Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nixon's Talent and Tenacity Failed to Overcome His Inner Flaws

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nixon's Talent and Tenacity Failed to Overcome His Inner Flaws

Article excerpt

A golden rule for the living - "Speak only good of the dead" - arises because we are all flawed creatures and because charity and taste enjoin it in the face of the great democracy of death. But, let's face it, it's a hard rule to observe at the death of Richard M. Nixon, 37th president of the United States.

Few managed to achieve urbanity on the subject of Nixon during his lifetime. He was too gifted for dismissal, too accomplished for neglect, too quirky, partisan and furtive for affection. One who did achieve this rare urbanity was Vermont C. Royster, the former Wall Street Journal editor. I once heard Royster introduce the former president to an audience as "this most unusual and interesting man."i For once the adjectives were right. Nixon was indeed unusual and interesting.

Most political men are gregarious to a fault; they feed on crowds and people. Nixon was monastic to the point of reclusiveness. Intimates told of his emotional exhaustion caused by routine visitors at the White House. Vivid pictures come back - Nixon alone in the little Lincoln study with his yellow pad, thinking private thoughts while the air conditioning and fireplace both go full blast; Nixon the isolated figure, walking the beach at San Clemente in a white shirt and tie, business suit and black shoes.

His tenacity was unlimited, even for a public man. You could see it at the beginning and at the end. Alone among the members of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1948, the freshman from California pursued Alger Hiss when others were ready to desist. They had concluded that Hiss' accuser, Whittaker Chambers, was a fabulist and that his tales were empty. Nixon thought otherwise and stuck doggedly to his guns. And he was right.

After he resigned from the presidency in August 1974, Nixon would not accept decorous exile silence. He beavered away at his books, with their yearning anecdotes about figures like Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. He liked to associate himself with them. They, too, had had their ups and downs.

He went wherever opportunity beckoned as a sort of elder-statesman, political-sage, strategic-pundit, acting for all the world as if his forced exit from the presidency had been normal. …

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