Excerpt: Elizabeth Drew’s ‘Washington Journal’

to the White House supposedly to give him advice. The meeting was held at night so that no press would be around to ask questions and take pictures of Clinton and Nixon together.

Nixon was a smart man—intelligence and judgment being different qualities—he impressed with his talks. His sonorous voice and certitude projected confidence, and he appeared a font of knowledge. To add to the dazzle he made a point of speaking without notes or a podium. Nixon the foreign policy expert wasn’t the Nixon of Watergate memory—wriggling, perspiring, defensive, toying with the truth. But his name-dropping speeches could take him only so far, and he was limited by having San Clemente as his base of operations and, understandably, he was becoming bored with its relative isolation.

“The Fast Track”

And so, in 1980, despite his many vows to leave it to the federal government, Nixon sold the house in San Clemente, and he and Pat moved to New York, locale of many of the poobahs—publishers, bankers, captains of in- dustry, and foreign policy eminences—whom he needed to cultivate in order to implement Wizard. New York was where, as Nixon put it, he could be “on the fast track.” (He had repaired to New York before, after losing the California governorship, and it had helped him get on his feet then.) The Nixons moved into a townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (having been blackballed by various co-op boards). In time, movers and shakers flocked to Nixon’s townhouse, having eagerly accepted one of the most coveted dinner invitations in New York.

Nixon’s dinners, most of them stag, were ritualized affairs. At 7 p.m. sharp, he greeted his guests in the foyer; this was followed by light conversation, along with drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the upstairs library. (Nixon mixed the drinks himself, specializing in dry martinis.) Nixon’s new home was fixed up in Chinese décor. At dinner, where delicious Chinese food was served by Chinese waiters the conversation was focused on a topic Nixon selected. Following dinner the group repaired to the living room for more light conversation, with the host, though still awkward, often telling stories. Then, precisely at 10:30, Nixon would look up at the clock and remark, “Well, I promised to get [so and so, naming a prominent guest] to a house of prostitution by 11:00, so I guess we’d better call it a night.” Everyone knew it was time to leave. Afterward they talked about the dinner all over town.

In time, Nixon became a New York celebrity—dining in fine restaurants with other famous people, local powers, and visiting dignitaries; his attendance at football games was pictured in the papers, as were sightings of him around town. He wrote articles for Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, and the news weeklies. He was having, for him, a wonderful time.

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