In his new collection of his Newsweek columns since the 1990s, Between the Lines: A View Inside American Politics, People, and Culture, Jonathan Alter revisits the Bushes, the Clintons, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra and Rush Limbaugh. John Taylor, who left as executive director of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation in Yorba Linda to become an Episcopalian priest in Rancho Santa Margarita, was not only surprised to learn he turns up in the Alter tome but that he was apparently a friend of the author's yet is no longer speaking to him.
Writing on his Episconixonian blog, Taylor notes that Alter reprints his April 1994 Nixon obit "and writes in a blurb that some had accused him of spitting on RN's grave. He adds that the director of the Nixon Library, 'the friend I tapped to bring Nixon to Newsweek in 1988,' had never spoken to him again." Taylor apologizes if he did not get the passage entirely correct, word for word, noting that he did not buy Alter's book. But you get the gist, and the gist "confounded" Taylor.
"First of all, I wouldn't say Alter and I were friends," Taylor writes. "We went to the same prep school, but he's three years younger, so our paths barely if ever crossed. When I was working for President Nixon in New York City in the 1980s, we talked a few times, though my recollection is that it was always in connection with his duties at the magazine. We had lunch once, too."
Taylor has a different recollection on how Nixon made his way into Newsweek, crediting Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham with tapping the former president for magazine's famous "He's Back" cover, although Alter did write the story. Taylor also did not remember ever reading Alter's 1994 obit, and, "As for my never talking to Alter again, I don't know why I necessarily would have, since we didn't have a social relationship."
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That matters not because Alter and Taylor did speak again, a year or two after Nixon's death, when they debated each other on cable television, Taylor writes. "I expected the conversation to be reasonably friendly, since we did know each other, but Jonathan had a better understanding than I of the emerging etiquette of cable news channels," Taylor recalled. "He ripped into Nixon and taunted me personally for defending him. If Alter means I hadn't talked to him since that episode, he's right. Actually, I've always assumed that he wouldn't have wanted to talk to me."