* While I join the nation in mourning the death of Richard M. Nixon, I cannot forget the impact that his Administration had on my life. Twenty-one years ago, you published a list of 575 “enemies” of the White House that had been unearthed in the course of the Watergate investigation. My name was one of them. That list went from the Executive Office to the Internal Revenue Service with a suggestion that an IRS tax audit be performed on each listee’s income tax return. This produced the first and only tax audit I ever experienced.
The editorial you published was headlined “Totalitarian State of Mind” and read: “The disclosures reveal a rot far more dangerous than dollar corruption in government. It was an intrigue to subvert the democratic political process by men who were not content to lead but who wanted to rule.”
A White House spokesman subsequently stated that the President was unaware of the list at the time. Of course, he was aware thereafter; however, not once in the intervening two decades did any of us receive an apology from him or anyone else.
Superior Court Judge, Retired
* Thank you for Robert Scheer’s balanced assessment of our 37th President (“A Major Leader, a Double Standard,” Commentary, April 25). I had the unexpected pleasure to work with President Nixon in conjunction with his presidential library in 1984. I was struck at the time by two things:
The first, how adamant President Nixon was about immediate, worldwide nuclear disarmament; and the second, how that message was obscured by a gruesome obsession with Watergate. The same question was rephrased and asked dozens of times during the 20-minute press conference: “Will your White House tapes be in the Nixon Library?”
Nixon answered graciously every time, saying that the tapes would be in the library. He was appropriately contrite that these profane tapes would scar his presidency. Yet the thirst for Watergate was unquenchable. All attempts to steer the discussion towards topics that showcased Nixon’s statesmanship were thwarted. At the end of this frightful frenzy, which was meant to introduce the library to the public, a chastened ex-President climbed back into his car. As he sped away, I found myself wondering how such an obviously brilliant man could have been eclipsed by his own shadow.
I only hope, as Scheer speculates, that in the end, he was at peace with himself.
* The conventional wisdom concerning Nixon, which Scheer reflects in his article, is that Nixon’s foreign policies were brilliant and his domestic policies, a disaster. Surely, Nixon’s Vietnam policy, however, cannot be considered brilliant, in any sense of that term.
What Scheer and most of those in the media commenting on Nixon since his death fail to note is the significant human cost of Nixon’s Vietnam policies. During all of the years of its involvement in the Vietnam War, the United States lost 58,135 of its citizens to the war. Of these, 20,553 died during the last four years of the war. Did the U.S. achieve any goals worth the sacrifice of these 20,553 Americans in those four years? I think not.
But there was an additional cost for Nixon’s Vietnam policies. Prof. George Herring, author of an outstanding history of the Vietnam War, wrote: “More than any other single issue, Vietnam brought a premature end to the Nixon presidency. The extreme measures he took to defend his Vietnam policy against all enemies real and imagined led directly to the Watergate scandal which would eventually force his resignation. Thus, when the final Vietnam crisis came in 1975, the architect of peace with honor was no longer in the White House and the nation was in no mood to defend the agreement he had constructed at such a great cost.”
Thus, Nixon’s reputation was an additional casualty of Vietnam. But that loss pales in comparison to that of his 20,553 fellow citizens who gave their “last full measure of devotion” to the war Nixon prolonged.
Professor of Political Science
* On April 22, the day one of the greatest Presidents in this country’s history died, a Times reporter called me for comments on my longtime friend, Richard M. Nixon. I spoke sincerely and openly with this reporter because President Nixon and I stuck by each other through good times and bad times. I have always publicly stated that I thought he was unfairly treated with respect to Watergate and he publicly supported me last year when the Board of Directors attempted to oust me from the company I founded. It was and is important to me that people know the high regard I have for this man I was privileged to call a friend.
I told the reporter that I considered President Nixon one of the great peacemakers of our time. Only a man with his courage and foresight could open up China, initiate detente with the Soviet Union and lay the groundwork for the successful conclusion of the Cold War and the defeat of communism. I was born in 1917 and moved to California during the Depression. I have lived through times when we all questioned with fear where events were leading us. I have watched many great people leave their mark on our country and our world. I know of no man who left a greater or more meaningful mark than Orange County’s own Nixon. I hope that in death he will get what often eluded him in life, credit for the good he accomplished for all of us.
Unfortunately, my only comment which made it into the paper was that in the early years of our friendship, President Nixon used to spell Carl with a K as he autographed his book for me. He had a very human side that few people ever really saw and I have no objection to this inside joke being published if it helps show him in a more personal way. Yet, I simply could not let my last quote on this great man be about a spelling error. He deserves much better.
CARL N. KARCHER
* During the time when I had the privilege of being a physician to Mrs. Nixon at San Clemente General Hospital, I remember with deep fondness the conversations with President Nixon. He was just as at home with his remarks about the Rams and football as he was about my country of birth, Croatia. He was very much touched by the warm reception the people gave him in Zagreb. I recall with fondness when he responded in 1991 with an endorsement of the Croatian state. God bless you, Mr. President.
BERIGOJ K. STAMBUK MD