Capacity for Greatness
ELLIOT L. RICHARDSON
Thank you, Professor Friedman. President Shuart, fellow panelists, ladies, and gentlemen:
It's a great pleasure to be here at this outstanding conference. I would like to begin my remarks by expressing my appreciation for Hofstra's role in conducting the conference. The appreciation is reinforced by Mr. Shuart's observation that this is an objective, academic enterprise. We all have the defects of our qualities, of course, and I would have to acknowledge that indeed it is true that one of my defects or qualities, as the case may be, is objectivity.
It is in that spirit that I have long held and often expressed the view that Richard M. Nixon had it within his grasp to be our greatest post-World War II president. As time goes on, and there are only three White House terms left in this century, that statement looks better all the time. In speaking of Richard Nixon's qualities, I don't quite know whether to use the present or the past tense, certainly with respect to his qualities. He is essentially unchanged from what I can learn. He is a man of remarkable intelligence and great power of intellect, as well as quickness of mind. He has an extremely retentive memory or, in some respects, some might say a long memory. He brought to the presidency a vast amount of experience gained during the years he served as vice president. He was a close student of the actions of the executive branch under President Eisenhower and in the intervening years following his defeat in 1960. He traveled around the world, absorbing more and more information about the relationships between the United States and the rest of the world. He was a man who combined detachment and reserve with a capacity, on occasion, for warmth, which could give way very quickly to manipulation and ruthlessness.
Perhaps the single most important observation to be made about Richard Nixon is that he is a realist. He is a realist whose realism tilts toward cynicism, or, one might say, whose realism is infused with cynicism. This tough-minded outlook is certainly a contributor to the range of his perspective on unfolding