarding Nixon's political fund, which would be controversial in the 1952 Presidential election, Black notes that Nixon did not know who the donors are (something that Morris disputes).  The implication here may be: How can Nixon benefit contributors, when he does not even know their identity?  At the same time, like Morris, Black acknowledges that Nixon's political fund from the contributions of California businessmen was designed to make Nixon into a high-profiled spokesperson for conservatism (or Morris would say special interests).

These are my impressions so far, and I have not yet finished Black's tome.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full 4

For my blog post today about Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, I'll talk about Black's discussion of the Alger Hiss case, in which ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss of being a Communist spy when Hiss served in the U.S. Government.  Congressman Richard Nixon's involvement in bringing down Alger Hiss would launch Nixon to political stardom.

What's interesting about Black's narration and analysis of the case is that, in some areas, his conclusion appears to contradict the body of his presentation.  Black concludes that Hiss was a Communist sympathizer who passed on documents to the Soviet Union, that Hiss was a "loyalty risk", and that Hiss in his first appearance before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) committed perjury when he denied knowing Whittaker Chambers.

Earlier in the book, however, Black seems to see more nuance in the situation.  On page 112, Black says that "all Hiss had really done was deny knowing Chambers from his photograph and dispute Chambers's uncorroborated recollections."  That's not exactly lying under oath, is it?  Hiss just said that he didn't recognize Chambers from his photograph, since Chambers looked like a lot of people; as far as I know, Hiss did not make a blanket, unequivocal statement that he did not know Chambers.  Nixon said that Hiss' equivocations ("as far as I can recall," or words to that effect) were what made Nixon suspicious of Hiss when Hiss first appeared before HUAC.  (Black appears to buy, however, that, even before Hiss' initial appearance before HUAC, Father Cronin was feeding Nixon information about Hiss, which contradicts the story that Nixon often told.  Father Cronin claimed that he fed Nixon information, only to retract that claim in 1990.  What's interesting about Black's acceptance of the idea that Cronin fed Nixon information is that Black wrote his biography about Nixon years after Cronin retracted his claim.)

On page 116, Black disputes the charge that Alger Hiss played a role in getting the Soviet Union three seats in the UN General Assembly.  (Black goes on to say that FDR arranged for the U.S. to have three seats, too, but that FDR and Truman failed to follow through on that right.)  And, on page 138, Black acknowledges that there were problems with the typewriter that was alleged to belong to Alger Hiss, the typewriter on which Hiss supposedly copied State Department documents so they could be passed on to the Soviets.  As Black says, "What the government thought to be the Hiss typewriter they traced to a sale in 1927, two years before company records indicated it was manufactured."  Black then goes on to say that J. Edgar "Hoover himself was reduced almost to demanding that the facts be made to conform to the prosecution's requirement."

Ultimately, in his conclusion, Black says that "The conspiracy of incompetence was far wider than any subversive one, and included Hoover, Clark, Hiss, Chambers, most of HUAC, and many judges and Justice Department officials" (page 144).  Black excludes Nixon from this conspiracy of incompetence, contending that Nixon was courageous and diligent, and that "his pursuit of Hiss was not discreditable", for "Hiss was lying" and "had been a security risk" (page 144).  In my opinion, while Black's criticism in his conclusion of the FBI, HUAC, and others is consistent with his look at the Alger Hiss case in the body of his presentation, his dogmatism about Hiss' guilt is not.  I much prefer how Roger Morris handled the Hiss case: Morris concluded by saying that he did not know if Hiss was a Communist.  Speaking for myself, and based on my reading, I'm not particularly impressed by how Hiss handled himself during the case, nor am I convinced that he was innocent, for he contradicted himself in his testimony.  But I also have questions about some of the "evidence" that was used to convict him, plus Hiss did appear to oppose the three votes for the Soviets at Yalta.  Consequently, I can't be dogmatic about his guilt.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full 3

For my blog post today about Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, I will use as my starting-point something that Black says on page 126.  The subject is President Harry Truman's run for re-election in 1948.

"Truman was 'giving 'em hell' and making tremendous inroads, warning that the Republicans were reactionary enemies of the working families of America."

The reason that this passage stood out to me was that I had recently listened to a speech by Pat Buchanan, which was delivered in 2013 for the centennial of Richard Nixon's birth.  (To watch the speech, see here.)  Buchanan was saying that the same people who praised Harry Truman's "give 'em hell" campaign in 1948 were quite critical of Richard Nixon's hard-hitting campaign against liberal Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1950.

I was not sure how to react to that.  I had read Greg Mitchell's book about Nixon's 1950 Senate race, Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady, and what Mitchell said that Nixon and Nixon's supporters did in that campaign disturbed me.  And yet, I'm not always disturbed when one candidate attacks another candidate.  I actually enjoyed watching Barack Obama's attacks on his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in 2012.  And, although I don't know a great deal about Harry Truman's "give 'em hell" campaign for re-election in 1948, I don't exactly flinch when I read that Truman warned that the Republicans were "reactionary enemies of the working families of America" (Black's summary).

So why do I like it when Obama and Truman attack their opponents, while I am disturbed when I read about Richard Nixon's hard-hitting campaign against Douglas?  Is it because Obama and Truman were Democrats, whereas Nixon was a Republican, and I tend to agree with Democrats more than Republicans?  I hope that it's not just that.

There are a variety of things that disturbed me when I was reading Mitchell's book.  Probably what disturbed me most was that the 1950 race destroyed Douglas politically.  Douglas made political blunders in her campaign, but Nixon's campaign was calling her pink, in a time when there was widespread fear of Communism.  Moreover, the way that much of the press sided with Nixon and did not allow Douglas to adequately get her message out struck me as unfair, and the mob-like, disruptive approach of some of Nixon's supporters also bothered me.  On these sorts of issues, I try to be fair and to apply the same standard to both sides.  Granted, I enjoyed watching the news media point out Romney's mishaps on a daily basis, because I thought that would lead to Romney losing the election, but I believe that Romney should have been able to get his message out.  And I'm not overly keen on supporters of one candidate bullying supporters of the other candidate, or going to the other candidate's events and being disruptive.  I want for people to be able to say what they want to say, without having to put up with a mob, or with disruptive people.  I'd say this also about the liberals who disrupted the 2004 Republican National Convention when George W. Bush was giving his speech: they should have allowed Bush to give his speech, without disruption.

