By now you may already have heard about Don Fulsom’s new book Nixon's Darkest Secrets: The Inside Story of America's Most Troubled President. It has attracted some attention because in it Fulsom suggests that Richard Nixon may have been a closeted homosexual who carried on a long-term affair with Bebe Rebozo.
Is it true? Who the hell knows? My understanding is that the book’s argument is entirely circumstantial and that Nixon’s alleged homosexuality cannot be definitively proved one way or the other, even if the individual reader may find Fulsom’s argument persuasive. I won’t be reading the book myself because my interest in a dead president’s sexual orientation ranks about on the same level as my interest in reading the US tax code from beginning to end.
I will say this though: it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true. As a matter of fact, when I heard about the book my first thought was, That actually would explain a lot. From everything else I’ve read about Nixon, the man’s naked ambition and lust for power seemed driven by a deep sense of inadequacy and self-loathing. I can easily see how being a closeted homosexual – especially if he was a closeted homosexual who felt that his orientation made him “less of a man” – could have been the fuel that fired both Nixon’s self hatred and his unquenchable need to triumph over his enemies and detractors.
And I’d be willing to bet that – if Nixon really was homosexual – in his deepest heart of hearts he was always whispering to himself: “If the President does it, it is not gay.”