The Nixon Letters

Richard Nixon was presented with the 1 millionth copy of the Big Book.  It was presented by Dr. Jack Norris.  A picture of Dr. Norris presenting it to Nixon hangs on the wall at Stepping Stones.  Tom Pike, an early California AA member sober since 1946 had arranged for this presentation.  Tom  had served as Assistant Secretary of Defense and Special Assistant to President Eisenhower.  

When the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) authorized by the Hughes Act was created, Tom, along with Marty Mann and others, was appointed to the NIAAA advisory committee, and when his term ended he was replaced by his wife, Katherine.

During Watergate, Tom told me he had written a letter to Nixon advising him to use the 12 steps, but not because of his drinking.  Both his letter to President Nixon, as well as President Nixon's reply are included below.  


February 1, 1974

President Richard M. Nixon
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

Your State of the Union speech delivered to Congress was easily one of the finest I've heard you deliver. And I've heard you make a lot of good ones since you took on Jerry Voorhees in 1946 out here in the old 12th C.D.! 

Your style, your appearance, your manner, and what you said were confident,
strong, and impressive. You were every inch the leader in full command of himself and the situation. Your whole performance was one to inspire and rebuild the confidence of all who heard you, even including the Democrats.

Restoring the national confidence in the President is the biggest task you have. No military, industrial, or government leader can lead without this indispensable ingredient of confidence. I remember when I was in the White House in 1956 and 1958 trying to help Eisenhower and Sherm Adams ward off
impending recession and stem a rising unemployment rate, our overriding agenda item was how to restore citizens and consumer confidence and optimism.

As your long time good friend and supporter, whose faith, confidence, and affection is still strong today, I would like to make a suggestion which I hope you will consider seriously. You may think me presumptuous, but as an old friend, I am willing to run that risk.

First, a bit of necessary background: it has been established since time immemorial that admission of fault is good for the soul and that to err human and to forgive is divine. These are two principles found in most of the world's religions, ancient and modern. They are also used by modern psychiatrists and psychologists.

Not surprisingly, because these principles are basic to the needs of man, they are also contained in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which you can find in Chapter 5 of the Big AA book we presented you in April of last year at the White House. These 12 Steps are forged from simple universal principles drawn from religion and medicine. They constitute a program of recovery that works!

I suggest that you substitute the word, "Watergate" for "alcohol" in the first step (which would then read "admitted we were powerless over Watergate, and that our lives had become unmanageable"). Then you should conscientiously apply the rest of the 12 steps to your own situation. I am confident such a course of personal action rigorously followed, would ultimately resolve this difficult dilemma for you and the country.

My prime suggestion: In whatever way you can, after carefully studying Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7, put Step 10 into action: --"when we were wrong, promptly admitted it".

I know it's late, and there are many complexities legal and otherwise, but if you could somehow publicly admit more fully the mismanagement of Watergate, I am confident that you personally and the country will experience relief, surcease, and new hope beyond your fondest expectations. (See the attached Harris Poll clip from today's Los Angeles Times on Public Compassion.)

And why? Simply because the country's President and its citizens are both human and divine and have always behaved and reacted like the creatures of God which indeed they are. I believe most people know almost instinctively that to be forgiven, they must forgive, and who among us has not erred -- does not need forgiveness?

By using these principles, Len Firestone and Jonathan Winters, Jim Kemper, and I have discovered the way out of the baffling personal dilemma which nearly destroyed us.

You can too, Mr. President! If you would like to explore this personally and in greater depth, please call on me.  Nothing would please me more.

Katherine's and my fervent prayer for you and Pat is that God will make His will known to you and give you the power to carry it out.

Faithfully yours,
Thomas P. Pike.

P.S. You demonstrated good understanding on Step 11 when you urged those
attending the prayer breakfast yesterday "to try through prayer to find out what God wants America to be rather than to ask Him always to see that what we believe America to be prevails." Step 11: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him,
seeking only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out."


Chicago (UPI) -- Watergate developments have damaged President Nixon's public esteem but they also are evoking a sense of public compassion, according to the latest survey by pollster Louis Harris. This was the conclusion drawn when 56% of those queried agreed with a statement that the President is "trying to do his best in an almost impossible job." Only 38% disagreed.



February 25, 1974

Dear Tom:

Before another day passes, I wanted you to know that I received your very thoughtful letter of February 1. Many times in the past I have had occasion to thank you, but I must say once again how much it means to know I have been able to count on the loyalty and understanding of so many long-time friends.

I deeply appreciate your suggestions and the genuine spirit of concern and goodwill in which they were made.  As you know, in several televised press conferences I accepted responsibility along the lines you discussed.   Further, on a number of occasions I have pledged my full cooperation to the Special Prosecutor and to the Judiciary Committee so that the investigations can be concluded, the guilty parties brought to justice, and those innocent of any wrongdoing may be cleared and, hopefully, have their good names and reputations restored.  However, I have also stated that I will follow the precedent set by every other United States President of never doing anything that weakens the Office of the President or impairs the ability of future Presidents to make the great decisions that are so essential to this Nation and to the world.  This has been a difficult period not only for me but for all Americans, and when this and related matters are brought to a full and just resolution, I am confident the majority of the American people will come to understand that the trust they placed in me has not been violated. 

In the meanwhile, it is a source of constant reassurance to me to have the support of friends like Katherine and you and to be included in your prayers. Pat joins me in sending you both our warmest personal regards.

Sincerely, RN

Mr. Thomas P. Pike
611 West Sixth Street
Los Angeles, California 90017.


  Back to AA History