The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon

The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon


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Anthony Summers' biography of Richard Nixon reveals a troubled figure whose criminal behavior did not begin with Watergate. Drawing on more than a thousand interviews and five years of research, Summers reveals a man driven by an addiction to intrigue and power, whose subversion of democracy during Watergate was the culmination of years of cynical political manipulation. New evidence suggests the former president had problems with alcohol and prescription drugs, was at times mentally unstable, and was abusive to his wife Pat. Summers discloses previously unrevealed facts about Nixon's role in the plots to topple Fidel Castro and Salvador Allende, his sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks in l968, and his acceptance of funds from dubious sources. The Arrogance of Power shows how the actions of one tormented man influenced fifty years of American history, in ways still reverberating today.

Author Biography: Anthony Summers formerly covered wars and other world news events for the BBC. He lives in Ireland with his wife and principle colleague, Robbyn Swan.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140260786
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: 07/31/2001
Edition description: REISSUE
Pages: 656
Product dimensions: 6.18(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.49(d)

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Chapter One

His fragile masculine self-image always drew him to the strong and the tough-and the ultimate power of the presidency.-Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, psychosomatic medicine specialist and psychotherapist consulted by Richard Nixon

The strain on Nixon had started to show long before he reached the Senate. There had been the twenty-hour workdays during the Hiss case, the skipped meals, the refusal to take time out for relaxation. It made him quick-tempered with colleagues, as well as "mean" with his family. When he had trouble sleeping, he resorted to sleeping pills. The campaign against Helen Douglas had only driven him to greater limits.

As a senator he continued to work obsessively. When his secretaries left for the day-Nixon had nine-their boss regularly went on working into the evening. He often did not get home for dinner, if at all. "Many times," said Earl Chapman, a friend in whom Pat confided, he worked "until the small hours....Maybe if he gets through early enough he'll come back home, but many times he'll curl up on the couch and get a few hours' sleep. Then he'll get a little breakfast and shave, and go right down to the Senate chambers...."

A month or two into this punishing schedule Nixon began to be plagued with persistent back and neck pain. The first doctors he consulted were no help, and he found himself perusing a book on psychosomatic illness pressed on him by the outgoing senator from California, Sheridan Downey. The book was The Will to Live, by Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, an easy-to-read best-seller written for people "in the grips of acute conflict." It emphasized "theinteraction of the human psyche and bodily reactions."

Hutschnecker was described by one academic as "a sort of Pavlovian and Freudian synthesizer." He himself professed that he "treated my patients as if they are my children." Famous clients over the years reportedly included the actresses Elizabeth Taylor, Celeste Holm, and Rita Hayworth and the novelist Erich Maria Remarque. An Austrian emigré who graduated in Berlin soon after World War I, he had been working in New York City since 1936.

While he practiced internal medicine, he had early in his career been interested in the way mental and emotional disturbances affect health. By 1951, this topic had become the primary focus of his work. He dropped internal medicine completely by 1955, to specialize exclusively as a psychotherapist engaged in what he called "psychoanalytically oriented treatment of emotional problems."1

Dr. Hutschnecker had, in the words of one interviewer, "a touch of the missionary zeal of a Billy Graham, of the cheery optimism of a Norman Vincent Peale, of the psychic beliefs of a Jeane Dixon, and an accent a bit reminiscent of Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove." Nixon, as we have seen, publicly associated himself with both Graham and Peale, and, according to one close aide, credited the prophecies of Dixon, the popular astrologer.

In The Will to Live, Hutschnecker dealt with a range of human complaints: chronic fatigue, hypertension, ulcers, insomnia, the inability to love, aggression, impotence in men and frigidity in women. On reading it, Nixon took a step that was to lead to a long and trusting relationship with the doctor-as well as to future political embarrassment. He asked one of his new secretaries, Rose Mary Woods, to telephone Hutschnecker and ask if he would take on a new private patient. Woods, just starting the loyal service to Nixon that would one day give her a notorious role in the Watergate saga, told Hutschnecker her boss was "really interested in something in The Will to Live that related to himself."

So it was that, probably in the early fall of 1951, Nixon went to New York and presented himself at Dr. Hutschnecker's imposing office at 829 Park Avenue. The doctor's wife, acting as his receptionist that day, entered the inner sanctum to announce that the young senator had arrived-and looked "very tense." He was to see Hutschnecker several times that first year and in the four years that followed.

From 1952, when he became vice president, Nixon arrived for his consultations-five that year-openly, in the official limousine, and with a Secret Service escort. In 1955, though, when Hutschnecker began to specialize solely in psychotherapy, Nixon became worried about publicity. After Walter Winchell had made a snide reference to the visits in one of his columns, he began taking his physical ailments to a military doctor in Washington.

By that time he and Hutschnecker had established a close relationship and met privately whenever Nixon came to New York. "I remember going to his suite in the Waldorf," the doctor recalled, "and hearing him singing so happily in the shower. And I said to myself, 'Aha, my treatment is working.'"

The discreet meetings continued throughout the fifties. When Nixon called, said Hutschnecker, "He'd never say: 'I have a problem.' He'd say, 'Could we have breakfast?' And I'd go." "He needed me. It was what we call a transference, a trust. He came to me when he had decisions to make. Or when something was pending, and it troubled him."

Nixon did not always reveal what was on his mind. After one 1952 visit Hutschnecker was astonished to learn from the press of his patient's possible selection as Eisenhower's vice presidential running mate. It must have been the matter uppermost in Nixon's mind during the consultation, yet he had failed to mention it. Later the same year, however, when enmeshed in allegations of having taken under-the-table money-the fund scandal*-Nixon tried frantically to reach the doctor.

"I went out for a while one day, and when I came back, my wife said, 'Where were you? The senator's office was calling every ten minutes.' They had been holding the plane, and the last call had been just a few minutes before, but Mr. Nixon could not wait any longer....I learned later about the secret fund charges."

The psychotherapist also made a number of trips to see Nixon in his Washington office. During one lunch he astonished the senator by declaring that he considered both Joe McCarthy and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles mentally disturbed. "Dr. Hutschnecker..." Nixon wrote in a 1959 note to Rose Woods, "I want to have him come down...check with me as to whether I want it before we go on vacation." The following year, during the campaign against John F. Kennedy, there was another summons.

In early 1961, within weeks of the Republican handover of the White House, Nixon was back at the doctor's office. The following year he consulted Hutschnecker before his disastrous bid for the governorship of California, having ignored the doctor's advice not to run. A journalist who happened to live next door to the building that housed Hutschnecker's Park Avenue offices, Harriet Van Horne, recalled seeing Nixon's "grim visage" passing beneath the canopy. "I once asked a building employee," Horne recalled, "'Does Mr. Nixon visit friends at 829?' 'Naw,' came the reply. 'He comes to see the shrink.'"

During the presidency, however, Nixon's aides saw to it that the link to Hutschnecker was virtually severed, though he would make two visits to the White House, the first to discuss violent crime and the second after the U.S. incursion into Cambodia in 1970. The doctor had long hoped that Nixon would swiftly get the United States out of Vietnam, and a friend quoted him as saying, "Pavlovian technique had been helping him brainwash Nixon into becoming a better person." He believed he could "remake the man into a dove" on Southeast Asia. But the second trip was to misfire. As reported in context later, Nixon would end the meeting in frustration after a few minutes. There were a number of other meetings outside the White House, though, but only when Nixon felt he could avoid detection-not only by the press but, the doctor implied, by his own aides.

Later, after the resignation, the doctor would visit Nixon at San Clemente. By then he seemed, Hutschnecker thought, "like a confessant." They met for the last time in 1993, when Nixon asked the doctor to accompany him to Pat's funeral. He was seated, at Nixon's request, in the area allotted to the family. The doctor did not attend the former president's own funeral the following year because, as he put it, there was no one left for him to help.

A few cautious comments aside, Dr. Hutschnecker did not speak publicly about his patient over the years. He avoided putting Nixon's name on prescriptions, kept his name out of the appointment book, and apparently did not ask for payment. Although he is said to have been less guarded in private-snippets of his dinner party asides leaked out on occasion-the doctor was careful to shield Nixon as medical ethics required.

