Friday, April 20, 2012

"Nixon's Darkest Secrets" by Don Fulsom

If you skip reading just one book this year, this is the one I'd recommend most. I picked it up at the library, naturally, because the whole era of the 1960's, when I was growing up, is always of keen interest to me. And that interest leaves me open to reading about the greatest news events of my life at the time. Through my reading, I have come to see the links between the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy Assassination, and later, the botched Watergate burglary. I expected this book to affirm some of my own beliefs; which it does to a certain extent; as well as to be a re-hashing of some of the things that have already been written about former President Nixon, including his own autobiographies.

So, I picked it up eagerly, only to be sorely disappointed at the narrow scope of the book, which seems more concerned with character assassination, rather than an confirming, or even opening up new areas of one of our most complex Presidents.

The author, Don Fulsom, is a self-described White House reporter, former UPI Washington Bureau Chief, and currently an adjunct professor at American University, where he teaches a course on "Watergate: A Constitutional Crisis." That information all comes from the inside of the book jacket, and I have no reason to doubt any of it.

This book is perplexing in many ways. First off, for an individual who professes to be an expert on Watergate, he spends an inordinate amount of time exploring Nixon's connection with Bebe Rebozo, the Mafia related "bagman" who supplied Nixon with untold funds over the course of the President's political career. The two men first met in Florida in 1947. Rebozo seems to have been sort of a "knock about" guy at the time. He had already been a flight steward for Pan Am, a gas station owner, and a coin laundry operator. From these humble beginnings, Rebozo was able to forge a friendship with Congressman Nixon, a friendship which would last until the final days of Nixon's failed Presidency.

The most bizarre aspect of this book are the allegations that President Nixon and Bebe Rebozo were homosexual lovers for decades. Indeed the author takes 26 pages of this 260 page book to explore that unsubstantiated allegation; which I have never heard before reading this book; to prove his point. Using quotes from "unnamed" sources, as well as speculation by various individuals, he paints a picture of the Presidents relationship with Rebozo as "sexual". Some of the "proofs" of these allegations come from Bonnie Angelo, the correspondent for Time magazine, who swears she observed Nixon and Rebozo holding hands at a Miami restaurant. She further claims that she had never seen two men holding hands "as long and as fondly as Nixon and Rebozo." The author spends several pages on this alone.

Also high on the list as proof that Nixon was "gay", are the observations of his longtime secretary Evlyn Dorn, who claims that she only saw Nixon touch his wife once, to steady her in the back of a limo as they were standing, presumably during a campaign motorcade.

During Nixon's White House years, Rebozo was at the Presidents side almost continuously, logging in a visit about every ten days or so. These meetings took place at the White House, or at San Clemente, often without his wife and daughters being present. The author offers this as proof of their relationship being sexual.

One of the more bizarre tales of the alleged homosexual relationship involves the two men playing "King of the Pool" late at night. This is a game that all young men have played at one time or another; it involves one of the men floating on a raft while the other tries to turn it over. When that has been accomplished the roles are reversed, and the other guy attempts to regain the raft as his own. This allegation, which is used by the author as "proof" that President Nixon was homosexual, can only be described as strange, on its face alone. In other instances, the author has called forth "experts" on Nixon's "thinking." My only conclusion on that score is that both the author, and the anonymous "top psychiatrist", believe in ESP, or at least reading the minds of two men who are both deceased.

The biggest question I have about this book is this, the author; who is seemingly "hell bent on election" to prove that the President was gay; also accuses him of being a homophobe. I don't see the connection, or rather; I do see the disconnection in this thinking. And, on another level, how can someone who is presumably of moderate to liberal persuasion, use these unfounded accusations to defame an already tainted President? And why bother?

Nixon was far from my favorite President. He extended the War in Vietnam for political gain; which caused an estimated 25,000 additional combat deaths; and allowed his involvement in the Bay of Pigs affair to be used against him as blackmail in the Watergate scandal. His excessive abuse of power is widely known. There is nothing new in this book at all, aside from the bizarre allegations I have already mentioned.

There is one highlight to this book; at the end, after the Index; there is a one page biography of the author. There is no mention of his being married. That, in itself, is of little consequence. But the photo the author uses to show his "inside" connection to the Nixon White House is of him holding hands tightly with the President; and they are both smiling...

No comments:

Post a Comment