NixonThumbIn our second foray into rating past presidents, we’re going to tackle a political giant, an enigma whose presidency was both enamored with political sagacity and clouded with sordid scandal. Yes, after previously paying homage to one of our greatest leaders, this time we’ll be assigning D&D ability scores to one of our greatest disappointments, Richard M. Nixon.

Don’t worry, there’s much more to President Nixon than his shameful end and the arrogance that precipitated it, so I won’t just be harping on Watergate (in fact, it actually provided a boost to several scores).

This list of ability scores is generated according to the rules of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons – 1st Edition (again, ‘cuz I’m old). If you aren’t familiar with D&D, that’s okay, you don’t need to be. Here’s the gist: an individual is scored on six innate abilities: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. Human scores typically range from 3 to 18 (3 being pathetic, 10-11 being average, and 18 being exceptional).

So here we go, for big Dick’s scores:

STRENGTH: 9 – A difficult trait to analyze, honestly. Nixon played football as a youth, and basketball in college, so he must’ve had at least some fortitude. However, the bad posture and sunken chest of middle age suggest he didn’t pump too much iron throughout his life, least of all while in the Oval Office.

INTELLIGENCE: 17 – Between his Duke Law Degree, economic astuteness, shrewd political gamesmanship, and success in international relations, there’s no doubt that Richard was one smart cookie. Noted for having an expansive memory, we also can’t forget Nixon’s impressive, if ill fated, 12-day interview with David Frost. For 11 of  those days he intellectually dominated his interviewer with ruthless intuition. Not the absolute brightest Prez, but well deserving of a respectable score.

WISDOM: 13 – Another tough one. With such successes in foreign policy, and again a clever political mind, I was inclined to give a higher mark. Add in the creation of the EPA and the desegregation of several Southern schools (albeit for political gain) and I thought it was a lock. However, his foolishness in recording conversations in the Oval, his attempts at hiding those tapes knowing they could be subpoenaed (he was a lawyer, after all), his reluctance to be held accountable for his actions, and the eventual slip-up with Frost in ’77 weighed heavily enough to knock him down a few slots. Who knows? Maybe we owe more of that foreign policy to Kissinger than we’d like to admit.

DEXTERITY: 6 – Sorry, but in every piece of Nixon footage I’ve seen, he appears stiff, clumsy, and unsteady. Woodward and Bernstein reported that he frequently needed help with simple tasks of manual dexterity such as opening souvenir boxes or bottles of pills with childproof caps. How he managed to play piano I’ll never grasp, but between that and, again, the basketball he avoided the lowest marks. Those, of course, are reserved for his successor (I know, I know, the media blew it way out of proportion).

CONSTITUTION: 9 – Fairly frail-looking, slumped shoulders, a near kyphotic posture, and a history of bouts with pneumonia and phlebitis lead me to believe that President Nixon wasn’t in the best shape overall. Still, he lived to 81, so that suggests he had more going for him than averages would dictate, so I bumped it up a little from where I started.

CHARISMA: 11 – Probably the toughest of the scores for me to formulate! On the one hand, we’ve got those diplomatic successes in China, Egypt, and the Soviet Union, the mesmerizing success of the famous “Checkers” speech, and the fact that he was elected President twice (the second by a landslide). On the other hand, to call Nixon “gruff” would be an understatement. The droopy jowls, the permanent scowl, the racial and religious epithets spoken in the Oval, the fact that even his closest “friends” never called him by his first name, all of these point to the suggestion that he was about as likeable as a colonoscopy. I’ve never seen any footage of Nixon that portrayed him as warm, genuine, or of a quality that would attract my loyalty or admiration. Nonetheless, the man did have a conversational quality that was both persuasive and deferential, which has to count for something. And of course, “Only Nixon could go to China.”

Nixon’s final tally:

S:   9
I:    17
W: 13
D:   6
C:   9
CH: 11

Smart, shrewd, sickly, and skulking.  That’s the best I can say for Tricky Dick.