Former Nixon adviser to speak at Montana Club event | Local
John Roy Price, senior domestic policy adviser to President Richard Nixon, will discuss his new book “The Last Liberal Republican: An Insider’s Perspective on Nixon’s Surprising Social Policy” during a dinner and book signing Feb. 23 at the Montana Club.
The event, which Price says will be more of a back and forth discussion than a speech, is part of the Montana Club’s Library Collection series.
Price, 83, said in a phone interview that the book culminated from events he was involved in 50 years ago at the Nixon White House, and thought if he didn’t write the book soon, he might not be able to do it.
Price had been part of the more liberal and progressive wing of the Republican Party and was part of Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential campaign when he was recruited to serve in the Nixon White House. He was there from 1969 to 1971, before Watergate prompted the president to resign.
“It was a crucial time that I went through as a youngster,” he said.
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The book is by University Press of Kansas, June 2021.
Price offers details on the extent to which Nixon and his team have straddled a precarious balance between a Democratic-controlled Congress and an increasingly powerful conservative tide in Republican politics.
He said that Nixon, like Republicans Thomas Dewey and Dwight Eisenhower, was moving toward “big tent republicanism and the completion of a safety net for Americans who lacked the opportunities that many of got us”.
Price joined Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and later John D. Ehrlichman, in the Nixon White House to develop national policies, particularly on welfare, hunger, and health.
Price also said watching Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is reminiscent of Nixon, who had wanted universal health care.
“Richard Nixon offered to cover pre-existing conditions 40 years before the Affordable Care Act,” Price said, adding that the president, who wanted to hear everyone’s opinions, had “a whole range of instincts from his left and it resonated with me”.
“There was a serious intelligence at work on politics sitting at that desk that I came to respect,” he said. “He had a basic sense of civility and empathy. I would see it in small ways.”
Price said the Republican Party, until fairly recently, had developed serious policy and felt the federal government had a role to play in helping those on the margins. He would like to see this return.
“Let’s at least look carefully at the political questions and the social sciences that might help us get answers,” he said. “Let’s not get stuck like Gulliver. Let’s go back to policy making.
Price recalled Pat Buchanan, a Nixon special aide who tried to have Price fired, once told him, “We (the hard right) win political battles but you (putting his finger in Price’s backhand) win. political battles. ”
Price, who re-signed as an independent, offers a unique perspective on the presidency of Nixon, who lamented that he was only remembered for Watergate and China.
“And he’s pretty much right,” Price said.
Price and his family divide their time between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Livingston, Montana.
He is a co-founder of the Ripon Society, a public policy organization founded in 1962. It takes its name from Ripon, Wisconsin, the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854. One of its goals is to promote ideas and principles that, according to its website, “made America great and contributed to the success of the GOP.”
The February 23 event begins with a meeting at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are $45 per guest.
To register, go to: https://montanaclub.coop/events-purchase-page/the-library-collection-february-23rd.
For more questions, call 406-442-5980.
Associate Editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.