‘Kissinger made a big issue about whether he smoked a cigar or not. but he didn’t get into the issues about whether he bombed Cambodia or instituted a coup (l’état in Chile. Even sight unseen. the Nixon family came out with a critical statement. With a movie of this nature and my name involved. I suppose it would have been a real catlight. I didn’t have the stomach for it but that’s not to say I would have run from it.‘ Oliver Stone ducking out of a verbal battle? This is the man who turned conservative views of patriotism on their head in Born On The

FOIU'l/l Of July; who dared to suggest government complicity in the Kennedy assassination with JFK; who scandalised

censors with the violent images of Natural Born Killers. Surely he courts controversy.

‘I know I‘m accused of that constantly.‘ he says. ‘l don’t enjoy. actually. the war for public opinion here in the States because it‘s a battle that I could not possibly win. The instruments of opinion are controlled by the newspapers and the televisions. and I come . . .

Suddenly the line goes dead: just a cold. high- pitched drone from across the Atlantic. Are the telephones controlled too? Do the FBI still do wiretaps? C’mon Oliver, is this a conspiracy as well?

Nixon opens on Friday 15 Marc/l. Natural Born Killers is available to rent on video from 22


Political animal

David Harris charts the rise and fall of Richard Nixon. '


‘There were several articles condemning the film before it had been shot. Even

catfight.’ Oliver Stone

sight unseen, the Nixon family came out with a critical statement. With a movie of this nature and my name involved, I suppose it would have been a real

The President’s men: Oliver Stone guides James Woods as II. II. Haldeman ln lecn

second acts in American lives; in the bizarre case of Richard Milhous Nixon, there was a whole pantomime. Having served as one of McCarthy’s right-hand dogs during the anti-scarlet fever of the 40$, he rose to the rank of Vice President under Eisenhower and was only narrowly defeated by Kennedy in the 1960 race for the No 1 spot. Failing to secure the govemorship of his home state of California in 1962, he announced his retirement from politics. Like a little boy the other kids don’t play with (mainly because he steals their sweets and beats them if he loses), he snarled with characteristic indignation at reporters: ‘You won‘t have Nixon to kick around anymore. gentlemen. This is my last press conference.‘ How those words must have echoed round the Oval Office when he signed his resignation twelve years later.

According to F. Scott Fitzgerald, there are no

The kicks soon lost their power and, judging by the-

obituaries and funeral orations that followed his death in 1994, the world either forgave or forgot what once made Nixon America’s most hated man. As if in a fairy tale of his own devising. he had become a respected elder statesman.

The first line of defence is that even if you disagreed with his domestic policy. the Nixon administration made great strides in foreign affairs. After secretly conspiring to sabotage a peace deal prior to his election in 1968, he intensified the futile and vindictive bombing of Vietnam. expanding the

conflict into Cambodia and Laos. more years of war, peace without‘hono'ur. of Pol Pot. Then of course theregweifeihtibfg ; 7c."

meetings with Mac and Brezhnev, theLspL'ej

which was to mollify Pekingand'ij‘ pushing the Cold War into a detail-3r. " entrenchment. - _ , With his no-neck monster hunchz ted- shark’s grin and check-the-exit eyes, 'Niitéfiilwlked' uncomfortable in the limelight he had‘S‘pent‘aéliféffite' courting. Many take this as a sign of fallibility. But his is not the tragedy Salesman, of the little man beleagderc‘dabyruli‘féisf battles. This is the Greek stuff, muues's' duplicity and self-obsession‘folloWed‘bchSFiifi’ divine retribution: not a damp ‘eye in the‘haii‘s'ézif‘it‘ "7“ If he seemed grubbily, awkwardly hu‘f'_ reelected by a landslide victory over 1972, didn’t dupe the nationwith trickery. On the contrary. he» was wanted: someone to sort out the niacin}? .. i“ freaks. , ' ._ The tawdry last-ditch defence - he wasjitipfgfiflqhsci than most career politicians - is syrn dangerous cynicism besetting But before getting sentimental and 5.: a little bit of Nixon in us all,: .we.‘.::s§cfntg,i;l compassion fall where it belongs, on: America andAsia. There canbe, nO'-$_t6"*" =‘ _ . . White House. - ' 3 3.73.; .7.»-

The List 8-2l Mar 199611