The Irascible Professor SM
Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro

"You know, I always wondered about taping equipment, but I'm damn glad we have it, aren't you?"....  ....Richard M. Nixon

Commentary of the Day - March 17, 2002:  Now I'm Just Amused - Nixon Redux.

Orange County (CA) is home to a number of educational establishments.  They include the moderately prestigious Irvine campus of the University of California, the Fullerton campus of the California State University system (often referred to as Krispy Kreme U. by the IP), Chapman University, a few bible colleges,  a goodly number of community college campus, and several "storefront universities" that offer the earnest night student a degree for a price.  However, arguably, the most unusual educational establishment in the county is not a college at all.  Rather, it is the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace over in Yorba Linda.

Here one can view the house where Nixon was born, and the spot where he is buried.  The Nixon Library also houses a fairly extensive research collection of items relating to Nixon's political career.

The place is run by a foundation controlled by a board of directors that includes Nixon family members and some old Nixon political cronies among its 24 members.  The Foundation and the Library makes an effort to put the best possible face on the man who -- in spite of some significant accomplishments -- was perhaps the least likable person to serve as President of the United States.

When the latest batch of tapes from Nixon's White House years were released to the public, it became even more apparent that Nixon was a deeply paranoid individual who was prone to racist and anti-Semitic remarks.  On one of the tapes the Rev. Billy Graham was heard to agree with Nixon while making some rather anti-Semitic remarks of his own apparently in an effort to suck up to the prez.  (Graham made an art form of sucking up to presidents during his long career as a very public preacher.)   One might have expected that a person of Graham's moral stature would have used the occasion to counsel the president in the ways of tolerance.  Graham, who is now in his eighties and suffering from Parkinson's disease, claims not to remember the conversation.  The Nixon Library and Foundation, for its part, issued a press release reminding us of Nixon's strong support for Israel in an attempt to counter his anti-Semitic persona.

The origins of Nixon's dislike of Jews and African-Americans is not clear.  He grew up in north Orange County and southeastern Los Angeles County at a time when there were very few blacks or Jews living in the area.  More than likely he considered them part of the "enemy" because of their predilection to vote for Democratic candidates.

That was the trouble with Nixon.  Even though some of his public actions were commendable, he couldn't overcome his paranoia.  In the end, the "enemies" that he conjured up in his mind did him in.

With this history in mind, the IP was amused to learn that Nixon's daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, are engaged in a first-class pissing match over the disposition of a recent $12 million bequest to the Nixon Foundation from the estate of the late Bebe Rebozo.  (Rebozo was the millionaire Florida real estate developer who became a close friend of Nixon while he was in the Senate, and who remained loyal to him to the end.)

The  Nixon daughters have been at odds over control of the Foundation for some time now.  Tricia Nixon Cox would prefer that control of the Foundation be in the hands of Nixon family members and close friends, while Julie Nixon Eisenhower prefers the more independent control provided by the present 24 member board.  The fight has extended to the recent Rebozo bequest, which promises to secure the financial future of the Library.  The Foundation board and some of its employees apparently want to oust Cox from the three person group that will have control of  the Rebozo bequest.

Eisenhower has proposed that the Rebozo money should become part of the Foundation' s permanent endowment, with the three person group having control of actual expenditures.  Cox has countered with a proposal that would give the three person group the authority to expend the money to outside charities as well as to the Foundation.  Eisenhower, with the backing of the Foundation board, has filed suit in California to settle the dispute.  At the same time Cox filed suit in Florida.

At present lawyers for Eisenhower, the Foundation board, Cox, and the Rebozo trust all are involved in the legal fracas.  There is a good chance that the litigation will drag on for years.  The lawyers will get rich, and the Nixon Library will be holding bake sales to keep the tape machines running.

In the IP's view this is unfortunate.  Regardless of one's personal opinion of Richard M. Nixon, the Nixon Library -- like most other presidential libraries -- is an important resource for scholars.

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© 2002 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.