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24Re: Nixon outcussed

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  • greg
    Jun 29, 2004
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      If you find out about those presidents' cussing I'd like to hear too.
      I keep pages of historical quotes at
      www.geocities.com/gregcannon1/history and
      www.geocities.com/gregcannon1/part2 where I've already got amusing
      quotes from various presidents and other people.
      --- In prezveepsenator@yahoogroups.com, "Ram Lau" <ramlau@y...> wrote:
      > Those who outcussed Nixon
      >
      > According to the author, Truman, Ike, JFK, and LBJ all outcussed
      > Nixon. I would like to hear what they have said.
      >
      >
      >
      > STEPHEN AMBROSE TAKES ON OLIVER STONE: How the Nixon Movie Stands Up
      >
      > An Excerpt from Oliver Stone's USA
      > Stephen Ambrose is the author of numerous books, including Nixon,
      > Rise to Globalism, Lewis and Clark, and Citizen Soldiers.
      >
      > Editor's Note: The following article by Stephen Ambrose appears in a
      > new anthology edited by Robert Brent Toplin, Oliver Stone's USA:
      > Film, History, and Controversy. The book presents a wide variety of
      > views on Stone's work; about a third of the material in the book is
      > by Stone himself.
      >
      > Oliver Stone wants not only fame and fortune but also respect. To
      > achieve it, he went to unprecedented lengths in promoting his movie
      > Nixon. Since The Birth of a Nation, Hollywood has found treasure in
      > the American past, from war, historical romances, and the lives of
      > presidents. To one degree or another, the producers have pretended
      > that their movies were based on fact. But never before has a
      > producer issued an advance copy of his script, much less one
      > including hundreds of footnotes, done in approved graduate-student
      > fashion, citing some eighty books, numerous oral histories, tapes of
      > Nixon's meetings, and other sources; opening essays by John Dean,
      > Daniel Schorr, Alexander Butterfield, Stanley Kutler, Paul Nitze,
      > and others, as well as an interview with Stone; and concluding with
      > photo-offsets of numerous Watergate documents.
      >
      > This scholarly blitz impressed reporters and reviewers, but it is
      > fraudulent. Stone's peacock-like display of his scholarship is too
      > thin to cover his basic contempt for real scholarship. His devotion
      > is to drama, and were he to change Nixon's name to Dixon, Henry
      > Kissinger's to Missinger, and label the movie fiction, no one could
      > quarrel with him over his scholarship or inventions. But he insists
      > that he is more than a dramatist and producer, that he is a
      > historian. In this essay, I judge him on that basis.
      >
      > Stone claims that he has discovered what the journalists and
      > professional historians missed, the truth about Nixon. The film
      > opens with a prologue on a black screen:
      >
      > This film is an attempt to understand the truth of Richard Nixon....
      > It is based on numerous public sources and on an incomplete
      > historical record. In consideration of length, events and characters
      > have been condensed, and some scenes among protagonists have been
      > conjectured.
      > The last sentence hides a multitude of lies.
      > Oliver Stone wants to participate in the historical debate on the
      > character of Richard Nixon without conforming to the canons of
      > history. He feels free not merely to conjecture but also to invent
      > scenes that never happened, to give one man's words to another, and
      > to assign Nixon posts that he never held. He imagines a Nixon who
      > took a dark secret to his grave with him, a man whose character,
      > while complex, was contemptible.
      >
      > If I felt as free as Stone to conjecture, I might conjecture that he
      > put forward those padded footnotes confident that few would ever
      > read them or check them.
      > A man's drinking habits and his language are important expressions
      > of his character. Stone makes them central to Nixon's. He has Nixon
      > drinking steadily and heavily throughout the film and using foul
      > language regularly. He cites Tom Wicker and me as his sources on
      > Nixon's drinking habits. In his 1991 biography of Nixon, Wicker
      > wrote that he had found only one authentic case of Nixon's being
      > drunk -- when he was in Moscow as vice president. In my biography, I
      > wrote that H. R. Haldeman told me that he had never seen Nixon
      > drunk, and following a couple of paragraphs on the subject of
      > Nixon's drinking, I concluded, "Whatever Nixon's problems in life,
      > and Lord knows there were many, alcohol was not one of them."'
      > Maybe Stone is right about Nixon and booze, and Wicker and I are
      > wrong. But he cannot cite us as his sources for a portrayal of Nixon
      > popping pills and knocking them back with straight scotch whiskey.
      > If I felt as free as Stone to conjecture, I might conjecture that he
      > put forward those padded footnotes confident that few would ever
      > read them or check them.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Nor will most viewers realize that they are getting a cruel
      > distortion of the language Nixon ordinarily used. In Stone's movie,
      > he has Nixon saying "fuck" throughout -- in one scene, eight times.
      > In fact, Nixon was a shy Quaker boy who seldom used locker-room
      > language. The bulk of the "expletive deleted" words that Nixon
      > blocked out on his transcript version of the tapes were "hell"
      > and "damn." I have listened many times to the available tapes, some
      > sixty hours' worth, recording conversations between Nixon and his
      > closest advisers when they were in deep trouble, and I never heard
      > him say "fuck." William Safire told me that Nixon sometimes
      > said "asshole." He used "son of a bitch" regularly. In general,
      > Nixon's language was mild, especially in comparison with that of
      > Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and John
      > F. Kennedy. Stone creates the opposite impression.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Stone insists that precisely because he ignores the canons of
      > history, he gives a sharper, more sensitive portrait of Nixon than
      > do the professional historians, chained as they are to the
      > documents. The novel All the King's Men and the movie Patton are
      > examples of what he means. And certainly there are those (not I) who
      > think that Robert Penn Warren got closer to Huey Long's character
      > than T. Harry Williams did in his biography and that George C.
      > Scott's performance gave a clearer view of George Patton than Martin
      > Blumenson's biography.
      >
      > By changing Long's name, Warren gave himself the fiction writer's
      > freedom to make things up. Nevertheless, he stuck closer to the
      > truth than Stone did. Examples of Stone's inventions include Nixon's
      > saying about John Kennedy, "We were like brothers, for Christ's
      > sake"; Pat Nixon's demanding a divorce; Mao's telling Nixon, "You're
      > as evil as I am. ... Others pay to feed the hunger in us. In my
      > case, millions of reactionaries. In your case, millions of
      > Vietnamese." Can anyone imagine Mao's talking to Nixon like that? In
      > fact, yes. Here, as elsewhere, Stone counts on his audience's
      > believing that it is possible that Dick and Jack were friends, that
      > the Nixon marriage was always on the verge of breaking apart, and
      > that Mao would say such things to Nixon.
      >
      > The first canon of history is that you cannot put words into
      > people's mouths. Stone not only does that, but he regularly takes
      > lines he likes from the actual speakers and puts them into the
      > mouths of others. Kissinger gets Nixon's line to Mao: "But your
      > writings have changed the world, Mr. Chairman." Alexander Haig gets
      > Barry Goldwater's line to Nixon: "No one I know feels close to you."
      > Nixon gets John Ehrlichman's "twisting in the wind" line. Sometimes
      > Stone gets the right man with the right line but gets the timing
      > wrong. In 1973, Haig is leading Nixon through a hospital
      > corridor. "Clear the path!" Haig shouts. "Clear a path. I'm in
      > charge here."
      >
      > Perhaps these are peccadilloes. The central piece of fiction in the
      > movie is not. It is the creation of a Nixon-Fidel Castro-Kennedy
      > connection. Stone has Nixon involved in a CIA assassination plot
      > against Castro, which somehow played a part in the Kennedy
      > assassination and left Nixon with a terrible secret and guilt about
      > Kennedy's death. All this leads to a flash of insight on Nixon's
      > part that is the climactic vision of the movie.
      >
      > Details are wrong. In the movie, Nixon tells Haldeman, "You open up
      > that scab [referring to the CIA and Castro] and you uncover a lot of
      > pus." What Nixon said was, "You open that scab [Howard Hunt] there's
      > a hell of a lot of things ... this involves the Cubans, Hunt, and a
      > lot of hanky-panky."
      >
      > In the movie, Nixon tells Haldeman that there was a CIA project to
      > kill Castro and insists, "It was our idea. We felt the invasion [Bay
      > of Pigs] wouldn't work unless we got rid of Castro. So we asked
      > ourselves -- who else wants Castro dead? The Mafia, the money
      > people." So they hired the Mafia. Nixon says that Eisenhower
      > approved the plan and ordered it put into effect before the 1960
      > election.
      >
      > Haldeman, astonished, blurts out, "Eisenhower approved that?"
      >
      > Nixon replies, "He didn't veto it. I ran the White House side."
      >
      > Haldeman later tells Ehrlichman that Nixon's involvement in the
      > Castro affair "in some crazy way got turned on Kennedy."
      >
      > No, it is not reasonable to assume. We do not have to assume
      > anything. Haldeman's handwritten notes on that meeting exist.
      > According to Stone, it was during the June 10, 1972, conversation
      > with Haldeman (the first meeting of the two men after the Watergate
      > burglars were arrested, now infamous because of the eighteen and a
      > half minute gap in the tape) that the truth came out. "It seems that
      > in all of those Nixon references to the Bay of Pigs, he was actually
      > referring to the Kennedy assassination," Stone quotes Haldeman. In
      > threatening the CIA with exposure, Nixon was "reminding [Director
      > Richard] Helms, not so gently, of the cover-up of the CIA
      > assassination attempts -- a CIA operation that may have triggered
      > the Kennedy tragedy and which Helms wanted desperately to hide."
      > Those words come from Haldeman's memoir The Ends of Power, co-
      > written with Joseph DiMona. Haldeman later repudiated the book and
      > those words specifically.
      > Christopher Wilkinson, one of Stone's co-writers, insists in his
      > introduction to the book that the words are nevertheless accurate
      > and that Haldeman reached his conclusion on June 10, which was why
      > Nixon manually erased the eighteen and a half minutes. Wilkinson
      > argues that "it is reasonable to assume that whatever was on the
      > eighteen and a half minute gap was substantively different from any
      > of the other blatantly incriminating material Nixon exposed."
      >
      > No, it is not reasonable to assume. We do not have to assume
      > anything. Haldeman's handwritten notes on that meeting exist.
      > Although hardly verbatim, they are clear on the subjects discussed.
      > Nixon's first order was to sweep the Oval Office for bugs (not his,
      > of course). Next he told Haldeman to get to work on public relations
      > by accusing the Democrats of crimes of their own -- "hit the
      > opposition with their activities," as Haldeman took it down.
      >
      > Stone's Bay of Pigs-assassination business is all fantasy. Richard
      > Bissel of the CIA did raise the question of assassination with
      > Eisenhower, but he was rebuffed. Eisenhower said that political
      > assassination was beyond the pale (in 1963, he expressed deep shock
      > at Ngo Dinh Diem's murder) and that if the CIA got rid of Fidel
      > Castro, Raul Castro would take power, "and that's worse."
      >
      > Vice President Nixon never headed any CIA project. Stone calls him
      > the "action officer" for the Bay of Pigs and assassination attempts.
      > His source is Howard Hunt's memoirs. But no assassination attempt
      > was made in the Eisenhower administration. And what Nixon wanted in
      > fall 1960 was not Castro's death but a successful invasion and
      > overthrow of the regime before the November election -- a so-called
      > October surprise.
      >
      > This gets us to Nixon's dark references to the Bay of Pigs and the
      > CIA. They were about the training of Cuban exiles by the CIA and the
      > Bay of Pigs planning going on in the Eisenhower administration in
      > 1960. After Kennedy became president and the Bay of Pigs landing was
      > tried and failed, the Kennedy people put it out that it was all
      > Eisenhower's fault because it had been his plan.
      >
      > Eisenhower furiously resented this charge. He felt that the CIA and
      > Kennedy had bungled the operation and rightly insisted that he had
      > never signed off on a plan.
      >
      > Nixon was on the extreme outside of all this. When he said in the
      > movie, "We protected the CIA from the Bay of Pigs," Stone jumped to
      > an unjustified conclusion, but he made his interpretation persuasive
      > to the audience by leaving out the last nine words of Nixon's
      > sentence: "and a hell of a lot of other things." Nixon was speaking
      > generically, not specifically. Stone does not use Nixon's line that
      > the CIA plots "have nothing to do with ourselves." The Nixon-Castro-
      > Kennedy connection is akin to Stone's fantasy that JFK was about to
      > take us out of Vietnam when a conspiracy formed by the military-
      > industrial complex assassinated him.