On the 1950 race, to tell you the truth, I don't think that everything that Nixon said about Douglas was unfair.  Nixon was saying that Douglas' ideas would hinder the United States' attempts to protect itself from Communism, and I believe that he was entitled to that opinion, and that he was right to make that an issue in 1950 (though he was not the first to make it an issue, for some of Douglas' opponents in the Democratic primary harped on it, as well).  Douglas was to the left of even a number of Democrats, and I can understand why many would believe that her ideas would not be useful in the face of the Communist threat.  Had Nixon simply said that he questioned her judgment, not her patriotism, I wouldn't have had a problem with his campaign.  But, while that was his message (on some level), he and his campaign went beyond that.  They called Douglas pink.  And there were Nixon supporters who went so far as to call her red.  That damaged her significantly, considering the fear of Communism at the time, whereas I doubt that Truman's attacks on the Republicans or Obama's attacks on Romney did as much damage.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full 2

For my blog post today about Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, I'll use as my starting-point something that Black says on page 47:

"Because [Nixon] was not confident of his ability to cajole or charm or at least legitimately persuade, as required, almost anyone he met, he designed his career around his strengths and weaknesses.  Being, because of his shyness, an outsider, at least until he was thoroughly integrated into a group, he judged the susceptibilities of others with the observant keenness of a wary pugilist.  Because he was not flamboyant or overpowering, he addressed ordinary people in a way that reminded them of themselves.  And when he did not feel obliged to be devious, he had great and natural, even inborn, empathy for the disadvantaged and was generous to the unfortunate.  He demonstrated this throughout his life, with no ulterior motive."

In some of my blog posts for My Year (or More) of Nixon, I have talked about how Nixon (to use Black's words) "designed his career around his strengths and weaknesses."  Like Nixon, I myself am shy, and I have long been somewhat of an outsider (though, as Black notes, Nixon eventually came to be a part of groups).  What stood out to me in my reading of this passage was how (according to Black) Nixon could turn his shyness and less-than-flashy personality into a strength, politically-speaking.  I was wondering, though, if I could turn my own shyness into a strength in similar ways.

Black says that Nixon's shyness and outsider status enabled him to analyze people from a distance.  Is that true with me?  I don't know.  Often, when I am an outsider, I am resentful of the insiders for not deeming me good enough to include me in their group.  Rather than looking at them with some degree of objectivity, I tend to attach to them a negative label (i.e., "snob"), which disregards the nuance of who they are as people.  Moreover, if I am an outsider, that means that I don't know the insiders particularly well, and thus I lack the understanding that is necessary to judge adequately their strengths and weaknesses.  With all of this, however, I can still identify somewhat with Black's point that Nixon's shyness and outsider status could provide him with the distance that would help him to evaluate people.  The reason is that Black's point reminds me of something that Adam McHugh said in his excellent book, Introverts in the Church: that introverts are like the narrator of the story rather than the characters.  There actually are times when I feel that way.

Black says that Nixon's less-than-flashy personality enabled Nixon to come across to people as someone who was like them.  Is that true with me?  I don't know.  I rarely thought of my less-than-flashy personality as being an asset in those terms, as being something that can actually draw people to me.  I saw it as a deficiency: as something that hindered me from impressing people.  I think of the Kevin Spacey character's statement in the movie American Beauty: "That's all right, I wouldn't remember me either!"  But, come to think of it, there are people who have remarked that I have a soothing personality.  One lady said to my Mom that I explained to her what I was studying, without talking down to her.  Not everyone is that comfortable around me, but there are people who are.

Black says that Nixon had empathy and generosity towards the outsiders and the unfortunate.  Do my shyness and outsider status make this true of me?  I'd say "yes" and "no."  On the "no" side, my resentment at being an outsider can sometimes lead me not to care about other people and their problems.  "They don't care about me, so I don't care about them," I think to myself.  On the other hand, because I know what it's like to struggle, I do tend to sympathize with others who struggle.  Both hard resentment and empathy or sympathy coexist within me.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lincoln (2012)

I watched the 2012 movie Lincoln last night.  I don't go to the theater much these days, so I wait instead for movies to come out on DVD.  I remember when Lincoln was in the theaters, and I read this one article that argued that the movie was inaccurate in depicting Abraham Lincoln as an abolitionist, since Lincoln at times denied that his desire and intention were to abolish slavery.  Lincoln at one point affirmed that he would accept Southern states back into the union, without requiring them to abolish slavery.  The thing is, the movie essentially acknowledged that Lincoln said those sorts of things.  But, according to the movie, Lincoln was saying those things for political purposes: so that he wouldn't alienate the northernmost Southern states, which were thinking of staying in the union.  The movie appears to depict Lincoln as one who at his base was repulsed by slavery.  In trying to persuade a representative to support the Thirteenth Amendment that would abolish slavery, Lincoln said that a desire for justice was one of the few things that he got from his father, who was not a particularly kind man.

I enjoyed the movie immensely.  I had to admire the congressmen who were voting for the Thirteenth Amendment, against pressure to vote otherwise.  These congressmen would have to come to work the next morning and put up with their powerful colleagues who voted against the Thirteenth Amendment, colleagues who had power over what responsibilities people got (or didn't get). 

The figure of the radical Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (played by Tommy Lee Jones) was quite intriguing.  A wikipedia article said that new interest in Stevens has occurred as a result of the Lincoln movie.  I've heard various things about Stevens in the course of my lifetime.  In elementary school, Stevens was portrayed to me as a villain and an extremist who wanted to punish the South and who unfairly sought the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.  When I watched the movie Separate but Equal, which was about a companion case to the Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court decision against public school segregation, I noticed that one of the lawyers on the anti-segregation side, in seeking to determine if the Fourteenth Amendment was against segregation, referred to an anti-segregation statement by Thaddeus Stevens.  And Republicans today, in their attempt to argue that the Republican Party is not racist, appeal to the radical Republicans and Thaddeus Stevens.

My impression is that Thaddeus Stevens was an idealist, one who believed in racial equality and who wanted to take away some land from Southern landowners so that African-Americans could have it, as the movie depicts.  Perhaps this sort of policy would have given newly-freed African-Americans a good start, in contrast with leaving them poor and dependent.  But Lincoln believed that some of Stevens' ideas were extreme, and Stevens himself felt that he had to moderate some of his public beliefs to get the Thirteenth Amendment passed. 

I was not aware of the view that Stevens had an African-American mistress, Lydia Hamilton Smith.  According to this wikipedia article about her, "While Smith was private about her personal life, during her time with Stevens, neighbors considered her his common law wife," and the article provides a couple of footnotes for that, before going into the uncertainty about what exactly her relationship with Stevens was.  I did find the scene in which Stevens took off his wig, climbed into bed with Smith, and told her about the Thirteenth Amendment to be moving, however.  Stevens in the movie was a misanthrope, one who claimed that he desired the good of the people without really liking the people themselves.  But perhaps one reason that Stevens was a supporter of racial equality was his love for Lydia Hamilton Smith.
Excellent movie!

Processing Church This Morning

I'm still processing a social encounter from church this morning.  I walked in and shook someone's hand, asking him how he was doing.  Later, we had the passing of the peace, and I asked this same gentleman how he was doing.  He replied, "The same as I was when you asked me two minutes ago!"  I responded, "My social repertoire..."  I was about to say that it was limited.  Before I could get all that out, he retorted, "I know," then proceeded to shake other people's hands.

