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The curse of the Nixons

Updated: Jul 28


Richard Nixon should never have been born. I write this as someone who, on a personal level, likes Richard Nixon. I have listened to his candid interviews with Frank Gannon and I found him amiable—a pleasure to listen to. For me, he recalled my maternal grandfather; not in appearance—not in any tangible way—but perhaps simply in a common generational mode of expression, a demeanour; and, well, you never know with Americans if you, in Britain, are not more closely related to them than you might think. So as a man, I like Nixon—he was pleasant; quite contrary to the absolute hate he inspired in the left, the idea that the “x” in his name had to be swapped for a swastika. I can see why millions upon millions of people voted for him and liked and trusted Dick Nixon.

However, the above does not alter the fact that Nixon should never have been born. When Nixon’s mother, Hannah, married his father her youngest sister climbed a tree and inscribed, “Hannah is a bad girl,” on the trunk. An elder sister issued this caution, almost prophetic, in a letter to the newly betrothed: “You’ll get your reward for such service given / If not here on earth, you’ll get it in heaven.” Sinister—almost a threat. Why the hostility? Nixon’s father, Frank, was a drifter. He drifted clean across the United States, tried his hand at just about every job (and failed), and finally fetched up in the staid Quaker community of Whittier in the Golden West. It was here, as a farmhand, a randy farmhand who had to cover his tumescent member at demure Quaker dances, he finally met and married Nixon’s mother—a girl from a prosperous and, frankly, successful family.

To understand quite how cool relations were with the in-laws, consider that Frank would take his wife and children to visit gandmaw and grandpaw and remain in the car outside the whole time—ice cold, with added ice cubes. Hannah’s family, being charitable Quaker folk, staked Frank land to farm from their considerable holdings. The first patch didn’t work out. The next patch was a little better, and it was here that Frank grew lemons and raised Richard Nixon. There is something very appropriate in Frank’s chosen crop; he was a sour man who had led a sour life—a man who would later suffer from a bleeding ulcer. So his crop was a sour one: bitter Nixon lemons. Yet, as you should have expected by now, he could not generate a crop—even his sour harvest was scant, withered on the vine.

This was citrus country and, at the time, the neighbours prospered: it was California oranges all the way—in agricultural terms, always a tough business, relatively easy money. All except for Frank Nixon. The neighbars differed in opinion: he didn’t believe in fertiliser, he didn’t have “the touch”, he planted on high ground when he should have planted on low ground etc. Really, Frank was a cursed man from the start—he had always been this way, whatever he did. There was a touch of the Cormac McCarthys about Frank Nixon, the earthy drifter who describes a ragged path across the continent and pitches up at a religious community where he settles down—yet never fits in (as if the devil had entered the hen coop).

Frank eventually exchanged the farm for a gas station—and it was here he finally made it (“Frank Nixon, ngmi” was the general view). Naturally, in keeping with the Nixon character, the gas station was outside town—so that the Nixons remained pariah dogs; not fully integrated into prosperous Whittier life, the Quaker convert from…wherever he came from (Hades?). Frank worked very hard and the gas station expanded to include a coffee shop and food store run from a converted church. The country club set would stop by for meat; a situation that intimates Richard Nixon’s worldview, since he served in the shop: hardworking Dick Nixon versus the country club set. Doggornit, but I’m a hard worker…but these country club snobs…

The family was, I repeat, cursed. There were three other sons, Nixon being the middle son, and two died from TB—long lingering deaths, a common way to die before the 1940s. The cause was said to be a cow that Frank had bought to supplement the family income; possibly this is apocryphal, a liberal myth to dig at “backward” conservatives, but the cow’s milk was said to have caused the TB because Frank did not trust pasteurisation—“newfangled inventions by experts”. Raw milk kills, kids.

Whatever the truth about Frank and pasteurisation, the cow was probably how the children caught TB—and to me it just feels like another chapter in the Nixon curse. Indeed, aside from the TB, Nixon himself cut his head so badly his mother thought he would die (it left a permanent scar he hid with his hairstyle) and also contracted cholera (along with several other serious illnesses). So Dick Nixon was formed in this threadbare environment characterised by hard but often fruitless labour, characterised by the way he watched his brothers slowly die, and characterised by the sensation that his father was not accepted by the respectable Quaker elders—not accepted by anyone, really.


Now, Richard Nixon really was King Richard III—even though he was not physically deformed. He inherited his father’s curse. Hence, when it came to college, Nixon was able enough to consider Harvard or Yale—they would have had him. Yet both were beyond financial reach, so Nixon went to Whittier—the local Quaker college. I am sorry to say that it was at about this time that Nixon met his wife, Pat. It was in his courtship of Pat that Nixon’s character further emerges; he followed her around, begged for dates, and, most terrible of all, drove her to other dates with men—and afterwards sent her letters that explained how much he enjoyed the drive with her. When I read about this I just curled up inside.

So here we have it: Dick Nixon—beta male. Now, of course, it paid off in the end—the pathetic “I just doggon don’t know where I am in this love business” notes (pushed under her door) and so on. However, it also tells us that at base Nixon was not a natural leader; he was pusillanimous, pussywhipped; and perhaps that reflects the fact his father was not a respected man.

Nixon became a lawyer and during the war he initially worked in dull departments connected to inflation control; yet he would not settle for a desk job and had himself sent to the Pacific. It was here he excelled in a logistics role at an airbase and made himself popular with his own little bar for the airmen. Again, you get the impression that Nixon excelled in the beta support role—even in the war he was still “helping out at pop’s store”. Nonetheless, he did well—and he did force himself to the front, he could have lingered in Washington. He already had his eye on a political career and was conscious that he had to be near combat if he were to really succeed. Nixon had to succeed, make up for the family humiliation—and to do so he constructed a thick armour to conceal his inner beta.

Nixon has been skewed in two related ultra-liberal cartoons in recent decades. In The Simpsons, Nixon appears as Lisa Simpson’s sometime love interest “Milhouse” (“Richard Milhous Nixon” being his full name)—a sweet-hearted yet ineffectual nerd. Nixon makes an appearance as himself in Futurama, as a preserved head in a jar that attaches itself to a robotic body to move about and, once again, rule the world in the distant future—presented as a “nightmare scenario” for the good-hearted liberal viewer. Oddly, both these presentations, though very different, contain considerable truth as to Nixon’s character.

Nixon was not a natural at, well, anything. At law school he was known for his “cast-iron butt”—he worked and worked and worked. When he began his political career he faced a problem: he couldn’t look women in the eye—he was actually quite successful with ladies, as with his father, in his beta-begging way and yet he also regarded them with considerable diffidence; as a lawyer he squirmed when he had to deal with a couple caught having sex in a public park.

Since women’s clubs were key to the political scene at the time, Nixon had to master smooth relations with women—his aides made him practice day after day until, with hard work, he achieved suitable charm and eye contact. So this was not Kennedy or Trump territory, not a natural charmer—Nixon could charm, yet it was all worked at. Hence, at college, he was active in drama and was considered to be an excellent amateur actor; however, it was all diligently studied, and he always knew his lines.

This was “robo-Nixon”; however, robo-Nixon was not “Terminator Nixon”—this was not a man about who you would say, “He’s a machine,” and mean that he performs in an inhuman mechanical way that can cut through any opposition and has its own deadly beauty. If Nixon were a machine, he would be the doughnut machine at the local Krispy Kreme—the workaday machine that cranks out doughnuts day after day, with some protest and creaking; and yet nobody aspires to be the Kristy Kreme doughnut machine—occasionally it breaks down and requires extensive repairs, as, indeed, did Nixon.

This issue gets to the heart of why Nixon’s presidency ended in disaster: he was a typical conscientious striver who overruled all objections from his instincts and intuition with hard work—just as his father had done. There was no such thing as an “effortless” Nixon performance; he was always “the little engine that could” that puffed-puffed its way to the finish line—usually against disasters and setbacks all about.

Nixon’s doggedness, a doggedness in evidence in his jowly facial features, always led him to ignore reality—push on, push on, push on…It also alienated people, his charm was often forced charm—and this was why many people thought he was a second-hand car salesman. That description was off, Nixon was not phoney in that way; yet he was contrived—what other people took for granted, especially in the social graces, he worked at; and this made many people suspect him. It also created a certain resentment in him—not to mention his other considerable handicaps. Nixon was always aware that other people “had it easy”, not only with easy trips to “swanky East Coast colleges” but also in just everyday facility with people.

The “inner Nixon” that many glimpsed through robo-Nixon was a rather sensitive man, the Milhous nerd ready to bring flowers to Lisa; and, indeed, Nixon was known to send money discreetly to people in need and, while at college, shepherded a disabled boy about the campus—even carried him up the steps to the main building when necessary. He was proud that his fraternity, a fraternity for the less well-to-do that studiously refused to dress up in snooty clothes, included blacks at a time when few would—and he spoke up for a black man from the fraternity who faced problems with security clearance years later (the man was touched that Nixon remembered him, even from the exulted office of vice president). Nixon’s fraternity was called “the Orthogonians”—i.e. “the orthogonal ones”, the people who intersect the line at an unexpected angle (still straight, just…from a different angle).

The problem with robo-Nixon was that robo-Nixon would periodically break down. At one point, during his first feelers for a presidential run, Nixon exploded because his staff had scheduled him to speak to a group of hostile student newspaper editors. He practically attacked the man responsible and had him by the lapels. The explosion, over a relatively minor error, caused a colleague to question Nixon as to how he would react if he were in a dangerous situation as president.

Slightly earlier, as vice president, Nixon lived as a quasi-bachelor among unwashed dishes and columns of ants—he was often separate from the family home; and, indeed, in line with his beta proclivities, Pat often shut him out for the night (rather like Fred Flintstone). In private, robo-Nixon unwound and confessed to his advisers that he was “done with politics”, he would go into private business and make money—damn everything else; he hated the whole business, the savage attacks, and so did Pat. He was too sensitive for it.

This was a moment of clarity that Nixon should have heeded. In reality Nixon was not suitable for politics; he was in the wrong role—he was still the student actor who was naturally shy and sensitive but who forced himself to perform. Henry Kissinger made exactly the same observation, quite correctly: Nixon was not suitable for politics, it was against his nature—he was an introvert in an extrovert’s profession. Nixon worked against his natural grain, possibly because he felt a great desire to step over his father’s shame.

Nixon was not, counter to most profiles I produce, a narcissist—or had very minor narcissistic traits. This was why, if you watch the Gannon interviews, you will find that Nixon is quite a pleasant person to listen to; he was certainly prepared to take other people into account—to carry his disabled fellow student up the steps. Yet such people are not really natural politicians, certainly not in a democracy—Nixon’s depressive traits indicate realism, not self-deluded fantasy; and such people are not at home in the democratic hurly-burly—if anything Nixon, as with many depressives, was too realistic for his own good.

Nixon’s major fault—connected to his robotic veneer—was self-pity. This was undoubtedly related to his father’s position, one that involved considerable self-pity; and it was probably augmented by Nixon’s natural sensitivity combined with the fact that the family genuinely had rotten luck—they were cursed. There are some people who walk through life with genuine fortune, things just go right for them—and then there are people, as with the Nixons, who just encounter disaster after disaster; and for such people “this always happens to me”, while self-pitying, also unfortunately contains a certain truth—it does always happen to them.

Hence Nixon’s notorious public comment that the press would “no longer have Dick Nixon to kick around” after he almost quit politics. This trait developed in Nixon very young. Here is a childhood letter which Nixon wrote in the persona of a dog—the dog really being young Nixon:

“My Dear Master:

The two boys that you left me with are very bad to me. Their dog, Jim, is very old and he will never talk or play with me.

One Saturday the boys went hunting. Jim and myself went with them. While going through the woods one of the boys tripped and fell on me. I lost my temper and bit him. He kiked [psychoanalytically significant in light of Nixon’s later comments on the Jews] me in the side and we started on. While we were walking I saw a black round thing in a tree. I hit it with my paw. A swarm of black thing came out of it. I felt pain all over. I started to run and as both of my eyes were swelled shut I fell into a pond. When I got home I was very sore, I wish you would come home right now.

