calumny made all tht^ worse by his righ-
teous rhetoric. (Wicker reports that, as
early as 1950. Averelt Harriman walked
out of a supper he was supposed to
attend with Nixon, saying, "I will not
break bread with that man I") His
opportunistic progress rij^ht up to
Watergate, his grim mancitverings in
Vietnam, his smarmy schcmings to re-
esuiblish himsell' in the years between
his resignation and his death—these
ptit him well beyond the I'urthest pale.
The historian Joan Hoff says in her
study of Nixon that he was not unprinci-
pled biu aprincipled, meaning that he
had "no apparent awareness ot coiuen-
tional moral or ethical standards." This
strikes me as gcneious.
Al! of the above is to underscore that
I went to Stone's film with one question
uppcimost in my mind: Why? Even
acknowledging Stone's understandably
persistent concern with Vietnam, why
this long film about Nixon? To some
extent, Stone answers this qticstion.
which he clearly foresaw.
begins with a disclaimer, stating
that the film uses dramatic license, in-
cluding condensation, that some scenes
"have been hypothesized or condensed."
I'm unequipped to check all the rear-
rangements, thotigh one of them struck
me forcibly. The weird scene at the Lin-
coln Memorial at 4 a.m. one morning
(luring ihe Vietnam War has patently
been fiddled wilh: the confrontation
witii students, which here ends pensively,
in lact ended with ugly gestures uii both
sides. As this iilni moves along—races,
despite its length—we see that it is nei-
ther Lin attack on Nixon nor a defense.
Nor is il a tragedy. Large pronotuice-
nicnts have been made, some of ihem by
Slone. using that word; but
liagedy. The protagonist's fall causes no
catharsis. For the kindliest viewer, it is
pathetic; for the rest of us, it is high time.
The picture is a case study. It exam-
ines Nixon's insecurities and his resul-
uuit aggressions; his firm beliefs at one
moment and his equally firm dismissal
of them later; his conibinalion of over-
weening complacency and defensi\e*
ness; his grabbings and his near-shock
when some of the grabbings succeed;
his desperation to attract people and
his failure to do so. (After Nixon's fall,
fvissinger says, "Clan you imagine what
ihis man would have been if he had
ever been loved?") However, despite
Stone's inerctirial giits, the film does
not become an artistic whole; it remains
an examination of characteristics.
What's missing is what Stone's best
films have had: a subtext, a large theme
evoked by the action on the screen. With
it was a ntnninous atmosphere of
uncertainty that has liiiunted this coun-
iry since that murder. With
it was the ftising of'life and media
reports of life, .so timtwe all swim in a sea
of horrific electronic assatilt. But with
such a theme is not discernible.
This leaves the film not much more than