I probably should vary my social repertoire a bit.  I could ask a person how he's doing when I first see him, then later say that it's good to see him, or something like that.  I doubt that I've utterly alienated this gentleman from me, since he's a nice person, and I've had my share of social flub-ups with him in the past.  He's thought that he's made social flub-ups with me, come to think of it.

The pastor emeritus was conducting the service this morning, since the pastor and his wife are away on vacation.  The pastor emeritus will be conducting the service next week, as well.  I was paying particular attention to the service this morning because, next week, I'll be doing the liturgy, and I wanted to see how the liturgy is done this week so that I'd know how I should do the liturgy next week.  The pastor emeritus usually organizes the service differently from the pastor.  I took notes on what the liturgist did today (i.e., what parts of the program he read), and, after the service, I told the pastor emeritus that I'll just do what the liturgist did today.  I asked him if that was all right, and he responded, "Oh, I don't know."  I guess I'll just go with my plan, then!

Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full 1

I started Conrad Black's 2007 biography of Richard Nixon, entitled Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full.  I was initially hesitant to read Black's book for My Year (or More) of Nixon, since I already have enough books about Nixon to read, plus Black's book is really long (like, over 1,000 pages).  But I found myself visiting Amazon repeatedly to see if the price of Black's book had gone down.  I decided not to buy Black's book, but I checked it out from the library, so I could see if I wanted to read it.  Now, I'm reading it.  I'll see over time if I made a good choice!

I haven't read anything earthshakingly new about Nixon in Black's book up to this point, and I had to get used to Black's prose.  Moreover, after reading Roger Morris' detailed and extensively-documented tome about Nixon's early life and political career up to (and including) 1952, I found Black's discussion of Nixon's childhood, college years, and time at Duke Law School to be very disappointing.  But I'm finding as I continue to read Black's book that I am enjoying it more and more.  Black has been accused by reviewers of being pro-Nixon, of seeing Nixon in a sympathetic light because Black himself has had legal problems (and that accusation, incidentally, is one reason that I was motivated to read Black's book).  But, in my reading thus far, Black strikes me as fair-minded.  I think there are times when he acts as if he is some God-like narrator who knows for certain what really happened, and that gets on my nerves: at least Morris backed up more of his narrative with eyewitness testimony.  But I commend Black for sifting through the strengths and weaknesses of pro- and anti-Nixon narratives.  For example, in his section on Richard Nixon's 1946 Congressional race against Democratic incumbent Jerry Voorhis, Black disputes that the Committee of 100 that asked Nixon to run were huge industrialists, yet he also acknowledges that Nixon received a lot of money for his campaign, and that Nixon's portrayal of Voorhis' record was not particularly accurate.  Overall, Black steers a middle-ground between pro- and anti-Nixon narratives.

I also enjoy when Black calls out Nixon's BS.  For instance, Nixon in his 1946 campaign liked to appeal to his background in the Navy in World War II, and Nixon would talk about what his fellow Navy-men in the foxholes wanted in terms of political policy.  Black says that, for one, Nixon technically was not in a foxhole, and, two, even if he were in a foxhole, the men with him there would probably not be discussing politics with him!

I'm also noticing that Black keeps bringing up Franklin Roosevelt.  Black sometimes compares Nixon to Roosevelt: for example, Black notes that both were not good businessmen.  Black also defends Roosevelt against the right-wing charge that he sold out Eastern Europe to the Soviets.  And Black appears to regard the New Deal as something that was alleviating the Great Depression (on some level).  Black is largely regarded as a conservative, and he seems to understand the concerns of business-people who were opposed to the New Deal.  But I appreciate his sympathetic, albeit three-dimensional, portrayal of Franklin Roosevelt.  Incidentally, Black wrote a massive biography of FDR, and I may someday read that, alongside pro-New Deal and conservative anti-New Deal works, as well as Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man.  Black in his biography of Nixon may be bringing up Roosevelt continually to remind us that he wrote a book on FDR.  I prefer to think, though, that Black just can't get FDR out of his system!

This is not exactly the post that I was planning to write today.  I was intending to write about what Black says about how Nixon's social challenges actually made him into an effective politician.  I think I'll save that post for tomorrow.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Nixon Reconsidered 8

I finished Joan Hoff's Nixon Reconsidered.  I have three items.

1.  I liked something that Hoff said on pages 344-345:

"...the parents of those born after 1974 either strongly opposed or supported Nixon for reasons their children still do not quite understand: 'My parents hate him,' one of my students responded on a questionnaire asking why she was taking a class on Nixon, 'and I want to know why.'"

Why did I like this passage?  I can't really say.  I guess it's because it warms my heart to see people wanting to learn more about the world around them, due to something in their background that they don't quite understand.

I was one of the people born after 1974.  What did my parents think about Richard Nixon?  My impression is that they neither hated him nor loved him.  They believed that he was a shady politician, but they didn't have high expectations about politicians, in general.

Although my parents didn't appear (at least to me) to have strong opinions about Nixon, there were a couple of times when they expressed an opinion about him.  When I was in the sixth grade, I was reading The Final Days, by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.  The back cover quoted the New York Times saying about the book: "Unprecedented....Mr. Nixon emerges as a tragic figure weathering a catastrophic ordeal...and weathering it with considerable courage and dignity."  When I read that quote to my Mom, she responded that she felt that way about Nixon during Watergate.

My Dad one time told a story about a conversation that his father had with someone about Nixon.  A relative was really gun-ho about Nixon, saying that Nixon would be a great President, and my Grandpa retorted, "Nixon will be the last President, and, not only that, he will be the worst President."  My Dad in telling the story may have been implying that my Grandpa was not too far off the mark: while Nixon did not turn out to be our last President, Nixon's Presidency did end on a dismal note.

2.  On pages 345-346, Hoff talks about how Nixon during the 1990's was deemed by many to be authentic:
"He insisted on speaking out on issues, especially foreign policy ones; he looked like a real person, not a talking head, on television; he stood for something rather than nothing or everything, as is now the trendy postmodern fashion...Nixon's potential appeal by the early 1990s because of his own 'real' look was lost on him; he once said to me that 'blow-dry hair is now as important as brains' when running for office.  It is truly a postmodern moment when Richard Nixon, who had to deal with charges of inauthenticity all his public life, became more real and authentic than the totally packaged variety of contemporary politician."

Throughout Richard Nixon's political career, there were many who did not regard Nixon as particularly authentic.  With all of the "new Nixons" coming out, many wondered who the real Nixon was.  According to Hoff, however, Nixon during the 1990's was regarded by many as more authentic than most of the politicians who were on the scene.  I can attest to that, on some level.  I was watching a YouTube clip of David Frost's interview of Nixon, in which Nixon was responding to Frost's questions about Watergate.  One of the commenters said that she liked Nixon because he was comfortable with being who he was.  Granted, this clip was of an interview of Nixon from the late 1970's, not the 1990's.  But I could see the commenter's point.  I don't know if Nixon was telling the truth or not in the Frost interviews, but he did come across to me as authentic, as a real person.  I have the same impression whenever I watch Nixon's Checkers Speech from 1952----and this is a speech that detractors consider to be particularly inauthentic, with its staged den and Nixon's sappy reference to the family dog.  Many say that Nixon was uncomfortable in his own skin, and they may be right.  But there were a number of times when Nixon came across as authentic, as if he were conveying a message of "This is who I am, take it or leave it."