Your good dog


Poor little Dick Nixon! The pathos! Truly, Richard Nixon was “all alone in a world I never made”—the unfortunate hound who paws the beehive and gets stung so badly his eyes swell shut and he falls into a pond (“Why does it always happen to me, Charlie Brown?”). On political hiatus after his vice presidency Nixon represented…Pepsi-Cola—always the bridesmaid, never the bride. “It’s a dog’s life, Dick.”

Nixon’s father was known to use physical chastisement freely—and in later years visitors were shocked to find that the now full-grown Nixon boys berated their father round the kitchen table; it was the perhaps inevitable backwash from the years when he had belittled and dominated them. Nixon’s mother, true to her Quaker roots, would lock herself in a closet in silent prayer and held all her aggression inwards—she would discipline by “the silent treatment”, typically feminine but accentuated by her Quakerism.

I think that Nixon’s depressive traits were encouraged by his childhood impotence: depression is often unexpressed anger—Nixon had to take it from his father for years, and this forced passivity turned the anger to depression. As with his mother, he held the anger inwards—except that sometimes it would explode outwards in uncontrolled rage, as when he kicked the passenger seat in a car so hard it broke and sent his aide scurrying from the vehicle; or when he punched an aide precisely where he had a rib removed for open-heart surgery—the result was agonising pain.

Although physical violence is more normal than people publicly admit, particularly in politics, Nixon showed a marked tendency to hold everything in silently and then suddenly snap in a monumental rage. Later, he would cultivate a “mad man” image to intimidate the Soviets—and the North Vietnamese—in order to provoke fear and uncertainty. While Nixon was not “a mad man”, there was a certain truth to the idea that his otherwise placid and rational veneer restrained a volcanic and irrational temper—as president he would glibly say “bomb Syria” or similar in response to events, with aides expected to divine that this was not a literal command; although on occasions mistakes did occur.


The greatest misapprehension about Nixon is that he was a “right-wing extremist”—really, this is down to progressive hysteria. Nixon was so hated precisely because he was a moderate conservative—really, a moderate progressive. It is always the way, from Peterson to Powell to Trump, the people who put forward what amount to moderate conservative views are regarded as absolute evil, whereas genuine reactionaries and extremists are ignored. Nobody likes somebody who creates doubts about your beliefs, and so the person who says, “Look, I’m actually a moderate progressive. I think we’ve come a long way on gay rights; it’s just I think transgenderism actually undermines women’s rights—and real gay rights,” becomes the most hated—he is the splitter, the doubt-causer; if people have doubts, the whole thread will unravel—and this man promotes doubts.

Nixon falls into this category; as he was the first to admit, he benefited from New Deal programs to attend college. “Doggonit, it’s just gawn too far. That’s my position, Frank. Moderate help for the able college student and the struggling farmer. And remember, Roosevelt was duped by Stalin. All I’m saying is a fair shake for the working man, but not totalitarianism—the ordinary American doesn’t want socialism, just measured state support at the appropriate moment.” I think this view is predicated on the illusion that you can feed the crocodile without it eventually eating you, but this was where Nixon came from.

So Nixon was never one to “undo the New Deal”, if such a thing were possible; and, as libertarians will be quick to point out, Nixon expanded the state in a great many ways while in office. In essence, what was right-wing about Nixon can be reduced to his anti-Communism and opposition to the Communist-friendly East Coast elites—it was his anti-Communism, his orientation to foreign affairs (with sidekick Henry Kissinger), that really sums up Nixon’s legacy from the right’s perspective.

This was because Nixon was not a man with “an idea”; for example, Thatcher had an “idea”—she had Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty as her Bible, whether she fully implemented that idea or not. Nixon was more like a conservative by constitution; he did not have an “idea” to push—he just thought things had gone too far, too fast; he was a pragmatist—a man who wanted to be a leader first and foremost and was flexible as to how he achieved that post.

