Anthony Summers' biography of Richard Nixon reveals a troubled figure whose criminal behavior did not begin with Watergate. Drawing on more than a thousand interviews and five years of research, Summers reveals a man driven by an addiction to intrigue and power, whose subversion of democracy during Watergate was the culmination of years of cynical political manipulation. New evidence suggests the former president had problems with alcohol and prescription drugs, was at times mentally unstable, and was abusive to his wife Pat. Summers discloses previously unrevealed facts about Nixon's role in the plots to topple Fidel Castro and Salvador Allende, his sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks in l968, and his acceptance of funds from dubious sources. The Arrogance of Power shows how the actions of one tormented man influenced fifty years of American history, in ways still reverberating today.
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July 30, 2001
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Excerpt from The Arrogance of Power by Anthony Summers
His fragile masculine self-image always drew him to the strong and the tough-and the ultimate power of the presidency.-Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, psychosomatic medicine specialist and psychotherapist consulted by Richard Nixon
The strain on Nixon had started to show long before he reached the Senate. There had been the twenty-hour workdays during the Hiss case, the skipped meals, the refusal to take time out for relaxation. It made him quick-tempered with colleagues, as well as "mean" with his family. When he had trouble sleeping, he resorted to sleeping pills. The campaign against Helen Douglas had only driven him to greater limits.
As a senator he continued to work obsessively. When his secretaries left for the day-Nixon had nine-their boss regularly went on working into the evening. He often did not get home for dinner, if at all. "Many times," said Earl Chapman, a friend in whom Pat confided, he worked "until the small hours....Maybe if he gets through early enough he'll come back home, but many times he'll curl up on the couch and get a few hours' sleep. Then he'll get a little breakfast and shave, and go right down to the Senate chambers...."
A month or two into this punishing schedule Nixon began to be plagued with persistent back and neck pain. The first doctors he consulted were no help, and he found himself perusing a book on psychosomatic illness pressed on him by the outgoing senator from California, Sheridan Downey. The book was The Will to Live, by Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, an easy-to-read best-seller written for people "in the grips of acute conflict." It emphasized "the interaction of the human psyche and bodily reactions."
Hutschnecker was described by one academic as "a sort of Pavlovian and Freudian synthesizer." He himself professed that he "treated my patients as if they are my children." Famous clients over the years reportedly included the actresses Elizabeth Taylor, Celeste Holm, and Rita Hayworth and the novelist Erich Maria Remarque. An Austrian emigre who graduated in Berlin soon after World War I, he had been working in New York City since 1936.
While he practiced internal medicine, he had early in his career been interested in the way mental and emotional disturbances affect health. By 1951, this topic had become the primary focus of his work. He dropped internal medicine completely by 1955, to specialize exclusively as a psychotherapist engaged in what he called "psychoanalytically oriented treatment of emotional problems."1
Dr. Hutschnecker had, in the words of one interviewer, "a touch of the missionary zeal of a Billy Graham, of the cheery optimism of a Norman Vincent Peale, of the psychic beliefs of a Jeane Dixon, and an accent a bit reminiscent of Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove." Nixon, as we have seen, publicly associated himself with both Graham and Peale, and, according to one close aide, credited the prophecies of Dixon, the popular astrologer.
In The Will to Live, Hutschnecker dealt with a range of human complaints: chronic fatigue, hypertension, ulcers, insomnia, the inability to love, aggression, impotence in men and frigidity in women. On reading it, Nixon took a step that was to lead to a long and trusting relationship with the doctor-as well as to future political embarrassment. He asked one of his new secretaries, Rose Mary Woods, to telephone Hutschnecker and ask if he would take on a new private patient. Woods, just starting the loyal service to Nixon that would one day give her a notorious role in the Watergate saga, told Hutschnecker her boss was "really interested in something in The Will to Live that related to himself."