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Richard Nixon And Donald Trump Letters

October 1, 2020

Pictured below is Richard Nixon and Donald Trump with his first of three wives…Ivana…along with John Connally.

This post about Richard Nixon and Donald Trump is yet another case as to why it is important not to toss away letters and writings as they give such wonderful insight. As an aside, this week we learned that the love letters from Jimmy Carter, as he was courting his wife-to-be Rosalyn, are rather racy—according to a new book by Jonathan Alter, author of His Very Best.

But it is the letters between the cerebral Nixon and the vacuous Trump which has caught my attention. The letters are part of an exhibit that opened today at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

The correspondence includes:

  •     Trump’s invitation to President and Mrs. Nixon to move into Trump Tower: “One of my great ambitions is to have the Nixons as residents in Trump Tower,” Trump wrote Nixon in 1983.
  •     Trump’s expression of admiration for Nixon. In 1993, Trump wrote: “You are a great man, and I have had and always will have the utmost respect and admiration for you. I am proud to know you.”
  •     Nixon’s note on media scrutiny: “I know nothing about the intricacies of your business enterprises but the massive media attack on you puts me in your corner!” Nixon hand wrote to Trump in 1990.
  •     A personally-inscribed copy of Trump’s The Art of the Deal from Nixon’s personal library: “To Richard Nixon – I greatly appreciate your note and hope you enjoy the book. Please give my regards to Mrs. Nixon – a truly wonderful lady.”

I think that you are one of this country’s great men, and it was an honor to spend an evening with you,” Trump writes to Nixon in June 1982, less than eight years after Nixon resigned the presidency during the Watergate scandal. The two had been spotted together at the “21” nightclub and Trump was writing Nixon to thank him for forwarding a photo.

The next fall, it is Nixon chiming in.

“Let me be so presumptuous as to offer a little free advice (which is worth, incidentally, exactly what it costs!)” Nixon writes to Trump. Nixon, who played football in college and never lost his love for the game, then unspools detailed thoughts on how Trump should handle the New Jersey Generals football team that he had recently purchased and would fold by 1986. (Nixon included plenty of shoutouts for the underappreciated lineman, his old position.)

Trump, for his part, is unabashed about one of his aims for the relationship: “One of my great ambitions is to have the Nixons as residents in Trump Tower,” he writes that October.

But after the Nixons toured Trump’s flagship development on Fifth Avenue, the ex-president wrote that his wife “was impressed as I was but feels at this time she should not undertake the ordeal of a move”. She had suffered a mild stroke that August.

So it went, the patter of “Dear Donald” and “Dear Mr President”.

Trump, putting his usual self-congratulatory stamp on the exchanges, said shortly after the 2016 election that he didn’t know Nixon “but he would write me letters. It was very interesting. He always wanted me to run for office.”

What motivated the correspondence between a young man seeking a bright future and an ex-president with a dark past?

Nixon expert Luke Nichter, a professor at Texas A&M-Central Texas, says the two men “saw something similar in each other – that toughness, that guts, even being beaten up and coming back”.

At Trump’s age at the time, says Nichter, “I can’t imagine trying to befriend an ex-president … Somehow, I think they both pulled it off and I think they both served a need for each other.”

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