3.  For this third item, I'll offer my general assessments of Hoff's book.  Overall, the book has a lot about policy, and I had to reread parts to grasp what exactly Hoff was narrating.  The book is important, but it is very dry, in areas.  At the same time, I enjoyed Hoff's anecdotes about her interviews with Nixon.  In terms of her argument that President Nixon had significant and progressive accomplishments in domestic policy, she may be right about that, but I wish that she addressed certain liberal arguments against Nixon's domestic policy.  For example, a number of progressives were critical of Nixon's welfare reform plan of giving cash benefits to the poor, maintaining that the funding would not be adequate.  Hoff should have addressed that charge by saying whether or not the poor would have been able to live on the amount of money that Nixon's plan would give them.  Another point that I would like to make is that I found Hoff to be rather elliptical, in places.  She seemed to agree that the Joint Chiefs of Staff was bugging the National Security Council, for example, but I wanted her to go into more detail about why it would do this.

Good book, though!

Psalm 122

Psalm 122 is about going to Jerusalem, as well as desiring Jerusalem's prosperity and peace.  Last week, I shared songs about Psalm 121.  This week, allow me to share this song, which is about the first line of Psalm 122: "I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the LORD" (KJV).

What I'd like to focus on in this post is Psalm 122:5: " For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David."  Patrick Miller in the HarperCollins Study Bible says the following: "Jerusalem is a place where just judgment may be found (cf. Deut 17.8-13; Isa 2.2-4; Mic 4.1-4)...See 1 Kings 7.7.  On the responsibility of kings for rendering justice and judgment in Jerusalem, see 2 Sam 15.1-6; 1 Kings 3.16-28; Jer 21.12; 22.15-16."

Miller cites a lot of passages there.  In Deuteronomy 17:8-13, the levitical priests are the ones at the central sanctuary who pass judgment in difficult cases.  In some of those other passages, however, such as Jeremiah 21:12 and 22:15-16, God appears to want the Davidic monarch to execute justice.

The reason that this whole issue stood out to me when I was reading and studying Psalm 122 was that I had recently listened to a podcast on I Kings.  The podcasts are done by Matthew Ryan Hauge and Craig Evan Anderson, both of whom have Ph.Ds.  They're excellent, in my opinion, for they go into I Kings in depth, explaining why people are acting as they are in the text.  In the podcast on I Kings 3:4-15, in which Solomon asks God for wisdom so that he could judge the people, one of the hosts was saying that Solomon here was trying to usurp power that did not belong to him.  The host noted that Deuteronomy 17:8-13 says that the levitical priests are to be the ones who are to judge, but here Solomon was, wanting to be the judge himself.  (UPDATE: Looney under my blogger post notes that Deuteronomy 17:9 mentions a judge who was not a Levite.  As I look again at Hauge and Evans' notes about their podcast, they, too, seem to acknowledge the existence of non-Levite judges.  Still, their argument appears to be that kings, according to Deuteronomy, were not the ones who were to judge.)

I think that the host is raising important issues, but I am not entirely convinced by his interpretation, for a variety of reasons.  For one, how do we know that either Solomon or the narrator of I Kings 3:4-15 was aware of the law in Deuteronomy 17:8-13?  My impression is that there are many scholars who date Deuteronomy later than King Solomon.  Moreover, while the Deuteronomist indeed added things to I Kings, my understanding (based on what a number of scholars have said) is that he did not write all of the narrative in I Kings himself.  Couldn't the part of the story about Solomon asking God for wisdom so that he could judge the people be prior to the time of the Deuteronomist?  If so, then maybe the narrator is not portraying Solomon as doing something wrong in wanting wisdom so that he could judge; rather, the narrator may assume that Solomon's request is reasonable, since kings in those days judged.

Second, God in I Kings 3:4-15 approved of Solomon's request for wisdom.  There is no indication in the text that Solomon was illegitimately seeking to usurp power that belonged to someone else.

Third, I do not know how Hauge and Anderson approach the diversity of Scripture----if they believe that the Bible contains different voices with different ideologies, or if they believe that all of the Bible is the viewpoint of God.  The thing is, the Hebrew Bible strikes me as rather diverse on the issue of who should judge.  Deuteronomy 17:8-13 says that the Levitical priests should, but there are other passages that are either okay with the Davidic king judging, or that encourage the Davidic king to do so.  How do we know that I Kings 3:4-15 is not one of the voices that presumes that the Davidic king should judge?

But things may be messier than I have implied so far in this post.  The reason is that, while Psalm 122 appears to be okay with the Davidic king judging, it appears to have been influenced by Deuteronomic thought.  Psalm 122:4 mentions giving thanks to the name of the LORD.  That is a Deuteronomic concept: that the house of God is a place where God has put God's name, not a home that God himself inhabits.  Psalm 122 may adopt some aspects of Deuteronomic ideology, but not other aspects.  Or could the Deuteronomistic School have changed its mind by coming to accept the role of the Davidic king as judge over Israel?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Nixon Reconsidered 7

I have two items for my blog post today about Joan Hoff's Nixon Reconsidered.

1.  My first item will concern whether the United States should intervene in other countries.  Hoff has a section in her book, "THIRD WORLD MISTAKES", in which she is quite critical of how President Richard Nixon approached the Third World.  Overall, she seems to be arguing, he saw it through the prism of the Cold War.  Hoff discusses the Nixon Administration's treatment of Chile, which was headed by the Marxist President Salvador Allende, who would be overthrown in a coup.  While Hoff does not believe that there is evidence that the CIA or Nixon Administration "played any direct role in the assassination of President Salvador Allende," she does acknowledge that they "did everything possible to destabilize his government" (page 249), by funding Allende's political opponents, for example.  One who was opposed to such features of President Nixon's foreign policy was Secretary of State William Rogers, who would later say that the U.S. giving contributions to foreign elections is a bad idea.  One reason, according to Rogers, was that the U.S. doesn't get its "money's worth" in doing so.  Second, Rogers said, it is embarrassing to the countries and undermines their trust in the U.S.  And third, it contradicts the U.S.'s rhetoric about non-intervention and allowing "countries to determine their own future" (Rogers' words on page 251).  Some have characterized Rogers as not particularly bright, but I do believe that his critique of the Nixon Administration's policy in Chile is quite insightful.  I can still see Nixon's perspective----that the Soviets were backing the leftists in Chile, that the U.S. did not want a major Communist power in South America, and that thus the U.S. had to support Allende's opponents.  Still, in my opinion, Rogers does well to highlight downfalls to U.S. intervention in other countries' political systems. 

