Just when you didn't think it isn't possible for someone to say bad things about Dick Nixon that haven't already been said, along comes David Fulsom.
Mr. Fulsom's new book, "Nixon's Darkest Secrets: The Inside Story of America's Most Troubled President" is soon to be released by the Macmillan publishing house. It makes charges that normally would be found only in a supermarket checkout line tabloid.
Fulsom's credentials, however are solid. He was UPI's man in the white house under president's Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton and its Washington bureau chief for seven years. He is now a professor at American University teaching a course titled, surprise surprise, "Watergate: A Constitutional Crisis."
Apparently his obsession with all things Nixonian have dominated his later life and career.
It is very easy to think the worst of Richard Nixon. I have since I was ten years old and I'm unrepentant in that regard.
Some of Fulsom's charges are quite easy to believe. First is that he was an occasional wife beater. We know he possessed a searing anger deep within and every now and then it came bubbling out like lava from a steaming fissure. He was a man with severe persecution issues. He was acutely aware that huge numbers of the press and public not only abhorred him, but considered him some sort of bizarre mutant. He made his bones in congress by searching out suspected communists and other enemies of the state. He lost the presidency to a rich, privileged, good looking playboy by the barest of margins. Then was reduced to being beaten like a dog by the political hack, Pat Brown in a gubernatorial election. The image of him giving his wife, Pat a vicious whack once in a while really isn't a stretch.
The allegations that he was a drunk who had mob connections, even if they might be tenuous, also tend to ring true. Stories of him wandering the halls of the white house cocktail in hand as the Watergate investigation closed in on him are more than numerous. And back in the day, before there were campaign contribution disclosure laws some of the made guys felt not only betrayed by the Kennedys, but also hunted by them. One can easily believe gifts were exchanged and cash deals were made. Dick Nixon was never a man to question where the cash came from, so long it was headed his way and it couldn't be traced.
Then, as singer/actor Mac Brown said in the movie, "North Dallas Forty", comes the weird part. Fulsom alleges Richard Nixon and his long time pal Charles "Bebe" Rebozo had a homosexual affair. The mind reels as that picture is painted. There is no hard evidence for this incredible charge. Pulitzer Prize winning writer Patrick Sloyan recalls an unsubstantiated instance of public hand holding. Others talk about how close the two were. (In fact Rebozo was on hand when Nixon left for that great cabinet meeting in the sky). No one, however, including Fulsom, can produce the smoking gun on this one. Luckily for the author the dead and their estates can't sue for libel. He can say whatever he wants with only speculation from those who didn't particularly like the guy anyway backing him up.
Staff members claim Rebozo was there "to mix the martinis" and to be the ice breaker for the notoriously wooden Nixon. That he was Fredo to Nixon's Michael Corleone. Charles Coulson and Pat Nixon have said that the relationship was strictly one way. In other words Rebozo was in awe of Nixon and Nixon was using Rebozo. Now that sounds more plausible than those two oily figures doing the naked hump in the cramped cabin of some yacht in the Florida Keys.
If Dick Nixon knew anything it was how to use people to further his career. The very idea of him having sex with anyone or anything is out there with tales of alien abductions. I'm not sure his wife saw him naked when they conceived their daughters. I'm not even sure he was naked when he showered, if he did indeed shower.
Somehow, as implausible as it seems, Richard Nixon has become a dead horse to beat. We all know how paranoid, rotten and downright feral the guy was. After nearly forty years why should we care if new revelations, proven, or unproven are published? Nostalgia? Tradition? Scores to settle?
It is time to move on. There is a new crop of Nixons to deal with. Lets concentrate on them rather than dwell on the past. The Tricky one is gone, this crowd, I'm afraid, is with us right now.