The Unreported Middle East Catalyst for Richard Nixon's Downfall

Article excerpt

The Unreported Middle East Catalyst for Richard Nixon's Downfall

The U.S. media have made much of the 25th anniversary of Richard Nixon's 1974 resignation as U.S. president, some of it tasteless (whatever that means nowadays), some of it interesting, but, strangely, none of it touching on the Middle East. Since what Nixon had started doing in the Middle East from the beginning of his second term was, in my opinion, the catalyst that led directly to his downfall, the omission was both significant and, unfortunately, predictable, given the U.S. media taboos that protect Israel.

First, however, a personal disclaimer concerning my own feelings about Nixon. My first post-military, post-university newspaper job was in Nixon's hometown, Whittier, California. The semi-weekly on which I worked had an editorial staff of one and a half. I was the one, serving as the entire reportorial staff and the make-up editor. The half, meaning she worked only three days a week, was the chief editor, an enormously cynical but enormously likable woman, maybe 10 years my senior, who had enjoyed a few years as a reporter with a wire service and a major Los Angeles newspaper during World War II. However, when the boys came marching home, she, and a whole generation of perfectly capable female reporters, found themselves back in the boondocks.

She was bitter about that because, as I realized immediately, she was a very good journalist. From a small town in Ohio, just like Nixon's Quaker family, her politics reflected the conservatism of Whittier. My persistence in slipping in articles reflecting a very different philosophy on America's very serious racial problems of the time probably caused some grief in her relationship with our extremely reactionary publisher and with advertisers, but it also got us readers and she dealt with it fairly and amicably.

The enthusiasm she no longer brought to newspapering now went into Republican politics. She was a member of a grassroots committee that, immediately after the war, interviewed perhaps 200 young veterans looking for the perfect candidate to upset the district's incumbent Democratic congressman, who had held the job forever and was looking forward to greater things.

The committee picked Richard Nixon as the Republican candidate, and in a very rough campaign he won the seat in 1946. Now, with the enthusiastic backing not only of her committee but of well-heeled grassroots Republicans across the state, Nixon was running for senator, and my editor was not only working for his campaign committee, but also inserting her own enthusiastic interviews and features about Nixon and his wife, Pat, into every issue of our newspaper to build up the campaign press kit that circulated to media throughout the state.

My wife-to-be was still in college and she used to take a bus Saturday mornings to the printshop where I was putting the week's second edition to bed. While she waited for me to finish she would read the current issue's enthusiastic portrayals of the Nixon family. Then, as we drove off to spend the rest of the day at the beach, she would quote sarcastically some of the gushings about the Nixons.

I didn't care. My own candidate was a conservative Democratic newspaper publisher who also happened to be a neighbor from my own hometown. When he lost in the Democratic primary to Helen Gahagan Douglas, the wife of popular Hollywood actor Melvyn Douglas, I lost any partisan interest in the race. But I did follow it closely, and therefore was able to see many years later how unfairly Nixon's anti-Communist charges, and perhaps some anti-Hollywood innuendoes in those charges, had been twisted by his political enemies to imply that he had been an anti-Semite from the beginning of his political career.

I left Whittier after only a year to go to work for United Press, and a year after that I left United Press after the Korean War began to enter the State Department's overseas information program. …