This was reflected in his comments as regards, for example, gay marriage—during private rumination he expected it to be legalised in 2000, although he was off the mark about that. This was not because he had some ideological attachment to the idea, rather Nixon was a conservative in his bones—rather like the man on the street, the silent majority who so admired him—he accepted that things change (often for the worse, but what can you do?) and that the main point was not to allow chaos and revolution to take hold.

Further, Nixon served as vice president under Eisenhower; now, Eisenhower was not ideological at all: Eisenhower was a statesman, he could have been a Democrat or a Republican—and he even toyed with starting his own party. He came to politics with his reputation as America’s premier general and the parties were to serve his views, not vice versa. He was a very vain man—as generals often are—and expected the American political world to bow to him; as it happens, his premiership was a happy time for America—perhaps a demonstration that quasi-fascistic pragmatic military leadership is superior to party squabbles and ideology, vanity be damned.

Eisenhower, so far as I can tell, viewed Nixon with utter contempt—and almost ditched him from his ticket when Nixon became embroiled in the Chequers spaniel-scandal. Perhaps this explains why his grandson married Nixon’s daughter—the imperious Eisenhower genes reached out to impregnate, seize and rape, the beta Nixon. “He’s literally fucking your daughter, Dick. He’s using his grandson to fuck your daughter.” A paranoid thought Nixon could get behind—perhaps even entertained.

Despite Eisenhower’s dismissive attitude towards him, Nixon venerated the old general. In turn, he modelled his presidency very closely on Ike’s—even autistically attempting to copy the way Ike had closed the Korean War with nuclear threats in his attempts to end Vietnam. As a result, Nixon was very pragmatic—even for a Republican; as with Ike, he refused to be bound to an ideology—and this explains the great liberalism in many of his concrete decisions. Nixon was himself aware that his administration was peculiarly liberal and complained about the fact; and yet drift was inevitable when Nixon had no concrete ideas to push forward, yet lacked Eisenhower’s self-confidence and imperious ability to impress himself—a complaint often made about Nixon was that he just wanted to survive, he had no ideas to offer.

Nixon was very much about “making it”, making up for his father’s failure—his goal was to hold power, to be a success. What he did with the success entered into it less than winning—so he could appear to be a very unprincipled man. Hence the snobby East Coast elitists were somewhat correct when they said Nixon was a grubby little man who instantiated the worst aspects of the American lower middle class: an obsession with success at any price combined with smug complacency as to their own deficiencies.

I think the key to understand Nixon’s politics was that as a boy he listened to the train whistles on the farm and dreamed that he was in distant places. Nixon was orientated to foreign policy; if he had one consistent concern it was Communism and its threat to America—he was less interested in domestic issues by nature. Hence he made his name during the HUAC hearings and particularly in his encounter with Alger Hiss, the Communist spy from the East Coast elite. It was at this time that Nixon became hated by liberals. The reason has already been touched upon: unlike McCarthy, with his scattergun approach, Nixon was measured and cautious—scrupulously fair and conscientious as he probed accusations of Communist infiltration in America. This made him difficult to criticise, it made him effective.

McCarthy could be painted as an alcoholic loon, whereas Nixon was eminently reasonable in the way he hunted Communists—unfortunately, McCarthy was more right than “reasonable” Nixon; as is often the case, the reasonable conservative restrains the too-true “madman”. An acidulous exchange between Nixon and Hiss sums up the situation: Nixon asked where Hiss went to college and then Hiss, like a total bitch, answered Nixon’s enquiry as follows: “I attended Harvard Law School. I believe yours was Whittier.” Tremendous arrogance from a man who was in fact a Communist agent—and an indication as to what Nixon meant by “the East Coast establishment”. It was such exchanges that set Nixon on course in his opposition to the “the East Coast snobs and professors and the media”. For surely, there must have been many more such tart remarks—some not so overt—about Nixon from men like Hiss.

So there are two poles to Nixon’s politics: firm opposition to Communism at home and abroad; and opposition to the liberal establishment at home. However, these amount to an attitude or a stance rather than an intellectual program—he could not vanish the USSR or the East Coast elite. Unfortunately, there was an element of betrayal in Nixon’s domestic policies; he won over the silent majority with his promises of “law and order” (an implicit reference to black militancy and riots)—his ideal voter was housewife who had fled to the suburbs due to black incursion, had a son in community college where LSD had been found, and had a brother-in-law who was a cop; she could not afford to move again.

