If you never really liked Richard Nixon but never understood why, perhaps his son-in-law David Eisenhower has come up with the only logical reason. In an interview in Your Place magazine, David theorizes that the reason most people showed antipathy toward the former president is that he happened to be a native of California, which is "an untempered state by Eastern standards.
Mr. Eisenhower was quoted as saying that Mr. Nixon seemed to be "an American political figure uniquely capable of inspiring personal hostility because, throughout his political career, he represented California in all its meanings in American politics."
I buy the theory.
In all my years in Washington I have never seen a state maligned as much as California. Everyone in the 49 other states holds some grudge against it. Some people are just mad at it because it's there.
But others have more rational reasons for their hostility. It isn't surprising to go to a party back East and hear someone say, "Do you know what I paid for a head of California lettuce today?" And the other person will reply, "Probably as mush as what I paid to see 'Star Wars,' which was made in Hollywood." Or, "This Califonia wine tastes like it was pressed by Sen. Hayakawa."
The image of California has been distorted by the gossip columnists. Most people think all its women look like Farrah Fawcett and its men drive Rolls-Royces and wear Gucci shoes when playing tennis on their private courts.
The enmity toward California can be translated to one word: Jealousy. In the old days Americans couldn't take it out on Charlton Heston, so they had no choice but to kick Richard Nixon around.
I've talked to many people in the East about their hostility toward Nixon and it's amazing how irrational their responses were. One person said, "He turned San Clemente into a slum."
A professor from an Ivy League school said, "When he was vice president, I heard his cocker spaniel used to do do-do on the bushes in the rose garden."
A secretary in New York City admitted she was turned off by Nixon as a politician because every time he took a walk on the beach near San Clemente, he wore a shirt and tie and a pin-stripe suit with the pants rolled up. "When you see a guy walking in surf like that on television you have to figure he's doing something to screw up the country."
It isn't just the East but also the Midwest that harbours a paranoia for California. A friend from the Midwest said he hated the state because "Every time it rains in San Francisco we get snow in Chicago."
Although I was born in New York, I went to the University of Southern California, and I've never shared the enmity toward Nixon felt by so many people in the rest of the country.
I never mistrusted Richard Nixon because he came from California.
A president should not be judged by where he came from. The sole criterion should be his record in office. If he was a good leader and chose an honest staff, and was never involved in the obstruction of justice or coverups, and never restored to dirty tricks, and always paid his taxes and told the truth and never violated the law, then in my book he's an okay guy.
The best way for people to get over their prejudice against California politicians is to search their souls for 18 1/2 minutes, and then ask, "Was David Eisenhower talking about me?"