While we await the comedy styling of Crossharbour this evening on CBC’s Rick Mercer Report, here are a few more reflections on the life and times of Richard Nixon as they pertain to the life and times of his biographer. As I suggested at the end of last week, tonight’s star turn is part of an ongoing campaign to establish in the public mind an image of Black as the plucky, puckish survivor. The obvious model is the post-Watergate Nixon, who, from 1974 to 1994, through sheer force of will and a refusal to admit criminal culpability, established his reputation as America’s elder statesman. Perhaps a less obvious model but just as pertinent for Black’s purposes is Nixon’s progress between 1960 and 1968. After a narrow loss to JFK in the presidential election of 1960, Nixon’s political fortunes fell off a cliff two years later when he lost the California gubernatorial race to Pat Brown, a relative nonentity. He then had to endure the near annihilation of his party in the subsequent presidential election, wherein Lyndon Johnson pulverized Barry Goldwater. In consecutive chapters titled “Defeat and Endurance” and “The Triumph of Survival,” Black lays out the strategic and tactical road map Nixon followed in ascending from near oblivion back to the White House, this time as president. Among other things, notes Black, Nixon wrote a newspaper column, took JFK’s advice that he should write books (for “mental discipline” and to “acquire a reputation as an intellectual”) and, thanks to hired speech writers Patrick Buchanan and William Safire, managed to appear “relaxed, confident, and…often amusing.” Throughout this period, Nixon was underestimated by his enemies and thought to be a spent force. Of course, Nixon never stared down the business end of a felony conviction. Yet to whatever degree the Nixon family (daughter Julie particularly, who publicly praised Black’s biography of her father) still holds sway over their ancient allies in the Bush clan, there resides one of Black’s chief hopes for mitigation at sentencing.
Lord Black waxes on: Source [Toronto Star]