The recently released Nixon tapes surprised almost nobody as they depicted the disgraced president as, well, disgraceful. At the same time that people are reacting to Nixon's latest batch of vulgarities, homophobia, and anti–Semitic sentiments, an unfortunate story has been in the news about the late President's daughters. Apparently, Julie Nixon Eisenhower and Tricia Nixon Cox stopped talking to each other about five years ago because they disagree about how the Nixon Library should be financed and run.
Nobody would have blamed the Nixon girls if they had distanced themselves from their father and his library. Not every disgraced parent has such loyal children. Jack the Ripper's kids didn't open a Hall of Knives and Daggers, and Bill Buckner's kids don't run the Museum of First Baseman's Gloves. But Richard Nixon's daughters have not turned their backs on him. Since they have so much family loyalty, I was surprised that they had stopped talking to each other. Ostensibly, Tricia would like the Nixon family to control the library while Julie would prefer it to be managed by a more professional group. You don't have to have an office with a couch and two doors to think there's probably something a little deeper going on here.
I've never understood feuds within a family. Even when I don't know the people involved, I always get upset when I hear about family members who are estranged. It all seems so sad, so silly, so petty. I've never stopped talking to a cousin who forgot my birthday, or said something nasty to me, or didn't invite me to a dinner, or gave me a bad gift. And I can honestly say that my brother and I have not had one argument about who should run the Garver Library.
The Nixon sisters have both filed lawsuits, and in the meantime, a $19 million bequest from Nixon's old friend, Bebe Rebozo is being withheld from the library. Who would have thought that almost thirty years after Watergate, the words "Nixon," "Rebozo," and "disputed funds" would be back in the news?
Because of the sisters' spat, the Nixon Library is in trouble financially. It's possible that this isn't the only reason the library has money problems. I would guess that the opportunity to see some photographs of Nixon and some of his papers does not make too many people cancel their plans to visit Disneyland. Regardless, to raise money, the library has taken to renting itself out.
Weddings, seminars, award ceremonies, alumni gatherings, and fundraisers are suggested events. It would make more sense to me if they advertised it with slogans like, "Come to lunch, then stay and bribe a public official." They claim that more than 500 companies and individuals have used the library for various events. I have one question: Why? Why would a couple want to have the name of the most disgraced president in American history associated with what should be the happiest day of their lives? If I were at a business meeting there, I'd constantly worry that whatever I said was being secretly recorded. And "fundraisers?" That seems like a strange choice. It's not as if the family has a good track record for dealing with contributions.
It just seems like a weird place to have these kinds of events. I don't associate Nixon with a guest list as much as an "enemies list." But who am I to tell people where to have their get-togethers? If they want to have a pre-school play date in the mud-slinging pit or wherever, that's fine with me. I just don't think that whoever runs the library should expect too many people to reserve the place for Bar Mitzvahs.
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Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver