b Papa Dog's Blog: Nixon

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Friday, November 04, 2005


Have I blogged before about your 37th American President, Richard M. Nixon? Probably. Too much trouble to check the archives to see if I’m repeating myself. It’s difficult to explain my Nixon obsession except to observe that it’s kind of similar to Peter O’Toole’s obsession with Hitler. As a child in wartime Britain, Hitler loomed large in O’Toole’s consciousness; so large that when he wrote his memoirs, O’Toole wasn’t satisfied with simply recounting his autobiography. He also included a parallel biography of what Hitler was up to at any given moment in O’Toole’s childhood. My obsession with Nixon isn’t that extreme, but he was the great Satan of my childhood, the all-pervasive bogeyman of the banality of evil. As I grew older and gained a greater understanding of Nixon as an historical figure, of the forces that shaped his bizarre character and the hubristic tangle of malfeasances that led to his downfall, I became even more obsessed. The fascinating thing about Nixon was that he had no business being a politician, let alone President; not because of his thuggish opportunism and flagrant disregard for the rule of law, but because he was an even greater misanthrope than I. He was a man intensely uncomfortable around other people, and yet he rose to the top of a profession driven almost entirely by building personal relationships.* His success as a politician is the fascinating mystery. From that perspective, the train wreck of his presidency seems so inevitable that it’s hardly worth comment.

The thing about cultivating a fascination is that people find out about it and give you stuff relating to it. Consequently, our house seemed in danger of becoming a Nixon shrine for a while. Happily, Mama Dog shares my fascination with your own home-grown Richard III (though perhaps not to quite the same degree), so it’s not a bone of contention. In fact, most of the Nixon memorabilia we’ve accumulated has come in the form of gifts for Mama Dog. The Pirates for some reason took a trip to The Library of Ultimate Evil and came back with some White House soap and a mug featuring Dick’s smiling mug. The Kitty turned up a Presidential portrait that now hangs on our living room wall. Bernardo came up with a collection of campaign buttons (not this one, but one kind of like it).

Lately, whenever the Nixon mug comes up in my morning mug cycle (don’t ask), I’ve been pointing smiley Dick out to Baby Dog. “Look!” I say, “Nixon!” She has consistently observed without comment. She’s a very attentive audience, but is not always certain what’s expected of her. Tuesday morning she finally responded with a rather tentative “Nixon?” Surprised, I showered her with praise, and she looked very pleased indeed. I took her into the living room and showed her the Presidential portrait, holding the mug up in front of it. “See? Nixon! The same!” Then I showed her the collection of buttons. “Nixon! See?” Yesterday, when I was carrying her through the kitchen, she pointed at the buttons on the shelf and said “Nixon!” In the living room, I asked her where Nixon was, and she pointed at the portrait on the wall.

This morning I decided to take things one step further. “Here’s Nixon,” I said. “He was a crook!” She knows that “uno dos” and “one two” are the same thing. She knows that “ojos” and “eyes” are the same, and “cabeza” and “head.” If I work things right, she just might grow up thinking that “crook” is Spanish for “Nixon.”
*Yes, and money of course, but the relationships are the engine to create access to the money.


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