By Chet Yarbrough
Richard Nixon: The Life
Written by: John A. Farrell
Narrated by: Dan Woren
John A. Farell (Author, former White House correspondent and Washington editor for The Boston Globe.).
“So different and so alike” is what comes to mind in listening to John Farrell’s biography of Richard Nixon. President Nixon is characterized as thin-skinned, vindictive, and dissembling; a description echoed by today’s President. Both make comments reflecting ethnic racism with reprehensible private comments. Both attack news publishers; particularly the Washington Post and New York Times.
Nixon and Trump appear both misogynistic, and anti-intellectual. Both viscerally react to perceived slights. Both have morally corrupt views of society.
One uses the FBI and former CIA spies to discredit political’ opposition; the other demands loyalty more than truth from national security agencies.
However, Farrell shows Nixon to be clearly unlike Trump. Nixon understands political reality while Trump clings to a skewed personal reality.
Nixon avoids unfavorable publicity while Trump manufactures it. Nixon exemplifies international, geo-political, and professional foreign policy while Trump follows an amateurish parochial isolationist foreign policy. Nixon is surreptitiously thuggish, while Trump is outwardly thuggish. Nixon operates from a perspective of power-hungry self-interest, while Trump operates from a “monied” self-interest.
Farrell recounts Nixon’s early years of overt and benign support of McCarthyism. Nixon justifies his penchant for exposing communist sympathizers with his successful prosecution of Alger Hiss. (Ironically, Hiss is convicted for a cover-up rather than espionage; just as Nixon is impeached for a cover-up rather than a burglary.)
HENRY KISSINGER (FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE & NAT. SECURITY ADVISER FOR NIXON AND FORD, WINNER OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE)
Nixon and Trump have little respect for experts. Nixon demeans Henry Kissinger, a Harvard educated intellectual, who became Nixon’s Secretary of State and a principal in the negotiation for the first SALT agreement with Russia and the opening of Communist China.
Nixon fires a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate burglary. Trump, according to the Mueller report, orders the same action regarding Robert Mueller.
The only difference appears to have been–members of Trump’s administration refuse to follow orders.
Trump demeans the scientific community by denying global warming and removing America from the Paris Climate Accord.
Trump bullies the President of Montenegro who, despite Russian objection, becomes a part of the NATO alliance.
On balance, Nixon is shown by Farrell to be much more presidential than Trump but the perspective of history weighs heavily on that assessment.
Ending Vietnam at the expense of South Vietnamese is a mixed blessing but Nixon stopped the carnage. Opening China to the world is a great American accomplishment which history fairly attributes to Nixon and Kissinger.
Nixon, like all human beings, is flawed. He is not the first President to lie. He is not the first President to kill innocents. Only time will tell if Trump is more than what he seems.