Yet the Nixon administration oversaw more integration than ever before, established the bureaucratic machinery to allow more extensive meddling to take place. Of course, in many ways the president is powerless—powers are divided, the bureaucracy is formidable; and yet it speaks to Nixon’s flexibility and his lack of focus on the domestic front that he could end in contradiction—he did not really deliver for his base on the domestic front, the silent majority were betrayed.


Nixon was hated by liberals for three reasons: firstly, he was effective and non-hysterical—and people who are effective are always hated, rather as with Trump; secondly, Nixon could connect to the common man—the silent majority the liberals thought they represented—much more effectively than they could do themselves, he actually got where they were coming from (he pierced the liberal narcissist illusion that they were beloved by the working man); thirdly, Nixon was a prosaic man, a shopkeeper who went to a plain college, who just wanted to “do well”—he had no high-minded idealism, being unable to afford it, and so looked to the elites like a very petty and stupid man. What they took for granted, the position they worked from to do other grander things, Nixon could not take for granted and had to work for—Nixon had to work for first base, never mind the home run.

However, although Nixon correctly identified the enemies of the silent majority—the professors, the media, the East Coast elites—his knowledge came from the wrong place. Nixon is often called resentful; and I think that is projection from liberals—it is liberals who are usually resentful. However, it is definitely true that Nixon’s self-pity could bleed into resentment. He would often complain about people who had it all handed to them on a plate, “their fat butts”, as compared to Nixon—poor ole Dick “the dog” Nixon—who struggled for everything he had, and who always remained “Spartan”. This was resentful, it was womanish. What he said about the arrogance of the East Coast elites was true; however, it came from the wrong place—it was not objective, it was painfully bound up to his own father’s failures; and, indeed, to Nixon’s own failures.

The first case Nixon took after he passed the California bar exam ended in disaster when Nixon asked for advice from the opposition attorney—the client sued for malpractice and was awarded $60,000 in compensation (in today’s money). Shortly afterwards, Nixon attempted to manufacture orange juice—the business went tits up and burned many investors, and burned them so badly that Nixon’s name was still mud in the neighbourhood years later. The curse of the Nixons. Richard Nixon was not so much “tricky Dicky” as “unlucky Dick”.

Now, of course, everyone has ups and downs in life, but there does seem to be a constant theme in Nixon’s life: disaster, humiliation. And these experiences fed into a worldview that had a real resentful streak; a leftist streak, a Nietzschean would say—and Nixon certainly loved to revenge himself upon stuck up liberals and assorted elitists; he loved to watch football—and people were shocked at sports events at the way he lost himself in the game in an animalistic way. This spirit of revenge is not noble, it comes from the left—it is subjective and womanish, genuinely spiteful; and it cultivates a bitter harvest—a harvest of lemons.


Nixon’s excessive emotional attachment to his social status perhaps explains why he destroyed himself. For me, the Watergate incident is just the culmination of the Nixon curse—its apotheosis, the doomed family with its curse carried right into the White House. Watergate has lost its resonance now—every other political scandal, however minor, gets the “-gate” suffix; nobody knows what it means other than “a political scandal”. However, at the time, Watergate was huge—it was freighted with great significance for “the Republic”.

It was also self-produced; and many have noted, Kissinger in particular again, that Nixon loved a crisis and so somewhat brought it all on himself—at some level Nixon felt he did not deserve the presidency; and he himself later spoke about how he liked to walk the line, as a rising man with nothing to lose he always lived close to the line—and when he reached the top, had something to lose, he could not abandon the habit of a lifetime; and so eventually stepped right off the edge. At some level, he thought the snooty East Coast elite were right about him. Others have noted this aspect to Nixon; he lacked a centre—he looked for approval from others; from, most notably, Ike. People without a centre are vulnerable to possession by what other people say about them—and people had a lot to say about Richard Nixon.