Hoff herself appears to pursue a rather isolationist route at the end of her chapter on the Vietnam War (even though I seriously doubt that she and Rogers were complete isolationists).  She essentially says that the U.S. government and military officials should apologize for the Vietnam War.  She blames the South Vietnamese, "not the dove-inspired constraints on the U.S. military", for losing the war (page 242).  While Hoff defends Nixon against a number of charges that she considers to be unfounded and unfair, she still apparently retains the opposition to the Vietnam War that she had when she was a New Leftist.

Hoff sometimes seems to praise Richard Nixon's foreign policy, as when she says that detente may deserve some credit for the end of the Cold War.  But, overall, she does not have too many kind words for Nixon's foreign policy.  As I said in my post yesterday, she is critical of the "linkage" element of detente, in which Nixon and Henry Kissinger would link together different issues in dealing with the Soviets, offering concessions in some areas if the Soviets would do what the U.S. wanted in other areas.  Her chapter about the Vietnam War is entitled "VIETNAM: WITHOUT PEACE OR HONOR".  She's against how Nixon approached the Third World.  What exactly does she favor in President Richard Nixon's foreign policy?  She says that his rapprochement with Red China was an accomplishment, but here, her applause strikes me as rather tepid.  One goal behind the rapprochement was to give the U.S. leverage in its relationship with the Soviet Union, and my impression is that Hoff does not believe that it did that.  Hoff's praises of Nixon's domestic policies are quite pronounced, by contrast.  She does note flaws in some of them, such as Nixon allowing the dollar to float, and Nixon believing that the Equal Pay Act could actually bring about equal pay for men and women in the workplace.  But she also believes that Nixon accomplished a significant amount of good in such areas as civil rights, the environment, and the U.S. Government's treatment of Native Americans, and that his proposal to reform welfare was quite groundbreaking.  I don't find that same level of respect in Hoff's book for Nixon's foreign policies.

2.  In my post here, I refer to Stephen Ambrose's claim that Nixon's desire for information about Democratic National Committee chairman Larry O'Brien could have contributed to the atmosphere that led to the break-in at the DNC's headquarters at the Watergate hotel.  Ambrose is not the only one who posits this, for many believe that the burglars were looking for information about O'Brien.  But Hoff does not buy this explanation for the break-in, and her reason is that "the Watergate burglars did not initially bug, nor were they subsequently caught in, O'Brien's office" (page 305).  Hoff goes into other motivations for the break-in that have been proposed, but she appears to be open to the controversial argument in the book, Silent Coup, by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, that the break-in was an attempt to find information about a prostitution ring that was servicing Democratic and Republican politicians.  I'm not sure if, or to what extent, she buys into the aspect of Silent Coup's argument for which John Dean sued its authors for libel: the argument that John Dean was somehow involved in ordering the break-in and trying to cover things up, since (according to the authors) Dean's wife was connected with someone who was prominent in the prostitution ring.  Hoff does, however, say on page 311 that Silent Coup "has surpassed other books about the origins of Watergate" and also "attempts to resolve factual contradictions in the testimony of all the participants about the break-ins and cover-up" (page 311).

David Greenberg in Nixon's Shadow said that Hoff essentially provided scholarly cover for Silent Coup.  There are many who may feel that Silent Coup was a book with a crackpot theory that several Nixon apologists desperately tried to grab onto, perhaps to make Dean a scapegoat for Watergate.  I don't know enough about Watergate to comment.  But I do have to respect Hoff's humble tone in praising Silent Coup, as when she notes that the book attempts to resolve contradictions in testimonies.  There's not a whole lot of pretense in her liking the book for that reason.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Blog Is 6!

Today is my blog’s sixth birthday!  What I want to do in this post is to share with you my goals for this coming year of blogging, including my struggles over what some of my goals will be.

My plan is to continue My Year (or More) of Nixon until February 2014. I probably will not read all of the books that I planned to read.  I said on this blog, for example, that I was thinking of reading Theodore White’s books on the 1960, 1968, and 1972 Presidential elections, but that probably won’t happen.  I’m currently drawn more to some of the books about Nixon that are in my local library than I am to some of the books that are in my own personal library.  But I may get back to the latter after March 2014,  Essentially, I’ll be taking a break from My Year (or More) of Nixon in February-March 2014.  Then, I will decide whether to resume my reading of books about Nixon, or to move on to something else.

In February 2014, I will blog through two books for Black History Month.  One is John McWhorter’s Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America.  The other is Andrew Hacker’s Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal.  McWhorter’s book was recommended to me by a conservative who was essentially saying that racism was not a problem that was holding African-Americans back anymore, since there were many African-Americans who were doing quite well, and many who were not had themselves to blame. (I question whether McWhorter himself would go that far, however.)  Hacker’s book was recommended to me by an African-American who wanted to show me that racism indeed remained a problem in American society.

March 2014 will be Women’s History Month.  For that, I am planning to blog through two books.  The first is Christopher Byron’s Martha, Inc. which is a biography of Martha Stewart.  I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I saw it in a bookstore over a decade ago.  I didn’t buy it at the time, but I saw it at a Goodwill years later and bought it then.  I got chills as I read the following line from the cover’s jacket: “Byron attends, through fly-on-the-wall sources, executive meetings with some of the most powerful individuals in American business to watch as they try to deal with a woman who emerged from nowhere to overpower them all.”  I would probably not buy stocks from Martha Stewart, but I respect her because she is a confident, powerful woman, who (according to Byron) apparently rose from obscurity.

The other book that I will read in March 2014 is Carl Bernstein’s A Woman in Charge, which is a biography of Hillary Clinton.  When I was a conservative, I disliked Hillary Clinton immensely (not that I knew her).  Now, I tend to admire her strength and her mind.  Bernstein’s book dates to 2007, so it won’t have anything about her 2008 run for the Presidency, or her time as Secretary of State.  But it may have interesting material about her life up to 2007, which would include her childhood and early life, and her time as First Lady and then United States Senator.

April 2014 will be National Autism Month.  I may blog through a book about Asperger’s for that, or I may not.

A lot of my posts this coming year of blogging will be about political history, or contemporary issues.  Will I still write about the Bible and religion?  Probably so.  I will continue my blog posts about the Book of Psalms until I am done with the Book.  As far as what I will do after that for my weekly quiet time posts is concerned, I’m thinking about that.  Maybe I’ll go on to Proverbs.  Maybe I’ll go on to I-II Chronicles, since I already have an Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture book that includes Chronicles.  Or I may do nothing, since there’s no guarantee that I will have the time.  Come to think of it, most of my plans for this blog that I am discussing are rather tentative.  But they’re what I hope to do.

