‘Victory Without War’ Author Is Easy Winner Among Friends at Home

Times Staff Writer

He cracked a few jokes, dropped a lot of names and spoke in the royal “we.”

He offered personal prophesies and preferences. He smiled and he waved, stiff-armed and upright, and then politely took his seat while his admirers abandoned theirs to offer applause.

Make no mistake about it, Richard M. Nixon, former U.S. President, best-selling author and Orange County native, was enjoying himself.


On the final leg of a national tour coinciding with the publication of his seventh book, “1999: Victory Without War,” Nixon was among friends, nearly 1,000 of them at Wednesday’s luncheon meeting of the World Affairs Council of Orange County at the Disneyland Hotel.

China Trip Recalled

Their questions, submitted on paper and screened for “appropriateness” by council officials, were friendly. In turn, Nixon’s responses were relaxed and drawn out, spiked with humor, quotations from philosophers and statesmen, and pithy anecdotes from his many trips abroad.

The late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, Nixon said, reminded him of Lyndon B. Johnson, the man who preceded him as President of the United States.

“When he wanted to make a point, he would grab you by the arm or he would slap you on the leg,” he said.

And Nixon recalled when he and Henry Kissinger, his old national security adviser and secretary of state, “deliberately disinformed the Congress” about a four-day trip to China before the establishment of diplomatic ties with the Communist nation.

“We put out a story to the effect that Henry Kissinger had a stomachache in Pakistan, when actually he was eating Peking duck” in China, Nixon said.

While he preceded that tale by remarking that “generally, it’s not a good policy” to lie to Congress, Nixon said the ultimate success of his China initiative was vitally dependent on its secrecy.

“It worked and I would do it again,” Nixon said to thunderous applause from his audience.

Although he was speaking from the vantage point of 14 years since resigning from office under threat of impeachment, Nixon, 75, spoke with the seeming authority of a leader who still held the power to shape world events.

He described Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as a courageous, crafty and politically astute leader who needs American support if his efforts to open up and modernize Soviet society are to succeed. But Gorbachev, Nixon said, must choose between progress at home and aggression abroad.

“If he chooses the first, we will help him,” Nixon said. “If he chooses the second, we will oppose him.”

The former president, who lives in Saddle River, N.J., focused most of his remarks on world affairs, especially the relationship between the superpowers and what he saw as the dangerous rise of isolationist feelings in the United States.

He also said he was glad to be back in Orange County--he was born in Yorba Linda and lived for many years in San Clemente--and added that the votes cast by Orange County Republicans would be crucial to a very close election victory by Vice President George Bush over Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Although Nixon described Dukakis as “smart, cool, tough,” he dismissed him as “too cerebral” to win the presidency as a Democrat.

‘Gotta Love the People’

“A good Democrat candidate has to be like Hubert Humphrey,” he said. “You’ve got to love the people and show it.”

At the end of his appearence, which the World Affairs Council said was its biggest draw to date, surpassing even former Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, Nixon remained on stage to accommodate the throngs of admirers who wanted to shake his hand, kiss his cheek or ask for his autograph.

Several guests carried copies of one of Nixon’s books, not necessarily the most recent, while others contented themselves with a Nixon signature scrawled across their luncheon ticket.