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6 - Psychology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Richard Immerman
Affiliation:
Professor and Chair of History, Temple University
Michael J. Hogan
Affiliation:
Ohio State University
Thomas G. Paterson
Affiliation:
University of Connecticut
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Summary

Was Richard M. Nixon mad when he assumed responsibility for U.S. foreign policy? The attention paid to his personality, particularly after the Watergate break-in, suggests that many people believed him to be so, or close to it. In one context Nixon evidently preferred it that way: He intended to persuade Hanoi that it must either agree to a quick peace or, according to H. R. Haldeman, face the consequences of a madman cocking the trigger on the American nuclear shotgun. “They'll [the leaders of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam] believe any threat of force Nixon makes because it's Nixon,” the president reportedly confided to his White House chief of staff. “I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them [that we] can't restrain him when he's angry … and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”

Whether Nixon sincerely sought to portray himself as a madman, was mad to think he could, or was just plain mad cannot be determined conclusively from the available evidence, although many writers have tried. Because Haldeman was reconstructing from memory a conversation that occurred some ten years earlier, moreover, he could have distorted the president's words or manufactured the incident to serve his own purposes. Yet Haldeman alleges the conversation did take place, and it is plausible that it did and his recollection of it is accurate.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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  • Psychology
  • Edited by Michael J. Hogan, Ohio State University, Thomas G. Paterson, University of Connecticut
  • Book: Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511806445.007
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  • Psychology
  • Edited by Michael J. Hogan, Ohio State University, Thomas G. Paterson, University of Connecticut
  • Book: Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511806445.007
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Psychology
  • Edited by Michael J. Hogan, Ohio State University, Thomas G. Paterson, University of Connecticut
  • Book: Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511806445.007
Available formats
×