I’ll still be blogging about my weekly church services.  On whether I will blog about my church’s Bible study, I am debating if I will even attend that.  I have problems with conservative evangelical Christianity, and so I wonder if I should go to my church’s Bible study, where people seem to (on some level) have that particular perspective.  Going to church with my aversion to conservative evangelical Christianity is one thing, but going to a Bible study group is another, since Bible study groups are smaller and more intimate.  I have been reading some of my past posts about my church’s Bible study, and I think that they’re good posts.  Sometimes, the best posts are the ones that we write when we are struggling with something!  But I’m questioning whether I even want to blog about my religious struggles to the extent that I have in the past.  I’ve blogged about a lot of them before, and I’m not sure that I have anything new to add.  Plus, maybe I just don’t want to think about my religious struggles, and would just prefer to enjoy my life.

I’d like to close this post by thanking those who read me.  I have readers who may not read every single post that I write, but they have been reading me for years, and I appreciate that.  I also welcome people who have started reading me.  This past year has been rather slow in terms of my blogs getting new followers, or my posts getting “likes.”  I’ve had previous years that were much more fruitful, at least in that area.  But I appreciate those who read me—-those who come to my blog looking for information, those who click “like,” those who comment, and those who don’t.  I disagree with a blogger who said that blogs that don’t include a space for comments are not true examples of blogging, for my own definition of blogging is simply having a blog and writing on it on a fairly regular basis, whether or not one is popular or interacts with a lot of readers.  But it’s nice to have readers.

On to year 7!

Nixon Reconsidered 6

In my blog post today about Joan Hoff's Nixon Reconsidered, I will talk about detente.  Detente literally means a "relaxing or easing of tensions between nations" (page 183).  Under President Richard Nixon, detente included agreements with the Soviet Union on arms control and trade, and also the linkage together of different issues so that the United States could encourage the Soviets to do what the U.S. wanted in exchange for the Soviets receiving certain benefits and concessions.

I have three items on detente.

1.  On page 183, Hoff states that Nixon aimed "to seek sufficiency rather than superiority" in arms-control deals (Hoff's words).  The United States would not try to be superior to the U.S.S.R. by having more weapons, in short, but the United States would take care to have enough weapons to do the job of protecting itself and of being able to retaliate if the U.S.S.R. attacked it (and the threat of retaliation would hopefully discourage the U.S.S.R. from attacking in the first place).  I've read that Ronald Reagan criticized detente because it was the United States negotiating itself into a position of being number-two behind the Soviet Union.  I wonder if Reagan there was expressing his problems with the "sufficiency rather than superiority" aspect of detente.

2.  As I said in my post here, the concept of linkage seems to me to be common sense: the U.S. tells the Soviets that it will agree to something that the Soviets want, if the Soviets agree to do something that the U.S. wants.  That sounds to me like negotiation!  But the linkage of different issues in U.S. negotiations with the Soviets was actually pretty controversial.  In my post here, I discussed and linked to a YouTube video of a 1988 Presidential debate among the Democratic primary candidates, and also the Republican ones.  In the Republican debate, Alexander Haig was criticizing Ronald Reagan's arms-control negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev (which George Bush was defending) because they did not seem to have any linkage.  Meanwhile, other Republican candidates were critical of the U.S. dealing with the Soviet Union when the Soviets still had a poor human rights record and were helping to export Communism to other countries.  These Republican candidates may or may not have supported linkage, as Al Haig did, but they probably agreed that the U.S. should not just think about arms control when it was deliberating on how to deal with the Soviet Union, for the U.S. should also consider such issues as human rights and curbing Soviet interventionism.

Hoff herself does not seem to think that linkage worked.  She notes that Henry Kissinger was a major proponent of linkage, and I'm noticing a trend in Hoff's book that, in her eyes, most of what Henry Kissinger said and did was bad.  But what are her specific objections to linkage?  On page 158, Hoff states: "First and foremost, it never worked with respect to the Soviet Union in negotiations with Vietnam or the SALT I talks, and it made Nixinger policy look indifferent to Third World concerns, except insofar as they could be linked to relationships between major powers."  For Hoff (as I understand her), linkage did not enable the U.S. to get the Soviets to do everything that the U.S. wanted in the areas of Vietnam and SALT I, and, on some of the occasions when the Soviets did do what the U.S. wanted, it wasn't because of some convoluted linkage, but rather for other reasons.  I also want to say that Hoff's discussion of linkage and the Third World stood out to me because Nixon himself in some of his foreign policy books criticizes treating the Third World primarily as a battleground for the Cold War.  But Hoff's contention appears to be that Nixon as President did precisely that.

I may not be grasping the totality of the concept of linkage, or Hoff's arguments against it.  See the wikipedia article on linkage.  Something that the wikipedia article says (for what it's worth) is that "The Nixon-Kissinger approach did not link foreign and domestic arenas."  That would mean that human rights was not a part of linkage, at least not for Nixon and Kissinger----that the U.S. did not grant the Soviets advantages in (say) trade in exchange for an improved human rights record.  Still, Nixon in his memoirs does argue that the U.S. used its relationship with the Soviet Union to encourage it to allow Soviet Jews to leave the U.S.S.R.

3.  On pages 203-207, Hoff talks about the decline of detente.  Certain arms control agreements were slow in coming, and there was also concern that some of the arms control agreements already negotiated were disadvantageous to the U.S.  The Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Reform Bill was challenging trade with the Soviet Union.  And a grain deal with the U.S.S.R. was resulting in an increase in domestic grain prices.  Later, President Jimmy Carter would emphasize human rights, specifically the provision about human rights of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and that was "a bone of contention between the United States and the Soviet Union" (page 207).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Nixon Reconsidered 5

For my blog post today about Joan Hoff's Nixon Reconsidered, my topic will be the so-called "madman theory."

What's the "madman theory"?  According to Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman, in his book The Ends of Power, Nixon during the 1968 campaign mused about how he could end the Vietnam War as President by making the North Vietnamese think that he was a madman who could do anything, including drop the nuclear bomb.  The notion that Nixon held to a "madman theory" is widely accepted.

Hoff appears to be skeptical that Nixon embraced the "madman theory," however, and she lists the following considerations:

1.  Only Haldeman mentioned Nixon saying anything about it.  Nixon himself told Hoff that he didn't remember using the term in a conversation with Haldeman, and that he rarely discussed with Haldeman "substantive foreign policy matters" (Hoff's words on page 177).  Hoff also says that Nixon would have been imprudent to use the term "madman theory" in discussing his diplomacy, since Nixon called the anti-war protesters irrational.  Nixon did say, however, that, if he discussed the threat of "excessive force" in the Vietnam War, that had to do with Nixon using Kissinger as the "good messenger" (Nixon's terms) who would be a foil to Nixon's well-known anti-Communism.  That sounds to me like the substance of the madman theory----within a "good cop, bad cop" context----even if Nixon did not use the exact term.

