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Johnson, J.P. (1979). Nixon's Use of Metaphor: The Real Nixon Tapes. Psychoanal. Rev., 66(2):263-274.

(1979). Psychoanalytic Review, 66(2):263-274

Nixon's Use of Metaphor: The Real Nixon Tapes

James P. Johnson

In the David Frost interviews, Richard Nixon continued the major Watergate coverup but ended a personal coverup concerning his feelings about loss and separation. This man who said that he did not like to “show my emotions” revealed them by selecting some unusual metaphors and images to illustrate his feelings. In the rambling, emotional sections of the Frost interviews dealing with Nixon's feelings of loss and sadness over having to “butcher” his aides Haldeman and Ehrlichman and then resign the presidency, he used metaphors that seem to echo the grief he felt as a young man when his brothers Arthur and Harold died. Perhaps in firing his aides and resigning the presidency, Nixon was replaying the real Nixon tapes—those that recorded his feelings of deep pain and survivor guilt.

A term used by Robert J. Lifton to describe feelings of the survivors of Hiroshima and the Nazi death camps, survival guilt is similar to Sigmund Freud's “wrecked by success” syndrome. Freud wrote that when someone achieved more than his parents or survived a sibling, subconscious feelings of rivalry and death wishes toward them could arouse feelings of having caused the death. Lifton's concept is more

* In the interviews Nixon was, of course, attempting to convince the public that he was not responsible for the coverup and that he had to fire the men who were.

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