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Healing Richard Nixon: a Doctor's Memoir.


Here is another book that gives insights into the enigmatic nature of Richard M. Nixon, the only president to resign from office. John Lungren became acquainted with Nixon early in his political career, serving as a volunteer physician with the campaign entourage. Over the years, the pair got to know each other more intimately, and, following Watergate and the resignation, Nixon asked Lungran to become his personal physician, telling him that he was one of the few men the former chief executive could trust. The doctor accepted and became a sympathetic friend and confidant.

After Watergate, Nixon described himself as "emotionally drained and a physical wreck." The onetime workaholic lost all ambition and was in a state of severe depression. Chief District Court Judge John Sirica put pressure on him to attend hearings in Washington, D.C., some 3,000 miles away from his San Clemente, Calif., residence. Lungren cautioned that the ex-President was too sick to travel, having a particularly bad case of phlebitis--a blood dot in the leg which, if loosed, could travel to the lungs, heart, or brain.

Many of Nixon's enemies accused the doctor of severing up for his most famous patient. Lungren's office was broken into on two occasions and the probability is high that Nixon's medical records were photographed for evidence against the diagnosis. The physician even received threatening phone calls. Sirica appointed a panel of medical experts to review the files and they concurred with Lungren. In fact, Nixon under won't surgery to remove the clot and nearly died during the procedure.

Thirty years have passed since the great scandal rocked the White House, but one still recalls the familiar names of those connected with the event, even though it is a challenge to remember the role each played. Test your memory on John Mitchell, H.R. Haldeman, Theodore White, Herb Klein, and Rose Mary Woods. (Incidentally, the latter was one of the President's most loyal supporters and it was she who "accidentally" erased part of what appeared to be an incriminating tape. Woods was a quiet powerhouse and later joined the staff at San Clemente.)

This book recounts the pressures Nixon encountered during his election campaigns, terms of office, and following the White House years. In 1956, for instance, Dwight Eisenhower was a reluctant candidate for a second term, so Nixon, his vice president, had to perform most of the work in getting out the vote. Then, too, after Ike's heart attack, the question of who might end up running the country came into focus. Post-Watergate, Nixon virtually was broke and thus accepted a series of interviews with the British broadcaster David Frost. Advised that Frost "was out to get him," Nixon's confidence returned and he relished the challenge. The four "talks" netted Nixon $600,000, but $540,000 went to pay his attorneys, the remaining $60,000 to his literary agents.

Given the canons of medical ethics, it is important to note that the account of this private relationship between Nixon and Lungren was authorized by the former commander in chief, both legally and in a personal note to the doctor. Five years in the making, the book was completed by Lungran's son--a one-time Attorney General of California--after his father's death. Essentially, Healing Richard Nixon is the story of a disgraced president "climbing out of heft to achieve redemption."
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Author:Kreyche, Gerald F.
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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