Monday, July 16, 2007

Richard Nixon urges his White House staff to publicize his, er, personal warmth

Slate Magazine:By Bonnie Goldstein
On July 11, papers and recordings of President Richard Nixon that previously had been withheld by the Nixon Foundation were released online and at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, Calif. Among these was an extraordinary piece of Nixoniana: a meandering 11-page memorandum (PDF) that Nixon sent in 1970 to his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, urging that White House staffers talk up what a warm human being 'RN' was. (As was his habit, in the memo Nixon refers to himself repeatedly in the third person.) Nixon complained that 'average voters' regarded RN as 'an efficient, crafty, cold, machine.' To help correct this common misconception, Nixon cited 'warm items' (Page 3) such as 'the calls that I make to people when they are sick, even though they no longer mean anything to anybody' (Page 4). 'I called some mothers and wives of men that had been killed in Vietnam,' he added, helpfully.

Because he was Nixon, he resented somewhat the social imperative that the president be courteous. '[W]e have gone far beyond any previous president … in breaking our backs to be nicey-nice to the Cabinet, staff and the Congress … around Christmastime,' Nixon groused (Page 3). 'I have treated them like dignified human beings and not like dirt under my feet" (Page 4), he continued. Connoisseurs will recognize this last as a choice illustration of Nixon's rhetorical tendency to render the thing he denies (that he treats subordinates "like dirt under my feat," that he is "a crook," that the press will "have Dick Nixon to kick around") much more vivid than the denial itself ("not," "won't").

What with W, Nixon is increasingly being invoked as, uh, not all that bad in comparison. I've caught myself nearly doing it (e.g., "in retrospect, his domestic policy wasn't as thorouhgoingly pernicious..."). The new documents from the newly liberated Gitmo-on-the-Pacific library/ spin facility may slow that down, at least pending W's impeachment inquiry.

Just caught my Tivo'd Bill Moyers'impeachment special, with conservative Bruce Fein and Madison's own John Nichols, both in fine form. Try to find it--a good time was had by all. But I have a hard time with Moyers himself playing straight man in the exercise--not very credible, and not the best use of his considerable talents.

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