Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character

By Fawn M. Brodie | Go to book overview

XXXIII

A Series of Accidents

You can't be interested in that. You can only be interested in who shot John.

— NIXON TO DAVID FROST, 1977 1

EVERY PRESIDENT SINCE ANDREW JACKSON, the first to be threatened by a demented killer, has had to fight a dread of assassination. Lincoln suffered from premonitions that he would not live out his second term, and shortly before his death dreamed that he saw a coffin in the White House draped with a catafalque, and heard sounds of weeping. When he asked, "Who is dead?" he was told, "The president. He was killed by an assassin." 2

John F. Kennedy, who received 870 death threats in the mail in his first year in office, 3 learned to joke about the threat. Once he played a charade, acting out his own assassination. As a friend took home movies he slumped to the floor while another friend poured catsup over him. It is said that everyone laughed. 4 During the Cuban missile crisis, when Khrushchev finally agreed to withdraw the missiles, the president said to his brother, "This is the night I should go to the theater." Robert answered, "If you go, I want to go with you." 5 Shortly before going to Dallas, John Kennedy observed seriously that no president could be protected against a high-powered rifle. After his brother's death, Robert Kennedy said, "I can't plan. Every day is like Russian roulette."

In March 1963 Nixon agreed to be the narrator of a film on the assassination of Leon Trotsky, to be called The Great Prince Died. Trotsky had been killed with an ax in 1940 in Mexico by a Stalinist agent who had pretended to be his friend, and who had infiltrated the staff of his fortress home. 6 Nixon answered the inquiry of the filmmaker by encouraging the production and expressing pleasure at the idea of being the narrator. The film, he said, will "focus public attention on the true dimensions of the

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Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Richard Nixon - The Shaping of His Character *
  • Contents *
  • Foreword *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • I - Man of Paradox *
  • II - The Oil in the Lemon Grove *
  • III - The Punishing Father *
  • IV - The Saintly Mother *
  • V - The Unsmiling Child *
  • VI - Splitting and Entitlement *
  • VII - Death and Two Brothers *
  • VIII - Presidential Fever *
  • IX - The Monastic Years *
  • X - The First Law Case: Failure *
  • XI - A Problem with Touching *
  • XII - Fighting Quaker *
  • XIII - The Dragon Slayer *
  • XIV - The First Informer *
  • XV - The Impact of Whittaker Chambers *
  • XVI - The Destruction of Alger Hiss *
  • XVII - On Women and Power: Pat and the Pink Lady *
  • XVIII - Nixon Among the Giants *
  • XIX - Checkers *
  • XX - Mccarthy *
  • XXI - Stevenson and Nixon *
  • XXII - Prelude to Vietnam *
  • XXIII - Hidden Problems: the Early Surfacing *
  • XXIV - Death Wishes *
  • XXV - On the Throwing of Rocks *
  • XXVI - Khrushchev *
  • XXVII - The Assassination Track *
  • XXVIII - Nixon and Kennedy *
  • XXIX - A Problem with Donald *
  • XXX - The Drubbing *
  • XXXI - The Private Man *
  • XXXII - The New York Years *
  • XXXIII - A Series of Accidents *
  • XXXIV - The Nixon Character *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Interviews *
  • Index *
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