2.  Hoff speculates that the term "madman theory" may go back to Henry Kissinger.  In 1959, Daniel Ellsberg delivered two lectures to Kissinger's Harvard seminar, and they were entitled "The Political Uses of Madness."  Ellsberg discussed how Adolf Hitler used "irrational military threats" (Ellsberg's words) in a political manner, and Ellsberg went on to criticize Hitler's strategy.  Hoff states that "there is some indication in even his earliest books that Kissinger accepted such an approach as diplomatically feasible," but that there is nothing in Kissinger's memoirs that indicates Kissinger's support for the "madman theory" (page 178).  According to Hoff, this is probably because Kissinger was trying to depict himself as a great negotiator.

3.  Hoff refers to an example of Kissinger encouraging the use of force, while Nixon was very hesitant.  "On April 15, 1969," Hoff narrates, "North Korea shot down a United States Navy EC-121 reconnaissance plane, killing all thirty-one men aboard" (page 173).  Contrary to what Kissinger would assert in White House Years, Hoff states, we can see in military documents that Nixon at first was all for "striking the North Korean airfield responsible for the attack on the American plane" (page 174).  But Nixon changed his mind on this, concluding that such an attack would be unfeasible, due to the dearth of enough U.S. planes and ships in the area, and the potential unwillingness of Japan and South Korea to serve as a base for the U.S. (since they wouldn't want to be involved in a conflict between the U.S. and North Korea).  Hoff states, "It would have taken up to a week to mount an effective air strike, with effective backup power, in case North Korea decided to deploy its 400 MIG jets" (page 175).

Kissinger, by contrast, supported an air-strike.  Kissinger did not believe that the North Koreans would attack back, plus he thought that an air-strike would show the Soviet Union, China, and North Vietnam that Nixon meant business.  Nixon in his memoirs says that Kissinger told him: "If we strike back, even though it's risky, they will say, 'this guy is becoming irrational----we'd better settle with him.'"  Kissinger was the one supporting the "madman theory" in this case, not Nixon, Hoff argues.

Hoff narrates that Kissinger during the Ford Administration would similarly "overreact."  In 1975, the Khmer Rouge "captured a U.S. merchant ship and its forty-man crew", and President Gerald Ford acted on Kissinger's advice by attacking Koh Tang, the island where the ship and crew were believed to be (page 176).  Kissinger supported this measure as a way to maintain the United States' worldwide prestige, after "sixty hours of negotiating had failed" (page 176).  But the attack ended up being a disaster.  Forty-one Americans died, fifty were wounded, and many Cambodians were killed on account of a bomb while they were evacuating.  Moreover, the Cambodian government released the crew prior to the U.S. attack, meaning the attack was useless.  Hoff states that the U.S. should have negotiated with Cambodia through the UN or neutral channels.

But let's return to the North Korea incident.  As I look in volume 1 of Nixon's memoirs, and I read Nixon's account of the North Korea incident, it seems to me that Nixon identified with Kissinger's motives for wanting the U.S. to attack North Korea, for Nixon himself was concerned about U.S. prestige abroad.  Nixon also narrates that he initially supported a retaliatory attack.  But Nixon says that he came to believe that an attack would not be feasible, and he states that Kissinger himself came around to backing off from his support for an attack.  Kissinger saw that (among Nixon's team) only Vice-President Agnew, Attorney General John Mitchell, and he supported an attack, whereas Secretary of State William Rogers, Secretary of Defense Mel Laird, and most of the other top national security people opposed it.  (It's interesting to me that Agnew and Rogers were involved in these discussions, since there were many times that they were marginalized or kept outside of the loop.)  According to Nixon, Kissinger concluded that "we could ill afford a Cabinet insurrection at such an early date in the administration", and also that "congressional and public opinion were not ready for the shock of a strong retaliation against the Communists in North Korea" (page 475).  Nixon agreed to a plan of continuing intelligence flights, while backing them up with "fighter escort," and also of launching another round of attacks on North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia, just to show North Vietnam (and North Korea) that the U.S. still meant business.  Nixon also expresses a sense, based on intelligent reports, that what North Korea did was an isolated occurrence.

I've not yet read the entirety of Henry Kissinger's White House Years, but his account of the EC-121 incident is on pages 315-321.  Essentially, Kissinger portrays Nixon as failing to act decisively and to demonstrate solid leadership during this crisis, which occurred so early in Richard Nixon's Presidency.  Rather, according to Kissinger, Nixon was dithering and was considering options.  Kissinger admits that he himself (meaning Kissinger) "favored some retaliatory act, but was less clear about what it might be" (page 317).  Kissinger also sees Nixon's point that "we could certainly not sustain a prolonged ground war" if North Korea responded (Kissinger's words, page 319), but Kissinger says that he did not believe that North Korea would escalate the situation if the U.S. retaliated.  Like Nixon in his memoirs, Kissinger narrates that he (meaning Kissinger) ultimately backed off from supporting retaliation because there was "no Congressional support" for it, plus Nixon's team was divided.  Kissinger states on page 320: "I never had had an impression that Nixon had his heart in a retaliatory attack.  He had procrastinated too much; he had not really pressed for it in personal conversation; he had not engaged in the relentless maneuvering by which he bypassed opposition when his mind was made up."

While Hoff disputes elements of Kissinger's account of the EC-121 incident, what is interesting to me is that Kissinger's account appears to be more consistent with Hoff's portrayal of Nixon than Nixon's own account of it in his memoirs, even though Hoff does not appear to be a huge fan of Kissinger (or such is my impression----she seems to portray Kissinger as a glory hog who could offer some pretty bad advice and whose accounts are not always trustworthy).  Kissinger depicts Nixon as someone whose heart wasn't into retaliation, which is consistent with Hoff's contention that Nixon was not a supporter of the "madman theory."  Nixon, however, seems to be implying that he would have supported bombing North Korea to secure America's reputation, but he did not deem it to be feasible at the time.  Circumstances were holding him back, in short!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nixon Reconsidered 4

I have three items for my blog post today about Joan Hoff's Nixon Reconsidered.

1. On page 109, Hoff says the following about Nixon's stance on equal rights for women:

"Nixon told me in 1983 that his family (his wife and two daughters) favored the ERA, but he had come to believe after 1963 that the Equal Pay Act would achieve equality for women----apparently not realizing that this legislation could never end the pay differential between women and men or the sex-segregated nature of the U.S. labor force.  This view may have had validity in 1969 when Nixon came into office, but he argued the point with me as though twenty years had not passed and proved him (and many others, including Democratic women who had supported the Equal Pay Act) wrong.  Nonetheless, he correctly asserted that effective application of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act could serve the same purpose for women as passage of the ERA.  Nixon admitted to me, however, that as president he had not done as much for women as he would have liked."

