Richard Milhous Nixon may have been born too early. While our bejoweled and disgraced 37th president might seem like the prototypical curmudgeon, he could have dominated one of today’s hottest industries. Here are five reasons why Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur.
Consumers have grown a love-hate relationship with tech companies like Facebook and Google because of the way they collect and mine users’ data. This would have seen second nature for a man who organized a break-in at the Democratic Party’s headquarters. Imagine what he could have done with the Internet.
Nixon was a horrible person, but was also a master statesman. One of his most impressive achievement was playing China and the Soviet Union against each other.
Today, just as during the Cold War, we have a few giants slugging it out for world domination. If Nixon was in charge of one of them, you can bet that he would use his rivals’ competitiveness against them.
Being creepy and unable to relate to other people isn’t a requirement, but Nixon would definitely find kindred spirits in the same industry that spawned Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.
Companies need to keep their trade secrets, well secret. Whether it’s Google Glass or the next iPhone, keeping information out of the public eye can create a competitive advantage. Nixon would have loved that.
Just as corporations feel they don’t have to tell anything to anyone but their shareholders, Nixon felt he had not obligation to tell Congress, the media, or voters what he was actually doing. Who else would send Henry Kissinger on a secret trip to China, or retain a team of “Plumbers” to take care of information leaks?
Did people stop using Facebook when they found out what the company was doing with their information? Did people stop buying Apple products when Jobs’ abusive nature was revealed? No, which is perfect for Nixon.
Tricky Dick thrived on a similarly understanding public. Never a likable guy, he wormed his way out of a campaign financing scandal with the famous “Checkers Speech,” and despite being a commie-hating conservative, he was able to take advantage of public outrage over the Vietnam War to win the presidency in 1968.
While president, Nixon was able to silence critics by co-opting liberal policies (he created the EPA and Amtrak and supported universal healthcare). Nothing could stop him. Well, almost nothing.
Like today’s tech barons, Nixon didn’t car about being liked, and found ways to make it so that the public didn’t have to like him either.