Skip to comments.Nixon: Painfully Shy, But Craving Great Purpose
Posted on 07/28/2014 5:56:58 AM PDT by Kaslin
Perfect candor wasn't Richard Nixon's strong suit. But he spoke the gospel truth when he described himself as "an introvert in an extrovert's profession." He was one of the most successful political campaigners of the 20th century: winning election to both houses of Congress, serving two terms as Dwight Eisenhower's vice president, and twice winning the White House in his own right the second time by a 49-state landslide.
Nixon spent decades in the public eye, and was indefatigable in pursuit of votes. Yet rarely has a politician seemed less suited for the political life. When he resigned the presidency, 40 years ago next week, everyone knew why he was ending his career in politics. But why did someone so solitary, so ill at ease with people, embark on that career in the first place?
For that matter, why does any introvert go into politics, a profession dominated by extroverts? Nixon's personality has been dissected by countless armchair psychoanalysts; much is made of the insecurities and resentments that drove him to win. But those inner demons could have propelled him in some other arena law or academia or business. The lure of politics is the lure of power.
Nixon's desire for power ultimately led to the scandal that brought down his presidency. But it began with a more idealistic quest for historical significance. In his high school and college years, he hung above his bed a picture of Abraham Lincoln on which his grandmother, quoting Longfellow, had written: "Lives of great men oft remind us/ We can make our lives sublime." It was through politics that he would seek to leave his own mark on history. However his impact may ultimately be judged, there was something touching, even inspiring, about the young Nixon's willingness to endure the privation and distress inherent in seeking public office.
For John F. Kennedy, the pursuit of the presidency meant years of hiding the physical agonies of his numerous ailments Addison's disease, colitis, ulcers, allergies, and the near-crippling pain of degenerative back problems. For Nixon it meant living with a different kind of misery the forced bonhomie and small talk that he hated, the endless campaign stops and meetings with new people, the demand for ever more self-exposure from one who was only comfortable in solitude.
"I'm fundamentally relatively shy," then-Vice President Nixon told the journalist Stewart Alsop in 1959. "It doesn't come natural to me to be a buddy-buddy boy. . . . I can't really let down my hair with anyone." Most politicians relish the company of others and thrive on the schmoozing and flesh-pressing of an election campaign think of Bill Clinton, never more alive and energized than when in the midst of the fray, working a rope line, charming voters. As for Nixon, the harder he worked at appearing outgoing and convivial, the more he came across as . . . someone trying hard to appear outgoing and convivial.
Nixon was at his best when analyzing national and international affairs, and his stiffness and maladroitness in social situations must have been an unending ordeal for him.
"No matter what he did, he seemed to come across as flat, unattractive, unappealing," wrote H. R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, in his post-White House memoir. "He couldn't relax with people other than his family." Even in personal settings he "was stiff, artificial, sometimes even embarrassing with individuals." Henry Kissinger, meeting Nixon for the first time after the 1968 election, was struck by the president-elect's painful shyness. "Meeting new people," Kissinger later observed, "filled him with vague dread." Had Nixon not gone into politics, Elliot Richardson mused, he might well have made his mark as an intellectual.
But Nixon did go into politics, with all its indignities and discomforts. And however excruciating and unnatural he may have found the process of campaigning, he succeeded brilliantly: from freshman congressman to a winning national ticket in just six years. When his political obituary was written after he lost his run for California governor in 1962, he staged an astonishing comeback. When Watergate destroyed his presidency and he resigned in disgrace, he undertook still another comeback, this time to rehabilitate his reputation.
Nixon craved a life of great purpose; he hungered to shape history. That meant going into politics, however great the cost. Years after leaving the White House, Nixon wrote in a memoir: "You should not enter politics unless you are prepared to pay the price. The paradox is that you cannot imagine how high it may be until you are already in the maelstrom." It had been rough on him, he conceded, but it had been worth it.
As an introvert trying to live in an extraverted world, I totally and completely relate.
Introvert Nixon was a choirboy compared to the narcissistic Marxist we’re stuck with now.
‘What could more clearly illustrate the underhanded and unscrupulous character of Conservatism than the conduct of Richard Nixon? THAT is the apex of Conservative malfeasance and deceit’
Right! And since that time, the US has endured more than one Liberal President whose conduct makes the scope and magnitude of Nixon's transgressions seem like a prehistoric relic.
Nixon’s greatest crime was beating McGovern in a 49 state landslide. No one in the media voted for him so he had to be punished.
The funny thing is that by most objective standards Nixon was a liberal - wage and price controls, starting the EPA, “sharing” tax revenues with the states in exchange for more federal control, the list is endless. Even the misuse of the IRS and domestic spying he got from Kennedy and Johnson.
But Nixon committed the unforgivable sin, in liberal eyes, of nailing Alger Hiss, so that is why they hound him to this very day.
Didn't he also go off the gold standard, open trade with China in spite of their communism and human rights abuses, and indulge in "imperial presidency" trappings like frou-frou uniforms for the Army band, etc. Just goes to show what an extraordinary leader Reagan truly was, bucking the tide of even the "Rockefeller Republicans" like Nixon and Ford.
That is very insightful and true. In order to "un-humiliate" the dims the MSM created the Nixon image that is largely overblown if not outright false. Unfortunatly the lies and exaggerations are so repeated, they must be true in the eyes of those who are happy just to be told what to think.
In the News/Activism forum, on a thread titled Nixon: Painfully Shy, But Craving Great Purpose, Fiji Hill wrote:
Nixon should be a liberal hero. Among other things, he started affirmative action, tried to push through a guaranteed annual income, started Project FIND, aimed at finding those who were eligible for welfare so they could be put on the dole, created the EPA and OSHA, appointed Justice Blackmun, who wrote Roe v. Wade...and on, and on. When one reads through conservative periodicals of the Nixon years, such as Human Events, it is clear that President Nixon gave conservatives little to cheer about.
You forgot to mention project WIN . You’re right about the expansion of central government under Nixon’s tenure. But in doing so Nixon offered steady stability. Until Watergate . Which gave the left its chance and they used it.Disarming South Viet Nam and expanding everyone of those programs begun by Nixon bureaucratized to the point of being oppressive.
And we still don’t know what Nixon’s burglars were looking for.
Nixon was a RINO, not a conservative. Playing nice with the left never works.
Project WIN (Whip Inflation Now) was started by President Ford.
And destroying the presidential ambitions of Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern.