NIXON VS. NIXON: An Emotional Tragedy by

NIXON VS. NIXON: An Emotional Tragedy

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Psychohistory is a fledgling discipline, poorly represented in this ""emotional"" biography of the resigned President. Dr. Abrahamsen tries to build a case on the slight evidence available from Nixon's childhood (none given the author by the immediate family) and the massive public record--much of which, we know from Watergate, was intentionally distorted. Like Bruce Mazlish (In Search of Nixon, 1972), he finds certain behavior patterns reflecting early emotional deprivation and an unstable home with strong parental polarities; he also recognizes a passive-aggressive personality with intense oral/anal fixations--patterns shared by millions of people. More specifically he points to Nixon's adolescence, a time of academic success and advancement flanked by the deaths of two brothers, making him fearful for his own health and creating a large source of (unconscious) guilt. Even though some of this is revealing (including a letter to ""Master""--his mother--from her ""faithful dog Richard""), Dr. Abrahamsen's writing is appalling: the prose is flaccid, non sequiturs abound, the few boyhood details are inflated in lieu of more substantial stuff. He overstates some arguments, ignores other leads, and seldom considers the political dimension of Nixon's statements; meanwhile his few original speculations get lost in the shuffle (did Haldeman, knowing Nixon's ways, keep the tapes for his own protection?) and Mrs. Nixon is dismissed with the usual quota of unflattering remarks. Rarely does he sift through the layers of information; instead of puzzling through alternatives, as Erikson did for Luther, Dr. Abrahamsen has a diagnosis before the lab results are in. Adding little to our knowledge of Nixon and nothing to the development of psychohistory, this is a graceless, tendentious piece of work.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux