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Bad Presidents pp 177-197 | Cite as

Ex Parte Exercitii: Richard M. Nixon

  • Philip Abbott
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)

Abstract

While we have found weak or flawed cases of bad presidents who resembled Richard III, the conclusion that Richard Nixon bears the closest resemblance to this dangerous prototype appears very strong. Nixon was a master of surprise like Richard III. He could act swiftly but also indirectly. His pursuit of power was relentless. Both leaders ignored constitutional boundaries, large and small. And, of course, like Richard III, Nixon held deep grievances against the world. Is it too much of a stretch to imagine Nixon saying to himself that since he was unloved, he was “determined to prove a villain”? For that matter, can one fail to detect eerie similarities between Richard’s most famous lines (“I am in so far in blood, that sin plucks on sin”; “I wish the bastards dead”; and “then I sigh, and with a piece of Scripture, / Tell them that God bids us do good and evil. / And thus I clothe my naked villainy / With odd old ends stole forth of holy writ / and seem a saint, when most I play the devil”) and Nixon’s (“You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”; “Well, I am not a crook”; “Generally you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on us”; and “With regard to the bombing. You’re so goddamned concerned about victims and I don’t give a damn. I don’t care”)? Finally, both Richard III and Richard Nixon were eventually deposed. Collectively the Watergate investigators (Sirica; Erwin; Woodward; and Bernstein) performed the same heroic role as Henry Tudor. When Richard was slain, he was referred to as “wretched, bloody, and usurping boar.” Today to be so called “Nixonian” or “Nixonesque” means he or she is secretive, corrupt, and an abuser of power. 1

Keywords

Central Intelligence Agency Internal Revenue Service Silent Majority National Security Council Nixon Presidency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Conrad Black, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full (New York: Public Affairs, 2007), p. 1057.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Max J. Skidmore, Presidential Performance (London: McFarland and Co., 2004), p. 298.Google Scholar
  3. For summaries of varying assessments, see, David Greenberg, Nixon’s Shadow (New York: Norton, 2003);Google Scholar
  4. Daniel Frick, Reinventing Richard Nixon (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2008).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The Imperial Presidency (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973), p. 255.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Washington Post staff, The Presidential Transcripts (New York: Dell, 1974), pp. 84, 88.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Gary Wills, “Richard Milhous Nixon,” in Joel Kreiger, ed., Oxford Companion to Politics of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 643.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    For a review of conservative ambivalence to Nixon throughout his career, see, Sarah Kathernie Mergel, Conservative Intellectuals and Richard Nixon (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 8.
    Richard Price, With Nixon (New York: Vintage, 1977), p. 213.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Richard Reevers, President Nixon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001), p. 11. Dent laid out his agenda for the president that also included delaying Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sanctions against segregated textile mills in a memo, “The President’s Developing Image in the South,” labeled “EXTREMELY CONFIDENTIAL,” Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library, Dent to Haldeman and Erlichman, February 3, 1969.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    William Safire, Before the Fall (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975), p. 212.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Michael A. Genovese, The Nixon Presidency (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, l990), p. 136.Google Scholar
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    Robert Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger (New York: Harpercollins, 2007), pp. 455–56.Google Scholar
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    Richard M. Nixon, RN: The Memoirs of Richard M. Nixon (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1978), p. 935.Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    See, especially, Bruce Mazlish, In Search of Nixon (Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1972) and Lanik Volkam, Norman Itzkowitz, and Andrew W. Dod, Richard Nixon: A Psychobiography (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997) who contend that Nixon subsequently identified with his father. For a somewhat skeptical review of Nixon psychobiographies, see, Greenberg, Nixon’s Shadow, pp. 232–69.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    John Ehrlichman, Witness to Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), p. 346.Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    Herbert S. Parmet, Richard M. Nixon: An American Enigma (New York: Pearson Longman, 1982);Google Scholar
  18. Rick Perlstein, Nixonland (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008);Google Scholar
  19. Tom Wicker, One of Us: Richard Nixon and the American Dream (New York: Random House, 1991).Google Scholar
  20. 22.
    Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The Imperial Presidency (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973), p. 212.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    Garry Wills, The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power (New York; Boston: Little, Brown, 1982);Google Scholar
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  23. 27.
    Joan Hoff, Nixon Reconsidered (New York: Basic Books, 1994), pp. 335–36.Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    Stephen Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 43.Google Scholar
  25. 31.
    Gary Wills, Nixon Agonistes (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970), p. 547.Google Scholar
  26. 33.
    Reeves, President Nixon, p. 45; Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography (New York: Touchstone, 1992), pp. 74–77.Google Scholar
  27. 35.
    Richard Nixon, In the Arena (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), p. 27.Google Scholar
  28. 43.
    Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963).Google Scholar
  29. 45.
    H. R. Haldeman, The Haldeman Diaries (New York: Putnam’s, 1994), p. 73.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Philip Abbott 2013

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  • Philip Abbott

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