Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character

By Fawn M. Brodie | Go to book overview
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I

Man of Paradox

WHEN RICHARD NIXON RESIGNED, the London Spectator observed that in the United States the presidency had come full circle, from George Washington, who could not tell a lie, to Richard Nixon, who could not tell the truth. The sense of national humiliation and betrayal affected everyone; those who voted for him felt shame, and those who had not were ashamed for their country. In his fall he was pelted with epithets, described as shabby, foul-mouthed, conspiratorial, manipulative, synthetic, vindictive, power-hungry, and morally bankrupt. George V. Higgins called him "a virtuoso of deception." John Kenneth Galbraith said he had "a deeply bogus streak." Arthur Miller wrote that he "marched instinctively down the crooked path."

Henry Steele Commager called Nixon "the first dangerous and wicked president," and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., said his resignation had saved the presidency "from the man who did more to discredit and endanger it than any other President in our history." Even Fr. John J. McLaughlin, former stout defender of Nixon in the White House, said, "The incubus has been lifted from our backs." 1 President Ford said in his inaugural, "The long nightmare of the nation is over." And when he pardoned Nixon he continued the theme, saying, "I cannot prolong the bad dreams."

Moreover, unlike any other president save Woodrow Wilson, who suffered a paralytic stroke, Nixon went out of office suspected of suffering from severe mental illness. John Osborne, one of the most perceptive and the fairest of all the Nixon watchers, wrote of the president's relations with reporters in the last months that "there was a feeling that he might go bats in front of them at any time." 2 The aura of paranoia, "the bunker mentality," clung to the White House. Nixon's own doctor said he had "a death

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