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    The Madman Theory

    • The Madman Theory
      The Madman Theory
      by Harvey Simon

    THE MADMAN THEORY, by Harvey Simon, is an alternate history novel about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    In this retelling of the missile crisis, Sen. John F. Kennedy loses the 1960 presidential election to his young opponent, Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  Two years later the Soviets are caught building a secret nuclear missile base in Cuba and President Nixon faces the same decision Kennedy confronted – whether to bomb the launching sites and invade the island.

    As the confrontation between the US and its nuclear foe spirals out of control, Pat Nixon struggles to reconcile her strong sense of a wife’s proper role with her marriage to a man who abuses her and has thrust her into a public life she despises and the two confront their longstanding grievances.

    Harvey Simon is a freelance writer living in Washington, DC.  His writing has appeared in The Los Angels Times and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.  Before moving to Washington he was a national security analyst at Harvard University, where he also wrote on a variety public policy topics.  He received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and has an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

    Monday
    Jul132015

    New Directions

    So far everything here has been about the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba, Nixon and anything else I can think of that's somehow relevant to my novel, The Madman Theory.

    But recently--very recently--I became a blogger for The Huffington Post. Though I did write one piece there on Cuba, I've started writing on subjects that reflect a somewhat wider range of interests.

    The first was a piece on President Obama and the N-word, in which I argued that the president should not be taken to task for using the word. In a very literal sense he did not actually "use" the word. It may sound a bit lawyerly, but it is more accurate to say he mentioned the word. Check out the piece if you're interested in this use/mention distinction.

    And on Saturday I submitted a piece, not yet posted, on gun control. It argues that Congress might be culpable in the recent North Carolina Church shooting because it voted down a bill that could have prevented the shooter from buying the gun he used in the killings. I'll put up the link here when the Post posts the article. And send out a Tweet.

    (Speaking of which, what is the best hashtag to use in this case? I have to admit that I'm a bit confused when a subject has multiple Twitter hashtags. How do you decide which one to use? Any guidance on this subject would be appreciated if you'd like to leave a note in the comments section here. Thanks in advance.)

    And I have a piece in the works on community policing. In an earlier life, while working at Harvard, I traveled to police departments around the country to interview cops as well as community members about policing practices and, in particular, community policing. Call it an old hobby horse.

    Back to the point. This website, originally conceived to supplement my novel, has a new purpose.

    But I'm not sure what that new purpose is, exactly. On one level it's to elaborate on what I'm writing for the Post. Is that enough? Why would anyone care? What more is there to say?

    Stay tuned.

    Monday
    Jul132015

    Rubio Doesn't Know Cuba's History

    In an earlier post I discussed the propriety of publishing an article that could, at least indirectly and in some small measure, serve to undermine a policy I support. The policy in question is President Obama's effort normalize relations with Cuba. Raul Castro's 1960 statement that he wanted to "drop three atom bombs on New York" is what I thought might argue against that policy.

    The piece is now complete and you can read it at the Huffington Post.

    Headlined, "Rubio Doesn't Know Cuba's History," it takes Senator and presidential contender Marco Rubio to task for his opposition to Obama's initiative. In short, Rubio opposes normalization because the Castro brothers, in his words, control "the country, the economy, and all levers of power."

    Rubio says this is why President Dwight Eisenhower cut ties with Cuba in January 1961.

    But that's not true. Eisenhower cut ties with Cuba because Fidel Castro was a communist. At least that's what Eisenhower's vice president, Richard Nixon, reported to Ike. Whether Castro was at communist at that point, or whether United States policies drove him to ally himself with the Soviet Union, is debatable.

    Whether or not the United States policy drove Castro to embrace the Soviets, embrace them he did. To the point of turning Cuba into a launching pad for nuclear missiles aimed at the United States in 1962. And then there's brother Raul's wish to obliterate New York City.

    That was all more than 50 years ago and the Soviet Union is dead. Time to move on, don't you think?

