Through the looking glass with Richard Nixon

“The president dictated eight memos outlining a public relations push-back. It was part of the foreign policy game. De-escalation was contingent on [North Vietnam] believing Nixon would escalate; which was contingent upon keeping presidential approval ratings high; which was contingent on the appearance of de-escalation. As one of the big syndicated columnists, Roscoe Drummond, observed, only grasping one-tenth of the complexity, unless Vietnam looked to be winding down, ‘popular opinion will roll over him as it did LBJ.’ At which Nixon thundered upon his printed news summary, ‘E&K – Tell him that RN is less affected by press criticism and opinion than any Pres in recent memory.’ Because he was the president most affected by press criticism and opinion of any president in recent memory. Which if known would make him look weak. And any escalatory bluff would be impossible. Which would keep him from credibility as a de-escalator; which would block his credibility as an escalator; which would stymie his ability to de-escalate; and then he couldn’t ‘win’ Vietnam – which in his heart he didn’t believe was possible anyway.

Through the looking glass with Richard Nixon: this stuff was better than LSD.”

– Rick Perlstein, Nixonland

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