      >
      > Beyond giving us his version of Richard Nixon's character, Oliver
      > Stone offers an interpretation of who rules America and how the
      > system works. This is bold but not wise, more imaginative than
      > informative.
      >
      > The philosophical insights came to the Stone team of writers in a
      > coup d'oeil when they suddenly realized that "for Nixon to have
      > become President in 1968, Jack Kennedy had to die, Lyndon Johnson
      > had to be forced into retirement, Dr. King had to die, Bobby Kennedy
      > had to die, Hubert Humphrey had to be eviscerated in Chicago." Some
      > might feel that there was an element of chance in all this, but
      > Wilkinson writes:
      >
      > It almost seemed that Nixon was being helped, helped by something
      > dark, something sinister, something frightening. Some thing. And we
      > call it The Beast. The Beast became a metaphor for the darkest
      > organic forces in American Cold War politics: the anti-Communist
      > crusade, secret intelligence, the defense industry, organized crime,
      > big business.
      > Plus the CIA. The Beast was within Nixon and controlled him. "You're
      > just a mouthpiece for an agenda that is hidden for us," a voter says
      > to the movie Nixon during a TV debate -- nicely summing up Stone's
      > view of the United States and the world.
      > Kennedy, Stone asserts (he has Nixon say it), never knew about the
      > assassination plot against Castro, but the CIA kept it going: "It
      > had a life of its own. Like a kind of 'beast' that doesn't even know
      > it exists. It just eats people when it doesn't need'em anymore." CIA
      > director Helms, according to Stone, agreed. In the movie, Helms says
      > that the plot was "not an operation as much as an organic
      > phenomenon. It grew, it changed shape, it developed insatiable,
      > devouring appetites."
      >
      > In the climactic scene, Nixon himself realizes that the Beast is in
      > charge. He is at the Lincoln Memorial, talking with a nineteen-year-
      > old college student. She says, "You don't want the war. We don't
      > want the war. The Vietnamese don't want the war. So why does it go
      > on?" Nixon is rendered speechless by this statement. She goes
      > on, "You can't stop it, can you? Even if you wanted to. Because it's
      > not you. It's the system. And the system won't let you stop it."
      >
      > Nixon mumbles that more is at stake here than what she wants,
      > or "even what I want."
      >
      > "Then what's the point?" she asks. "What's the point of being
      > President? You're powerless."
      >
      > Nixon reels under the power of her insight. Later he tells
      > Haldeman: "She understands something it's taken me twenty-five
      > fucking years in politics to understand. The CIA, the Mafia, the
      > Wall Street bastards."
      >
      > "Sir?" Haldeman interjects.
      >
      > "The Beast," Nixon explains. "A nineteen-year-old kid. She
      > understands the nature of 'the Beast."'
      >
      > Toward the end of the movie, Nixon vows to do something about
      > it. "Whoever killed Kennedy came from this ... this thing we
      > created. This Beast. That's why we can't let this thing go any
      > farther."
      >
      > Enough. This is sophomoric Marxism circa 1950. The gross
      > simplification of how and by whom the United States is run misses
      > the complexities of the system and assigns to the unseen and
      > scarcely defined Beast an evil intent that accounts for all the evil
      > done by the United States and in its name since 1945 (if not before)
      > without a single piece of evidence of serious thought or study by
      > Stone.
      >
      > Does it matter? William Shakespeare took liberties with the
      > histories he dramatized, and I do not suppose that we are worse off
      > because his vision of Henry IV does not correspond with the facts of
      > English history. But the Bard was not depicting contemporaries, and
      > he did not have an agenda for social, economic, and political change
      > in his country. Stone thinks that the United States is rotten
      > because of the sinister forces that rule. He used both Kennedy and
      > Nixon to prove it. He wants to change the country and points to the
      > Kennedy assassination and the Nixon presidency as proof of the need
      > for radical political action. In that sense, it matters greatly that
      > he has distorted the past.
      >
      > Aside from Stone's puerile conspiracy theses, does he advance the
      > debate about Nixon's character, accomplishments, and crimes? In a
      > movie in which key events are ignored, central scenes are made up,
      > and Nixon uses words he never used, how could he? Nixon may be great
      > entertainment, perhaps even great drama -- that is for the movie and
      > drama critics and the public to decide. It is not history.
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