Richard Nixon, who remains probably the most enigmatic and fascinating of modern presidents, would have been 100 years old today. I never exactly met him, though I was in the same room with him twice, and got a nod and a smile.
Thirty years ago, however, I got a surprising and totally unsolicited letter and package from our only president ever to resign from office. In his own handwriting, Nixon wrote:
“Dear Mr. Lessenberry, in view of the national debate on foreign policy issues, I thought you might like to have a copy of the page proofs of a book on Soviet-American relations which I have just completed.” Nixon added that he was sending the book to, quote, “a selected number of government officials and opinion leaders.”
This flabbergasted me. I was then a young national correspondent for the Detroit News, specializing in politics and foreign affairs, and frequently traveled abroad. But I was hardly a national opinion leader.
Then it dawned on me why he had sent the letter. Following his resignation, Nixon turned out a steady stream of books, largely self-serving, in an effort to rebuild his reputation.