N E W Y O R K, Aug. 27, 2000 -- A new biography of PresidentRichard Nixon says he medicated himself with a mood-alteringdrug in the White House and also beat his wife, according totoday’s New York Times which quotes the book.
The book says Nixon was depressed by hostile publicreaction to the bombing of Cambodia in 1970 and had consulted aNew York psychotherapist who considered him “neurotic.”
The book, The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World ofRichard Nixon by Anthony Summers, an Irish journalist, ispublished by Viking on Monday.
The paper also quotes the biography as saying that DefenseSecretary James Schlesinger was concerned about Nixon andordered all military units not to react to orders from theWhite House unless it was cleared with him or the secretary ofstate.
The Times says that Schlesinger confirmed the account in aninterview with the paper and says that the quotes attributed tohim in the book “was how he felt.” In the book, Schlesinger isquoted as saying “I am proud of my role in protecting theintegrity of the chain of command. You could say it wassynonymous with protecting the Constitution.”
Given Drug in 1968?
According to the book, Nixon was given the prescriptiondrug Dilantin in 1968 by Jack Dreyfus, founder of the DreyfusFund who was also an enthusiastic promoter and user of thedrug.
In an interview with the Times this week, Dreyfus confirmedthe account, the paper says. Dreyfus told the Times he gaveNixon a bottle of 1,000, 100-milligram capsules “when his moodwasn’t too good,” and later gave the president another 1,000capsules.
Dreyfus told the Times that the drug was effective indealing with “fear, worry, guilt, panic, anger and relatedemotions, irritability, rage, mood, depression, violentbehavior, hyperglycemia, alcohol, anorexia, bulimia and bingeeating, cardiac arrhythmia, muscular disorders.”
The Times quoted a doctor at Cornell medical school assaying the drug potentially had very serious side effect risks,like a change of mental status, confusion, memory loss andcould affect cognitive function.
The Times said that the author’s wife, Robbyn Swan, whocollaborated on the book, was interviewed by telephone thisweek near their Waterford, Ireland home and played a taperecording of an interview with Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker who atone time had treated Nixon.
According to the interview with Hutschnecker, who is now102 and living in Sherman, Connecticut, he said of Nixon: “Hedidn’t have a serious psychiatric diagnosis. He wasn’tpsychotic...but he had a good portion of neurotic symptoms:anxiety” and sleeplessness.
Another charge made in the book is that Nixon beat hiswife, Pat. The Times observes that the author relies onsecond-hand accounts and writes of various journalists beingtold of beatings.
Gave Wife Black Eye?
Specifically, there is an account in the book that comesfrom John Sears, a Nixon aide during the 1968 campaign in whichSears is quoted as saying that a Nixon family lawyer, WallerTaylor, “told me that Nixon had hit her in 1962 and that shethreatened to leave him over it...I’m not talking about asmack...He blackened her eye...I had heard about that from PatHillings as well as from the family lawyer.”
The Times says that Sears, a retired Washington lawyer,confirmed to the paper that he had told Summers about Taylorand Hillings, a longtime Nixon associate. Both Taylor andHillings are dead.
The Nixon family called the accusation of wife-beatingfalse, and a family spokesman said “it is utterlyinconceivable.”