Excerpt: Elizabeth Drew’s ‘Washington Journal’

from Ronald Reagan. (Ford was constrained to jam in a trip to China of his own during the primaries.) Soon after his heady China trip, Nixon planned a six-week worldwide tour, but a number of heads of state sent word that they had no time to see him, and his two former Secretaries of State, Kissinger and William Rogers, told him that such a trip was ill-advised. Nixon failed to grasp that it was too soon since he had been forced to leave office to start playing world leader again, though he agreed to postpone that trip. He did appear at the Oxford Union, where he was greeted with jeers but at the end of his appearance received a standing ovation. Upon his return, Nixon told a reporter his guiding philosophy: “A man is not finished when he is defeated,” Nixon said. “He is finished when he quits.”

Nixon became increasingly audacious in his climb back toward respect- ability as the years went on. He sought to make himself the indispensable advisor to presidents on foreign policy dealings—sometimes by devious met ods—and he often succeeded. Though Jimmy Carter loathed Nixon, in 1979 the former president got himself invited to the first state dinner for Chinese leaders—at the insistence of the Chinese—despite the fact that Carter wasn’t at all eager to have him there. After Nixon took yet another trip to China later in 1979, he was voted one of Gallup’s ten most admired men in the world.

Nixon was playing fantasy president, which meant attending all of the most important funerals, since that’s what presidents and ex-presidents do. But the circumstances of Nixon’s ex-ness made for a most unusual situation and discomfited former presidents who hadn’t been thrown out of office. In 1981 he attended the funeral of the Shah of Iran and later that year managed to get himself included—along with former presidents Ford and Carter—in the official delegation to the funeral of Anwar Sadat, making for a rather tense threesome. At the end of the Cairo ceremonies, having told no one but Reagan’s national security adviser Al Haig (who had urged Reagan to include Nixon in the funeral entourage), Nixon slipped away from the delegation and took an extensive tour through the Middle East, despite a recurrence of his painful phlebitis. When Nixon returned from the trip, he sent a supposedly private report on his findings to the president—and released it to the press. This was a to be a technique he would use often to get attention to himself as the elder statesman: he would send some very important figure a “secret” document stating his views on this and that and simultaneously make it available to reporters.

And then in perhaps Nixon’s most brazen act of his effort to climb back to respectability he blackmailed Bill Clinton into consulting him on Russia. He got word to Clinton that if he weren’t paid proper respect as a foreign policy guru he would write an op-ed in a major newspaper attacking the President’s handling of foreign policy. Following Nixon’s subterranean threat and some lobbying by Nixon allies, Clinton telephoned him, appearing to seek his counsel, and then, still under pressure from the Nixon camp, on the eve of a two-man summit with Boris Yeltsin, Clinton reluctantly invited Nixon

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