Spin Report: “I Am Not Afraid”
The night of September 23, 1952, 39-year-old California senator and vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon appeared on nationwide television defending himself in a very personal manner against charges concerning an “expense fund” he had been given by wealthy California businessmen. The speech, best remembered for its mention of his dog Checkers, generated an outpouring of support.
Ironically, Nixon’s latest biographer, Conrad Black, has been using the same tactics to rehabilitate his own image, presenting himself as a frank, caring human being who loves his wife (Pat Nixon was by her husband’s side for the famous speech), and even stoops to referring to their new pet Hungarian puli (Checkers was a cocker spaniel) as “an adorable but dignified little proof to its older companions that life goes on.” The pet reference added an enchanting touch to a calm, forthright, confident piece he penned for his old paper, the National Post, entitled “I Am Not Afraid.”
Thirty-two million people watched Nixon’s rebirth in his famous unrehearsed speech. There will likely be no such dramatic turnaround in Black’s fortunes, despite the tireless and well-planned parading of a kinder, gentler Conrad in the Canadian media. And the largely indifferent U.S. media are unlikely to be affected, even if Vanity Fair (Dominick Dunne will be covering) has undoubtedly been part of Operation Charm.
In addition, most Canadian media—beyond the former Black-owned or Black-friendly publications (including Maclean’s, run by former Post editor and friend Ken Whyte)—have ignored the charm offensive and have been simply refrying the standard pompous characterizations of his lavish lifestyle and his use of Hollinger as a personal piggy bank.
One thing that strikes me as likely true, given Black’s firm Catholic faith, is that he truly believes in his innocence, or that, at the very least, having dealt with any sins of omission in the confessional, his conscience is indeed clear.