In 1995, however, he gave the first of three lengthy interviews for this book. Toward the end of the former president's life, Hutschnecker said, he had written authorizing him to write about their relationship, assuming Hutschnecker would survive him. It must have seemed a reasonable gamble that he would not, for the doctor was nearly ninety at the time. Yet Nixon did die first, and Hutschnecker wrote the draft of a manuscript about his experiences with his patient, though he kept it at home unpublished. He had felt constrained, he said, to "leave out a lot."

Astonishingly sprightly at ninety-seven and living testimony to his own advice on how to achieve longevity, Dr. Hutschnecker received his interviewer at his home in sylvan northern Connecticut. He answered questions in a study cluttered with the bric-a-brac of a long professional life, including a photograph of Richard Nixon-inscribed in 1977 "in appreciation of friendship"-and a Nixon gift of ivory elephants. Later, on the veranda, over tea laced with Irish whiskey, he talked on in his heavily German-accented English about the politician to whom he had had such exclusive access.

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Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the best books I ever read, I could never put the book down because I could not stop reading it. It also gives so much information about other topics during the time period. The book is so well researched you have to believe everything that was written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very was well written and very readable. Contains lots of photos and interviews with all the major players of his life. I welcome any emails from anyone interested in this subject/book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Watergate was just the culmination of a political lifetime of corruption, bad faith and arrogance. Summers provides a well-written, thoroughly researched, and well-documented examination of the life of Richard Nixon. This book should be required reading for anyone concerned about America's political direction, especially in light of Nixon's rehabilitated reputation, 'lest we forget' the lessons of Watergate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Comprehensive, but with little scholarly direction. Fact and opinion often become blurred, and assumptions based on anecdotal evidence are strewn about to lead the reader toward a poorly constructed argument. Consistantly contradictory. (For example, Summers argues that Nixon destroyed the poetential for Vietnam peace talks in '68, but then writes that Theiu probably would not have agreed anyway, and in fact stated as much in private.) If you want a more even-handed and well-thought out analysis of the Nixon presidency from a skeptic, I suggest Melvin Small's biography.
gmillar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me a little longer than usual to finish this book. It made me so mad and so sad as I waded through it. Readers, once they have put it through a "biography truth formula" which includes a division sign, will still be appalled by the facts and implications herein. It's astonishing that we, the voting public, can be so gullible and susceptible to the lies and misconstructions of politicians as they manufacture truths they want us to believe - or truths they think we want to believe.But there was something else, too, that made me uneasy about this book. I found myself wondering if the author didn't also have a paranoiac personality. Almost every paragraph in the 468 pages was negative and accusatory.The real sad thing about this episode of American government is that it added up to be the sickest of several sick administrations in the country's short history and that it may have led to many citizens not trusting their leaders one little bit. That sort of mistrust makes governing exceedingly difficult for any elected official and always evolves into mistrust of every other human being on the planet.Has it ever been thus?
eswnr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Arrogance of Power is surprisingly convincing and focused, if a little too gossipy to be a truly scholarly work. There's a few statements in here that seem to be "friend-of-a-friend" side-of-the-mouth type stuff that's, by design, hard to confirm. Still, it's not as if the tapes didn't put the "serial collector of resentments" in a noose to begin with. If history turns out right, Nixon's image will never be rehabilitated, and he'll forever be known as the president who emboldened the bunch of criminals in suits that came to fill his position. Probably the most telling anecdote in here is where Nixon is discussing a staggeringly moronic plan to bomb the Brookings Institution. A plan that was only canceled not because it was COMPLETELY INSANE AND ILLEGAL AND UNTHINKABLE FOR A PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, but simply because the Trojan horse fire engine needed to pull it off was too expensive. You could spend a lifetime reading about Nixon and still not understand him, but this seems a good, focused introduction to the terrifying depth of his dark side. It isn't a definitive biography by any means, but as an examination of just what was wrong with this guy, it's a good start.
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slanted, but pretty good examination of Nixon's abuses of power.
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