    Thursday
    Jun252015

    Screenplay Sample

    Below are the first two scenes from the screenplay I'm adapting from The Madman Theory. Comments are welcome.
    INT. WHITE HOUSE CABINET ROOM - DAY [SILENT]
    
    Six men are seated on one side of a long table, talking among
    themselves, smoking and reading from briefing books.
    
                        WRITTEN WORDS (crawl)
              In 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy won
    
              election as president by the
              smallest margin in history against
              the much more experienced
              Republican, Vice President Richard
              Nixon.
    
    PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON enters the room and everyone stands.
    Nixon, 49, looks young and vigorous. His jet-black hair is
    thick and wavy.
    
                        WRITTEN WORDS (crawl cont’d)
              Two years later the world stood at
    
              the brink of Armageddon when the
              U.S. discovered the Soviet Union
              building a secret nuclear missile
              base in Cuba. President Kennedy
              negotiated a peaceful conclusion
              to crisis, narrowly averting
              atomic war.
    
    President Nixon takes his seat across the table from the other
    men.
    
                        WRITTEN WORDS (crawl cont’d)
              Allegations of rampant vote
    
              rigging cast a permanent shadow
              over the 1960 election and it may
              be that Nixon, not Kennedy, was
              the true winner. (end crawl)
    
    Normal SOUND RESUMES.
    
                        PRESIDENT NIXON
              For those joining us for the first
              time today who have not been fully
    
              briefed on the Cuba situation,
              I’ve asked the Defense Secretary
              to provide a brief overview. Tom?
    
    SUPERIMPOSE: WHITE HOUSE CABINET ROOM, OCTOBER 20, 1962
    
    Nixon gives an awkward half smile and gestures to Secretary of
    Defense THOMAS GATES, 56, a tall Philadelphia patrician.
    
                        THOMAS GATES (CONT’D)
              On 15 October, U.S. air assets
    
              conducting surveillance over Cuba
              photographed what CIA analysts
              have conclusively determined to be
              Soviet medium-range ballistic
              missiles. Four to five of these
              MRBM sites are under construction,
              with four launchers at each site
              and more on the way.
    
    Attorney General LEN HALL, 62, a balding, round-faced man with
    a hefty second chin, raises his hand slightly, but does not
    wait to be recognized.
    
                        LEN HALL
              The missiles are arriving by ship?
    
                        THOMAS GATES
              That’s right, Mr. Attorney
    
              General. These MRBMs carry nuclear
              warheads of up to 700 kilotons—35
              times larger than the bombs
              dropped on Japan—and can travel in
              excess of 1,000 nautical miles, as
              you can see on this map.
    
    Gates points to a map of the Western Hemisphere on an easel.
    It has a large circle, with Cuba at its center.
    
                        THOMAS GATES (CONT’D)
              The circle there, that shows the
    
              range of the MRBMs.
    The circle’s arc spans from Texas to the East Coast.
    
                        THOMAS GATES (CONT’D)
              That puts them in striking
    
              distance of cities in the
              southeastern United States,
              including Washington. Total
              population, 92 million.
    
                        LEN HALL
                  (under his breath)
    

    Jesus.

    CIA Director ALLEN DULLES, 69, burly, barrel-chested and
    suffering chronic gout, slides arial photos of the missiles
    down the table to Hall.
    
                        ALLEN DULLES
              I’m afraid they’re the real McCoy,
    
              Len. The good news is they don’t
              know we’re on to their game.
    

    2.

                        PRESIDENT NIXON
              Here’s what we’ve worked out, Len.
    
              Tomorrow night I’ll go on
              nationwide television to announce
              that we’ve discovered these
              missiles and the Air Force has
              begun a bombing campaign to
              destroy the sites. In five days
              we’ll begin a general invasion of
              Cuba.
    
                        LEN HALL
              Won’t that lead to war with the
    
              Soviet Union?
    Hall looks beseechingly around the room.
    
                        LEN HALL (CONT’D)
              A nuclear war?
    
                        PRESIDENT NIXON
              Khrushchev won’t start a nuclear
    
              war over Cuba, Len.
    
