Nixon: “Screw ‘Em”

Mark Safranski has had two good posts about Nixon, here and here, and promised one or two more. Nixon is one of my pet obsessions.

These posts reminded me of an anecdote about Nixon from R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.�s book The Conservative Crack-Up, which came out in 1992. Tyrrell was pretty astute in its prognostication, though he failed to foresee the 1994 takeover of the House � �Newt Gingrich� does not appear in his index. The book is mostly a backward look at the rise of the Conservative movement, focusing on an idiosyncratic mix of interesting figures whom Tyrrell had known — Reagan, Irving Kristol, Clare Booth Luce, Malcolm Muggeridge, Luigi Barzini. I think Tyrrell lost his way during the Clinton years, after foolishly moving from beautiful Bloomington, Indiana to the snakepit on the Potomac, and devoting the entire period to unproductive scandal-mongering. But “Crack-Up” is a good book, and there are copies literally selling for a quarter.

Here is Tyrell on Nixon:

The only glimmer I ever caught of the RN that prowled through Liberal nightmares came while we were riding along the East River Drive in the back of his ancient armored limousine. He was silently peering out on a bleak expanse of the river. We were on the last lap of the 1980 election. Republicans were in a sweat over reports of an impending hostage swap between Jimmy Carter and the Ayatollah. � [O]n the eve of the 1980 election Carter was obviously pursuing a deal. It was in the headlines, and I naturally asked RN what he would do if he were president. �Cut a deal,� he replied impassively. I objected, and sought further explanation. An impatient RN turned to me and repeated: �You cut a deal,� and looking back toward the river he added ��and then you screw �em.� When I asked how, the former president�s impatience enlarged into exasperation: �There are a million ways to screw �em,� he said. �Tell them the deal is tied up on Capitol Hill. Tell them the material is lost in the pipeline.�

I miss Nixon.

5 thoughts on “Nixon: “Screw ‘Em””

  1. Hi Lex,

    Gracias for the link !

    The quote is vintage Nixon. When you prowl through the released transcripts or books like _Abuse of Power_ or the _Haldeman Diraries_ you find that when Nixon moves away from his own personal obssessions that Nixon is a dispenser of hardheaded, hardhearted, political advice. And it rarely wavers from brutal realpolitik and he’s only occasionally, IMHO, wrong on a given situation. The world is worse off that U.S. leaders did not heed Nixon on Russia in the early 90’s.

    Nixon’s problem with Watergate was that he could not bring himself to see his scandal in the same ruthless way he viewed geopolitics, so instead of cutting his lossess early he covered-up and watched his administration bleed to death.

  2. Mark, agreed on all points. The Haldeman Diaries is gripping reading. Nixon as an ancient oracle of political wisdom was a valuable resource. That is what I miss.

  3. I learned to love Nixon reading Whittaker Chamber’s Witness. Nixon pursued the truth relentlessly and you get the impression from the book that if Nixon didn’t do it, it might not have gotten done.

  4. If it were not for him, it would not have gotten done. Hiss, Helen Gahagan Douglas, two scalps on Nixon’s belt. The Lefties never forgave him.

  5. You beat me to it, Lex. Of course, it was the Hiss case that made Nixon a perennial hate figure for the left and the anti-anti-Communists (not always the same group). In the same way, they hated Reagan for his track-record in Hollywood politics.

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