Dick Nixon was before my time, given I came into this world about five months before Ronald Reagan convinced 48 states he wasn’t on the precipice of senility. I was born in 1980, is what I’m trying to say.
So, I don’t have a lot of familiarity with how Tricky Dick spoke, outside of mostly cartoon (or, at least, cartoonish) parodies. I didn’t see him on TV. I didn’t listen to any radio addresses by the Dickster (Secret Service nickname, I’m pretty sure). Still, this Twitter account that brought Richard Nixon into the modern world always read as so…authentic to me.
I was not sure why. The account captures the paranoia, ruthlessness and propensity for cursing that I vaguely knew characterized the man. Here, for example, is something the fake, living Nixon wrote today (Aug. 7):
“He can’t and should not do this, attack our integrity, and by God I’m going to fight the little bastard.”
But more so than that, it’s the turns of phrase. They are unexpected, dripping with individual voice, and poetic in a fascinatingly brutal sort of way. Check out this other one, also from today:
“The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. Write that on a blackboard a hundred times and never forget it.”
It’s just so particular. “Write that on a blackboard a hundred times and never forget it.” Why a blackboard? Why 100 times? Why the need to punctuate the 100 writings with an admonition never to forget? They are parallel sayings; either would have done. But he hits you with both fists. And with that, “hits you with both fists,” I’m aiming at what Fake Dick does best, I think: Choose something colorful, illustrative — an image or a punchy word instead of just limply saying the thing you’re talking about.
The account reads so clearly like the sayings of a particular person — even if I am not all that familiar with the real-life person being parodied, the particularity rang out clearly. And it’s really a joy to read. It must be a joy to write, too, to speak in the voice of someone who used words so brutally.
I was happy to read, then, this profile today of the account and its author — happy to see, first, that others found the account equally impressive as I did. Happy, second, to see that it actually does sound like Nixon. Unsurprisingly, the man behind the account is a writer, a playwright named Justin Sherin. Somewhat surprisingly, at 33, he’s younger than me. I guess he paid closer attention to historical speeches than I did. Or is just a better writer. Both are likely true. That fellow can write, the little bastard.