Dick & Bebe sittin' in a tree . . . A new book's assertion that Richard M. Nixon may have shared his Tricky Dicky with longtime pal Charles "Bebe" Rebozo lights up the blogosphere and media world. It also ticks off one of the 37th president's greatest local boosters. "Not true, take it from me," says former Nixon chief of staff and Library & Birthplace executive director-turned-Episcopalian priest, John H. Taylor.
The full quote, on Taylor's The Episconixonian blog:
"Not true--take it from me, his former chief of staff, executor, and library director, and from Kathy O'Connor, his last chief of staff. We were around him for tens of thousands of hours, and the gaydar registered zero. The needle never flickered. Nixon was heterosexual. He loved smart, attractive women, flirted with them keenly if ineptly, and had no sexual energy whatsoever with men."
Do straight men have gaydar? Anyway: according to a London Daily Mail story on veteran Washington reporter Don Fulsom's book Nixon's Darkest Secrets: The Inside Story of America's Most Troubled President, which comes out (ha!) the end of next month, Nixon is not only accused of possibly being swishy but of beating his wife, having a serious drinking problem and being linked since his 1969 inauguration to the Chicago Mafia.
Taylor takes offense at each notion and believes Fulsom is relying on bombshells long since discredited in Anthony Summers' 2000 book The Arrogance of Power. For instance, on Dick's 53-year marriage to Patricia Nixon being "little more than a sham" and the President calling his First Lady a "fucking bitch" and his beating her before, during and after his presidency, Taylor writes:
No one close to Nixon has ever said or intimated that they saw or heard anything remotely like this. Summers' principal source was a former uniformed Secret Service agent who would rarely if ever have been in the White House family quarters. I learned about him after one of Nixon's former pilots overheard the man bragging in a bar about his coming star turn with a British TV crew that was promoting the Summers book. The man's allegations were probably known to Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, who had a family connection with the source, and Pulitzer Prize winner (and thoroughgoing Nixon critic) Seymour Hersh. Neither reporter published the charge.
Ah, but Taylor points out that Hersh did mention the beat-Pat charge during a Harvard seminar in 1998 in which the--how'd he put it?--thoroughgoing Nixon critic claimed he had seen hospital records that proved Dick harmed Mrs. Nixon. "Hersh didn't adequately explain why he'd chosen not to publish what he says he knew," notes Taylor, who laments that the muckraker nonetheless helped logroll the unfounded for Summers and now Fulsom, 11 years later. Among Taylor's proof to the contrary: Nixon broke down publicly for the first time at Pat's funeral. Of course, he could have just seen the mortuary bill . . .
Taylor also dissects the Mafia and drinking assertions, but, like the rest of the media, the ornately robed vicar of St. John's Episcopal Church and School in Rancho Santa Margarita focuses most intently on the homo-chatter.
Being gay, of course, isn't a scandal. What gives Fulsom's allegations their heft is the automatically accompanying allegation that Nixon, being a Republican, was homophobic. The news is the hypocrisy rather than the homosexuality.
Secretly gay legislators who vote against gay rights and and closeted evangelicals who preach against them are fair game for the hypocrisy argument. Nixon isn't, because he wasn't gay, wasn't, therefore, a hypocrite, and in any event wasn't especially bigoted compared to men of his era.
Taylor brings up the widely held view of middle-aged straight men and the American Psychiatric Association of the 1960s, when each considered homosexuality an illness. Taylor's argument could be bolstered with this:
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Or, maybe that was just Dick going to the extreme to hide his gay-ness. You know, just like [INSERT YOUR FAVORITE ORANGE COUNTY REPUBLICAN LEGISLATOR HERE]. But having washed his hands of Dick being gay, Taylor turns to Rebozo, who I've always pictured alone on a yacht (easy) as it rocked softly on the Atlantic (stop it!). On Bebe's sexuality, the pastor writes:
When Kathy and I knew him in the 1980s and 1990s, Nixon told endless gags about his premarital conquests. We visited him at his home in Key Biscayne, where he shared a bedroom with his gracious wife, Jane. She cared for him devotedly after he suffered a stroke in the mid-1990s. Beyond that, his sex life was no one's business but his own. Innuendo and gossip from Summers, Fulsom, and the Daily Mail aside, the Nixons had a loving marriage, and Nixon and Rebozo had a strong, affectionate friendship that lasted 40 years. Maybe someone's suggesting that if two men care for each other, they must be gay. Who's homophobic then?
BTW, I searched for but couldn't find any Fulsom disses on The New Nixon blog compiled by Dickophants in Yorba Linda and beyond. But I did find an old post about Nixon's second visit to Martha's Vineyard in 1980 with "his good friends Bebe Rebozo and Robert Abplanalp." Among the three gentlemens' activities: "window shopping along lower Main Street in Edgartown."
Nope, nothing gay-sounding there.