This paragraph exemplifies that Hoff's intention in Nixon Reconsidered is not to whitewash Nixon's record on domestic policies, although she does believe that Nixon as President had a number of significant progressive domestic policy accomplishments.  Hoff is open about what she considers to be strengths and weaknesses in Nixon's record.  For example, Hoff acknowledges that there were weaknesses in Nixon's policies regarding women.  Hoff also discusses the sexist attitudes of Nixon and some of his staff, as well as Nixon's tepid support for the Equal Rights Amendment as President.  At the same time, Hoff notes accomplishments that Nixon made in terms of fighting gender discrimination, and she also appears to give Nixon the benefit of a doubt, in some cases.  On page 104, Hoff says that Nixon questioned the value of recruiting women for government positions, as Nixon expressed doubt that this would get him more female votes.  Hoff states: "Rather than being a totally negative comment simply rationalizing the president's reluctance to appoint women, it could have been, suggested the columnist Tom Wicker, a 'hard political calculation; or it conceivably was a view somewhat ahead of its time that women generally wanted effective measures against sex discrimination rather than the highly visible 'token' jobs in government for a select few.'"

What I liked about the paragraph on page 109 is that it highlighted two aspects of Nixon.  On the one hand, Nixon was making the same arguments in 1983 about the Equal Pay Act that he had made back when he was President, even though (according to Hoff) subsequent events had proven him wrong.  On the other hand, Nixon acknowledged to Hoff that his record as President on equality for women was inadequate, that he himself was not completely satisfied with his record on this issue.  Many of us would like to think that we accomplished something good, and we try to justify our decisions; yet, since none of us is perfect, we can also look back and reflect that we could have done more.  Self-justification and regret seem to co-exist in a lot of people!  Personally, I find it refreshing when an ex-President looks back at his time in office and shares his regrets: what he wished he accomplished but didn't, what he did wrong, what he could have done better, etc.  It makes the ex-President look more human, which contrasts with how politicians continually try to spin to make themselves look flawless.

2.  On pages 149-150, Hoff talks about how Henry Kissinger did not expect for his working relationship with Richard Nixon to last, and yet the two managed to bond over shared characteristics:

"On the surface Nixon and Kissinger----an American Quaker and a German-American Jew----appear to have been the odd couple of U.S. foreign policy.  Given his long personal and professional association with the Rockefeller family and his blunt criticisms of Nixon, Kissinger apparently did not think he would last even six months in the new Nixon administration.  Yet when these two men came together in 1968, they actually shared many viewpoints and had developed similar operational styles.  Both relished covert activity and liked making unilateral decisions; both distrusted bureaucracies; both resented any attempt by Congress to interfere with initiatives; and both agreed that the United States could impose order and stability on the world only if the White House controlled policy by appearing conciliatory but acting tough.  While neither had headed any complex organization, both thought 'personalized executive control' and formal application of procedures would lead to success.  Even more coincidental, perhaps, each had a history of failure and rejection, which made them susceptible to devising ways of protecting themselves and their positions of power.  Often their concern for protection appeared as obsession with eavesdropping, whether wiretaps or reconnaissance flights.  They even eavesdropped on themselves: Nixon by installing an automatic taping system in the White House, Kissinger by having some of his meetings and all of his phone conversations taped or transcribed from notes.  In a word, instead of compensating for each other's weaknesses and enhancing strengths, Nixon and Kissinger shared their worst characteristics."

Hoff goes into more detail about the relationship between Nixon and Kissinger.  It was quite stormy, in areas!  Nixon thought at one time that Kissinger needed psychiatric help, and Nixon often tried to hinder Kissinger from taking credit for foreign policy moves.  And Kissinger actually was trying to upstage Nixon (according to Hoff), and also badmouthed Nixon to others after the Nixon Presidency.  Meanwhile, as Hoff notes, Nixon in his memoirs was quite mellow in talking about Kissinger.  Overall, from what I have read in books about (and even by) Nixon, there were intense personality conflicts among Nixon's staff.  I doubt it's an Administration in which I would have wanted to work, at least in the inner-circle!

Moreover, Hoff notes that prominent Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman thought that Nixon and Kissinger actually did compensate for each other's weaknesses: that Nixon did well in crisis but poorly when things were going well, whereas Kissinger tended to stress out in crises, while handling the good times rather adeptly rather than botching things up.

Whatever their conflicts, Nixon and Kissinger did have a long-standing relationship in the area of foreign policy, particularly during Nixon's Presidency.  I recall Stephen Ambrose telling the story in his biography of Nixon of when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Nixon and Kissinger during a conflict between India and Pakistan, and she noted that Nixon was continually saying, "Isn't that right, Henry?"

I like stories in which people whom one would not expect to get along actually do end up forming a fairly successful relationship----whether that be a working or a personal relationship.

3.  On pages 163-164, Hoff talks about Nixon's Secretary of Defense, Mel Laird, who had a reputation as a hawk during his time in the 1960's as a Congressman, but who as Secretary of Defense was much more moderate.  As Secretary of Defense, Hoff says, Laird pushed for the end of the draft, the replacement of American troops in Vietnam with South Vietnamese troops (Vietnamization), and the withdrawal of American troops "faster than the Pentagon thought the South Vietnamese forced could be trained to replace them..."  Laird also questioned extending the war into Laos and Cambodia.  Hoff says that, "unlike Nixon and Kissinger, Laird was more interested in ending the war in Vietnam than in winning it."  All this, "Despite cartoons depicting Laird's bald head in the shape of a missile, bomb, or bullet..."

In addition to liking opposites-attract stories, I also enjoy stories in which a person acts differently than people perceive him.  I think of the movie, Separate But Equal, which was about a companion case to the Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court decision banning racial segregation in public schools.  In that movie, the side that is challenging segregation is afraid when Earl Warren becomes the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, for it learns that Warren as California Attorney General was a major force behind putting Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II.  But Warren surprised the anti-segregation side.  Not only did Warren come to support desegregation, but he also attempted to persuade the other justices to support it so that the court could make a firm statement.

The way that the movie depicts the situation, Warren's eyes were opened to the realities of racial discrimination after he had become Chief Justice, and he saw that his African-American driver was sleeping in his car one night because no hotel or motel would accept him.  Maybe this is true, and maybe it is not.  Still, Warren probably did surprise people when he fought for desegregation.

Why Laird changed his mind, I have no idea.  Perhaps he learned more.  Maybe he just got to the point where he wanted the war to end, and he didn't believe that hawkish measures were working.  I've read Republicans who make fun of how the liberal establishment says that Republican politicians who end up supporting liberal measures have demonstrated "growth" since their time in office.  Personally, I think it's great when people change with new information and exposure to real life----whether that change be from left to right, or from right to left, or from one of these extremes towards the middle.  All sorts of people can move from shallow positions to positions of depth.

Coming back to the issue of regrets, I'd like to quote what Earl Warren said in his 1977 memoirs about his support for Japanese internment camps during World War II (see here): I "since deeply regretted the removal order and my own testimony advocating it, because it was not in keeping with our American concept of freedom and the rights of citizens...Whenever I thought of the innocent little children who were torn from home, school friends, and congenial surroundings, I was conscience-stricken...[i]t was wrong to react so impulsively, without positive evidence of disloyalty..."

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