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In Your Heart You Know He’s Nixon

In a way, both Kennedy and Nixon have been written about inaccurately because of reporters’ discomfort with personal feeling. Many of them loved Bobby, and so took care to conceal that fact with criticism. Many of them dislike or disdain Nixon, and so give his viewpoints their maximum weight. This desire to balance may be inevitable, but it’s misleading. As we who learned who Kennedy was only after he died, we may find out who Nixon is only after he is President.

Staff Divisions: The men around Nixon fall into prototypes as they go up the hierarchy.

BMOC through YAF: This stretches from advance men, who seem to fall into the Big Man on Campus category (at Columbia they call them Jocks) to the young expediters, who spiritually if not actually belong to Young Americans for Freedom, and tend to be festooned with maximum numbers of earphones and walkie-talkies. It is their responsibility to shepherd baggage, and keep the motorcades on time. They do it very well.

At Lockheed, a short-haired young advance man named Chuck Steward asked about all these people with grape boycott signs. I explained briefly about Chavez and his union. “Gosh,” he said, chuckling. “I asked somebody about penguins once. Now I know more than I need to know about Mexicans, too!”

“Then the dam broke. Not out of control but low-voiced and resentful, like a long accusation, the words flowed out of Mrs. Nixon.”

FBI through J. Walter Thompson: Everyone in this middle ground seems to be young, ambitious, Californian with some Eastern experience (either on Wall Street or Madison Avenue), dark-haired, and dark-suited. The FBI-minded ones wear white shirts, however, while those who are in spirit, and often in fact, from J. Walter Thompson, may go as far as a pale blue stripes and a club tie. The best of this group are probably striped-shirts Martin Anderson (who wrote The Federal Bulldozer, a good factual attack on urban renewal policies) and Ray Price (who used to write editorials for the New York Herald Tribune). Together, they are responsible for Nixon’s more enlightened statements on the role of the Presidency and urban problems; even getting him to use the phrase “black capitalism.” (“It’s within his philosophy of no federal hand-outs anyway,” said a former Nixon associate, “but left to himself, he might have talked about ‘Colored Power.’”) Pat Buchanan, also a former newspaperman but more conservative politically and said to be the smartest of the lot, looks deceptively FBI-ish. But then, the candidate himself applied for an FBI job when he got out of law school. How might history be different had the Bureau not been full up?

The Dickensians: One can see the balding John Mitchell complaining over work lost on Christmas holidays while Charlie McWhorter, a small rumpled bachelor-lawyer who looks older than 45, and an even smaller Bryce Harlow, intelligent bureaucrat and former Eisenhower aide, bend attentively over their ledgers.

This is the top level: less neat and more human and likable than the J. Walter Thompson-ites. Tall, lumpy-faced Herb Klein could be head clerk in a frock coat. Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s personal secretary for 17 years, would be fine as the crotchety maiden bookkeeper. (She is the only one who still tongue-lashes Nixon’s critics.) Even former Kansas Congressman Bob Ellsworth, a spatulate-fingered man who resembles a blond and balding Ichabod Crane, could be the quiet but independent young assistant who eventually takes over the firm.

THURSDAY

From Denver, back into our three jets for a teenage rally (mostly private and parochial students) in St. Louis: then another flight to Louisville, Kentucky, for a ride on the last Mississippi River Boat in existence. The first leg of this flight yielded an interview with Pat Nixon.

She had worked her way through college, tried to be an actress, and had become a teacher of shorthand and typing in a small California high school; married her husband with apparent reluctance after a two-year courtship at the age of 28 (he had proposed on the first date) and been introduced by him on the famous Checkers show as “a wonderful stenographer.” She had shared all the vilification and praise without ever emerging in public as an individual. I was eager to meet her, but all her other interviewers said Mrs. Nixon had put them straight to sleep.

She was sitting in the front of the plane, freckled hands neatly folded, ankles neatly crossed, and smiling a public smile as a sleek young staff man sat me next to her. I didn’t want to ask the questions she had answered so blandly and often about her husband (“I just think he’d make a wonderful President”) or politics (“You’ll have to ask Dick about that”) but to ask about herself.

Explaining my doubts about writing from clips, I asked if there were any persistent mistakes in the press that I should take care not to repeat. “No, no,” she said, smoothing her skirt. “You ladies of the press do a fine job. I think the stories have been very fine.” Did that mean she liked everything that had been written? “Well, actually, I haven’t had time to read a lot of them lately.” (Other “ladies of the press” had told me she read everything and had been annoyed by a Seattle story that made her seem a catatonic smiler.) But she liked all the stories from past campaigns? “Yes, of course. I don’t object to what’s been written. I know you do your best, and most of you have been very kind.” We went round with that a few more times. Then she was, I told her, the only person I’d ever met, including myself, who liked everything written about them. There was a flicker of annoyance behind the hazel eyes; the first sign of life.


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