A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance CompanyExecutive offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Pres. Was Nixon a victim of the Peter Principle? By Laurence J. Peter This article, by the author of PETER PRINCIPLE: WHY THINGS ALWAYS GO WRONG, was inspired by the numerous serious phychological explanations offered in an attempt to account for Nixon’s behavior. Originally intended for private circulation, it is published here with Mr. Peter’s permission. I never was in favor of impeaching Richard M. Nixon \(“Up from Watergate,” Psychology Today, studies of American Corporate practices showed that while all hierarchies promote individuals to levels of incompetence, they also provide a means to dispose of a chief executive who becomes an embarrassment. Usually a company president who goofs-up undergoes a process called percussive sublimation he is kicked upstairs. The incompetent executive seldom resists this psuedo-promotion. Ever since the seriousness of Watergate became evident, I have advocated that the post of Premier General be established. If Nixon had been promoted to the purely ceremonial position of Premier General, he would be cutting ribbons, delivering commencement addresses, riding in parades, and carrying out other prestigious but non-administrative duties. This would have provided America with the advantages of having a fulltime, working executive branch as well as a ceremonial branch, without the disadvantages of a hereditary monarchy. By separating the functions of head of state and head of government the President would be relieved of most of the present social obligations of the office, while the Premier General would have nothing but social and ceremonial obligations. Although it is obvious that promotion would have been superior to impeachment or resignation, my advice did not prevail and the country was forced to agonize, for many months, unnecessarily over Watergate. Now that Mr. Nixon has resigned and his misuse of power has been exposed, the question of why he engaged in this pathological behavior remains unanswered. Psychohistorians have had a field day trying to analyze Richard M. Nixon. Some have attributed his behavior to various kinds of psychosis. Some of his detractors have called him a psychopath while his supporters have called him pragmatic. I am unable to differentiate between these two diagnoses. Unfortunately none of these attempts at remote-control psychological analysis have offered a satisfactory explanation of why he employed “dirty tricks” in his ’72 campaign, when he already had it made. They fail to say why he installed secret devices to record the details of the cover-up, his plotting against the F.B., and his own obscene language, nor do they say why he did not destroy the tapes when the heat was on. Although the psychological experts have failed to say why Nixon engaged in this self-destructive behavior that led to his downfall, the answer is not very difficult if we review the evidence objectively. Let us go back to 1962. In that year two important events occurred in Nixon’s career. He bade farewell to politics with hiS now famous words to news reporters, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more,” and he published his first book, “Six Crises.” Throughout the book his obsessive preoccupation with crises was evident. He said, “crises may indeed be agony but it is the exquisite agony which a man might not want to experience again yet would not for the world have missed.” In 1972, six days after the Watergate break-in, in a tape recorded discussion of the cover-up with Haldeman, Nixon referred repeatedly to my “Six Crises.” Nixon urged Haldeman to re-read it and told him to buy copies for everyone. He referred to it as a great book that reads like a novel. Later Colson admitted to reading the book 14 times at Nixon’s insistence. I have known some pushy authors but Nixon is the worst. He was still pushing his book 10 years after publication. Obviously Nixon’s subconscious ambition was to be a best selling author. The foundation of Nixon’s literary career was crises, and, consciously or subconsciously, after a six-year layoff he was compelled by his literary zeal to get back into the crises business. This need was made perfectly clear in his selection of Spiro T. Agnew as vice presidential running mate. Soon after occupying the White House, the President and his men got right to work on illegal surveillance operations, bugging teams, surreptitious entries, “deep sixing” of evidence, plumber’s operations, obstruction of justice, perjury, hush money, blackmail, enemie’s’ lists, the secret bombing of Cambodia, the Pentagon spying on the White House, the White House spying on itself, $100,000 in cash to Bebe Rebozo, San Clemente and tax write-offs, using the F.B.I., and C.I.A. and the Justice Department for political purposes, I.T.T. and the milk fund, falsified polls, doctored documents and forging of past presidential records. Why did he do it? Why did he tape record it? Obviously this was his raw material for a forthcoming series of crises epics. This is why he refused to give up the tapes. Even when he was forced, by the Judiciary Committee, to relinquish the tapes, the author in him prevailed and he refused to release the raw data. He worked around the clock to prepare his own edited version and presented it in book form. As I watched Nixon on television with his printed version of the tapes, I could not help but detect the pride of authorship in the fleeting smile and fond glance each time he pointed to his stack of freshly bound transcripts. Nixon said that he only criticized those that he respected. Could this be his reason for giving members of the press such a bad time? I believe that it was. His hostile posture when dealing with the press was a reaction formation caused by his jealousy of their positions as writers. Recent events support this interpretation. Almost immediately upon arriving at his San Clemente estate, ordinary citizen, Richard M. Nixon ordered this his vice-presidential papers, a previous library donation for tax purposes, not be made available until 1985. He entered into negotiations with a publisher for his memoirs, and continued his claim of personal ownership of the White House tapes. Obviously Nixon was a victim of the Peter Principle tactics that worked in his lower level political positions were not acceptable when escalated to the presidential level. But Nixon also succumbed to a deep seated psychological need. His unchecked literary ambition involved him in creating bigger and bigger crises. Ultimately, he became a victim of his own principle. The Nixon Principle: If two wrongs don’t make a right try three.