    EXT. LOS ANGELES STREET - OCTOBER 20, 1962 - DAY
    
    A small crowd is gathered on a downtown sidewalk by a store
    window with a t.v. tuned to a newscast, audible but indistinct
    to us on an outdoor speaker.
    
    SUPERIMPOSE: LOS ANGELES, OCTOBER 20, 1962
    
    INT. LINCOLN LIMOUSINE - DAY [CONTINUOUS]
    
    In the backseat, the First Lady, PAT NIXON, 50, watches the
    crowd. She snuffs out her cigarette in the door-handle ashtray
    and leans towards the driver, JOE.
    
                        PAT NIXON
              What’s going on out there, Joe?
    
                        JOE
              I don’t know, ma’am. But maybe I
    
              can find out something on the
              radio.
    
    Joe turns the radio dial. We hear random lyrics from popular
    songs until a male RADIO VOICE speaks.
    
                        RADIO VOICE
              There are unconfirmed reports of
    
              troop movements that could
              indicate a development in...
    

    3.

    Pat holds her hands over her ears.
    
    INT. WHITE HOUSE RESIDENCE - NIGHT - PAST
    Pat sits on the edge of her bed, phone in hand.
    
                        PRESIDENT NIXON (V.O.)
              And I don’t want you reading the
              newspapers while you’re away. Is
    
              that clear? No sense getting upset
              over things you can’t control.
    
    INT. LINCOLN LIMOUSINE - DAY - PRESENT
    
                        PAT NIXON
                  (sharply, voice rising)
    
              Turn it off, Joe. Turn it off.
    Joe switches off the radio.
    
    Wednesday
    Jun242015

    Closer Ties with Cuba

    Here's a quandary for you. I support the Obama administration's efforts to create closer ties with Cuba. Yet I can't get it out of my mind that Raul Castro--Cuba's current leader--once said he wanted to drop three atomic bombs on New York City. Maybe Raul has mellowed over the years. Even so, I have an urge to drege up this history--even though I'm in favor of closer ties. What to do?

    Starting any day now, I will be writing a blog for The Huffington Post, so, unlike what I post here, there's a danger that significant numbers of people will actually read what I have to say.

    Raul made his threat in Life magazine, July 18, 1960: "My dream is to drop three atom bombs on New York."

    For those of you following along at home who want the reference to Raul's remark in The Madman Theory, it occurs on Page 122 during a telephone conversation between Nixon and William Pawley. The latter, who was Cuban born and lost his investments on the island after the Cuban revolution, was a leading advocate for Fidel Castro's violent overthrow. Indeed, Pawley was instrumental in convincing President Eisenhower to start the preparations for what would become, under Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs invasion.

    In The Madman Theory Nixon says to himself:
    For God’s sake, Bill, don’t you remember you were one of those who came up with the idea to send in that CIA-trained army of exiles after you and Dulles couldn’t hire anyone to take a shot at Castro? After you two sold Eisenhower on your cockamamy scheme it didn’t matter how many times I said, do it right and send in the Marines, but at least do something before the damn election. How many times did I say that? Do it right. Dulles kept insisting the exiles weren’t ready and Ike wouldn’t pull the trigger and fucking Election Day comes and Castro’s still suckin’ on his fat cigar. 
    Later in the conversation, Nixon, discussing who to put in power after Castro, references Raul's wish to destroy NYC:

    “Now I’ve done a lot of thinking on this, Bill, about who to put in there when Castro’s gone.”

    “And the others, we have to be sure to get rid of...”

    “Yep, all those bastards, Che, brother Raúl. Did you see what he said, the brother, this is a couple years back, that he wished he could drop three atom bombs on New York? Well, they all get it at dawn, as we’ve said.”

    Tuesday
    Apr092013

    Op-ed on History News Service Website

    As North Korea's Kim Jong-un escalated his stand off with the U.S. and S. Korea, I kept thinking of how the madman theory has deep roots in the Korean peninsula.  After all, that's where Nixon got the idea -- when he visited Korea as vice president on a mission for Eisenhower.  This is all spelled out in an op-ed that's available on the History News Service.