It was Nixon’s conscientiousness that undid him. He had the next election in the bag, but he had to make everything perfect; just as he swam rather than played golf—“the sport of presidents”—because to swim took less time and so meant he had more to give to the presidency, Nixon wanted to cover every base for his re-election. He did not know about the Watergate break-in; it was in no way “ordered” by Nixon, but, obviously—as he himself would admit—he was responsible for the organisation that did it.

If Nixon had been more instinctual and intuitive, less stuck behind the robo-Nixon façade, he would not have been so desperate to make everything perfect—and he would not have undone himself in this way. Nixon was, as with many men, someone who did not know himself—did not know what he really wanted or who he really was; and such men, as CG Jung observed, have a tendency to unconsciously walk into situations where they get “what they really want”—in Nixon’s case to be driven from the presidency in disgrace, the “force of decency” revealed as a hypocrite (just as the liberals always said he was).

The actions Nixon’s men, the “CREEP” (Campaign to Re-elect the President), undertook were not very different from anything any other American politicians routinely did—the problem was that Nixon’s men were caught and, secondarily, Nixon had reinstalled a taping system in the White House; initially, Nixon had removed LBJ’s taping system—yet he then had it reinstalled and, worse, had it set up to record via voice activation and not when he pressed a button to record (LBJ’s preference).

The result was that Nixon recorded his “political id” for all to see. In other words, all the liberal accusations as regards what conservatives really meant by “law and order”—the dog whistles; for dog whistles are real, being polysemy—were revealed to be true. Here was the president engaged in profanity, engaged in complaints about blacks, Jews, homosexuals, the liberal elite, the sainted press, and so on—“A-ha, now we see what they really think. The ugly Americans, the smug self-satisfied American middle class. The pious church-going frauds who look so clean on Sunday but whose mouths are filled with profanity and race-hate in private and break every law going—and who deign to lecture us, the educated, about a decline in standards.”

It was exactly what Nixon’s opponents wanted, for the president to be caught out and humiliated—for the bigots to be shown up, for the decent façade to be destroyed. Nixon gave it all to them—it nearly killed him, immediately after Watergate he was close to death; the psychological shock was too profound. The curse of the Nixons.

The picture that heads this article is a doodle Nixon made in office: it illustrates his nature—the conscientious straight lines that form a prison-prism. Nixon was known to handle everything himself, he was his own campaign manager—even to his own detriment. He had one “friend”, businessman Bebe Rebozo, with whom he associated because Bebe acted as a psychic sponge—even Nixon said he had no friends.

From behind the perfect façade, robo-Nixon tried to manipulate reality—until it resisted his manipulation and floored him. Although known as a paranoid, Nixon was in a sense not paranoid enough; he could not handle his drink, only a few glasses and he was tight (Quaker genes)—and when he was drunk and strung-out on sleeping pills he said things “so paranoid, his aides refused to ever discuss them publicly”. These were the repressed instincts and intuitions that Nixon should have listened to—including to one that said, “You want to fail, you want to destroy yourself.”

Nixon was really orientated abroad, to those train whistles he heard as a child that called him to distant adventures—perhaps he would have been more at home as an international lawyer, or perhaps even someone who managed theatrical productions and entertainment. What he was not cut out for was to be a politician or to lead a country—he was a natural introvert, painfully sincere. The contradiction was in his blood: his father was fiery Ulster-Scots and his mother was a Quaker. Hence Nixon saw himself primarily as a peacemaker—yearned for peace as with his sainted mother—and yet oversaw bombing campaigns in Vietnam that saw America drop vast bomb tonnages on civilians.

If he had made this contradiction more conscious, perhaps Nixon would not have been unconsciously driven by it—as it stands we see Nixon call for ruthless bombing one moment and then, overcome with remorse, demand billions in financial aid for the North Vietnamese because it made his heart bleed to see people suffer so. His premier achievement was to have opened to China, yet he always yearned to stick the cold steel in. Inside Nixon there was a struggle between mother and father—success and failure, peace and war—that dominated him, he struggled to find his own view; perhaps the same is true for all men, but in Nixon there was a stark divide in the blood—contradictory forces in play that were bound to work against each other; and that is why I say Richard Nixon should never have been born, and that he was indeed cursed from birth.

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