First dates are always awkward. “Will I make a good impression?” “Will I like him/her?” “How do I escape gracefully if the magic isn’t there?” These are questions everyone asks, no matter your whether you are 16 or 60, and whether you live in a modest one-room apartment, or the White House itself. These questions must have plagued Tricia Nixon as she prepared for a first date. Certainly they were on the mind of the nervous young man who was on his way to pick her up at the White House.
It was 1969, and President Richard Nixon had been in office for less than a year. His elder daughter, Tricia, was still getting used to life in the White House when she was invited on a date to attend a dinner in honor of astronaut Frank Borman. The date was arranged by a congressman from Texas, who wanted to give his eldest son a chance to see if he might have a future with the daughter of the most powerful man in the world.
Imagine being in the shoes of this young man. In addition to all the usual first-date jitters, he had the added stress of driving up to the White House in his purple Gremlin, getting screened by security, and having the Secret Service tag along on the date.
Alas, the date was not exactly a success. Years later, Tricia’s date recalled the evening. “During dinner, I reached for some butter, knocked over a glass, and watched in horror as the stain of red wine crept across the table. Then I fired up a cigarette, prompting a polite suggestion from Tricia that I not smoke,” he said. “The date came to an end when she asked me to take her back to the White House immediately after dinner.”
As the young man drove his purple Gremlin away from the White House, he looked at the building, pretty sure that would be the last time he would set foot in it. As it turned out, it was not.
Although he didn’t get a second date with Tricia Nixon, he was fortunate enough to return to the Executive Mansion — and more than once, at that.
The young man’s father went on to have a remarkable career in government, and as he rose through the ranks, additional opportunities came up for this young man to return to the White House and even to visit the Oval Office and meet more than one of Richard Nixon’s successors.
It should also be noted that the young man did not just depend on his father to arrange dates or visits to the White House. He went on to meet a reserved, brilliant, and utterly classy librarian who won his heart and became his wife. After a few false starts in various career opportunities, he finally found success in the business world and then in the realm of politics, thus ensuring access to the White House in the grandest way imaginable.
The young man who failed so spectacularly with Tricia Nixon was George W. Bush.