Being Nixon: A Man Divided – Evan Thomas

Father was from a poor family, mother richer. Nixon was born in 1913 in Yorba Linda (east of Los Angeles). Mother’s family were Quakers.

Nixon was a solitary child, preferred to be by himself. Loved that corny poem by Longfellow, “And departing leave behind us / Footprints in the sands of time.”

Nixon went to Whittier Collge in California, predominantly attended by Quakers. His older brother, the family favorite, died while he was in college. Nixon own his campaign for school president over a charismatic “in-crowd” type guy.

Started law school at Duke in 1934, on scholarship. Lived in a tool shed without plumbing.

Worked for short period as a lawyer in Whittier. Met Pat when he was in a amateur theater company.

Moved to D.C. to work for federal government, then join navy. Learned to swear and play poker.

After war, was asked if he would like to run for Congress by somebody that remembered his performances in high school debate. Won.

Made a name for himself as during the Alger Hiss investigation. He was the one that kept after Hiss even when he seemed like he could be innocent.

Picked as Eisenhower’s VP primarily because he could bash communists, and political opponents, and let Eisenhower stay above the fray. During the campaign Nixon was accused of using a slush fund for his own gain, which he did not do. Make his famous Checkers speech, which saved his VP spot.

Ran against Kennedy for president. Lost largely do the haggard look in first debate, and the fact that he did not come to King’s defense after his arrest on bogus charges (lost much of the black vote, which at the time was largely Republican).

Many accused Nixon of secretly negotiating with South Vietnamese to NOT sign a peace agreement before the election. Termed the Chennault affair. The author says the evidence is not conclusive, but seems to point to Nixon encouraging a slow down.

Nixon defeated Humphrey for the presidency. Appointed Kissinger, and many other Harvard types, to cabinet. Kissinger was his National Security Advisor.

LBJ had installed a taping system during his term. Nixon decided to use it.

Hired Patrick Moynihan as a policy advisor. He was a Democratic, and quite a character. Worked on welfare reform together.

Hated the Washington Post, other newspapers.

“Middle America” supported Nixon and Vietnamize work.

Loved Patton, tried to emulate him (!).

John Dean was his legal counsel.

Chuck Colson was largely responsible for Watergate. He played to Nixon’s dark side. Brought in as his “dirty tricks guy” (similar to the guy the Kennedy’s used) but he went too far.

Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy were the chief operatives of Watergate.

other notes…….

Chennualt affair

If you leak my secrets I’ll leak yours

Kissinger. Balance power of friends and foes. Shakespeare b jealously…

Became formal and aloof. Wouldn’t see senators and congressmen. 

Refeered to himself in third person. Like De Gaulle.Like ceaser.

Moynihan p. 205

Melvyn Douglas tricky dicky

Note cards about people he met


Alsop brothers

Kennedy gave Nixon girls phone numbers in Paris

Took his trademark hand over his head signaling victory from Eisenhower

Bohemian grove

Checkers speech. Gift of dog. Cloth coat