02/07/07 - an isolated president

In today's excerpt - the remote management style of Richard Nixon (1913-1994):

"Nixon fashioned an ingenious device to enhance his own personal authority. Where Lyndon Johnson had worked to the blare of news broadcasts from three televisions mounted on the walls of the Oval Office and to the constant clatter of two wire-service teleprinters behind his desk, Nixon preferred to have his news closely sifted and filtered. He arranged for a daily summary of stories from the newspapers and the networks to be compiled overnight in the West Wing by trusted political aides for him to check out when he came to work in the morning. Not only were the summaries tailored to his tastes and political needs, but the president could use them as a launchpad for instructions to his aides that often took the form of angry outbursts against enemies, real or imagined, inside and outside the administration. 'FIRE HIM' he would scrawl when learning of some bureaucratic outrage. These written orders minimized his exposure to subordinates outside the powerful threesome [Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Kissinger]. Somehow, amid the intense and even frenzied interaction of scores of West Wingers, the president of the United States remained a loner, seated in an Oval Office as hushed and solemn as a hermitage. ...

"Within the executive branch, Nixon was almost as distant from his own cabinet. He utterly lacked any wish to work with his party in Congress or with his department heads as a team. 'I must build a wall around me,' he had told Haldeman on the very first evening of his presidency. ...

"One of the most poignant moments of Nixon's final departure from the White House was when he apologized to his staff for not having been in better touch with them. 'I just haven't had the time.' he said."


James MacGregor Burns


Running Alone: Presidential Leadership from from JFK to Bush II


Basic Books a member of the Perseus Books Group


Copyright 2006 by James MacGregor Burns


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