The Oil in the Lemon Grove
No lie is small when spoken by a President.
— RICHARD HARRIS, 1974 1
WHEN RICHARD NIXON at the moment of his political dying bade farewell to his staff in the White House, he was haunted by deaths past. He spoke of the deaths of his two brothers, and of the four tuberculosis-ridden youths his mother had cared for in Arizona, all of whom had died. 2 He read a passage describing the death of Theodore Roosevelt's joyous young first wife. He mentioned his "saintly" mother, who had died shortly before he became president, and his father, who had died during his vice-presidency. Unlike his resignation speech the night before, in which he admitted no guilt for the conduct that had made his impeachment certain and his conviction likely, this one was unrehearsed.
Years before, as vice-president, Nixon had admitted to Stewart Alsop, "a major public figure is a lonely man.... I can't confide absolutely in anyone, even in Pat.... It's something like wearing clothing—if you let down your hair you feel too naked." 3 There were many on this morning who saw Nixon naked for the first time, naked not only before his friends but before a television audience of many millions. In the middle of the speech he said, "This country needs good farmers, good businessmen, good plumbers [here, at the surfacing of a word he no doubt wanted most of all to forget, he winced slightly and rushed on], good carpenters." The word "carpenters" apparently reminded him of his father:
I remember my old man. I think that they would have called him a sort of a little man, common man. He didn't consider himself that way. You know what he was? He was a streetcar motorman first, and then he was