"On With the Wind: Martha Mitchell Speaks (Additional Dialogue by Attorney General John Mitchell)" is, unlike its subject, slim and brief-spoken. But what words it has to offer us. Were I to propose a book to be reprinted, to be sold at every Barnes and Noble Great Gift Idea table, to be given to every graduating high school senior instead of the predictable Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go," it would be this one. Martha's words of prophesy and wisdom startled and fascinated a nation a mere 30 years ago- and now this Cassandra of the 1970s has passed from the public consciousness into obscurity.
"You know, I can't prove I've been born," said Mrs. Mitchell. But how lucky for us she was. And how unfortunate that she had to call "from (her) upstairs bathroom so John wouldn't know (she) was calling." The Mitchell marriage is, in many ways, a metaphore for the problems between the genders at the cusp of women's liberation- the woman wanting to escape the home, reaching out by way of the telephone not only to create a place of her own but to point out the wrongdoings and improprieties of the male establishment- her husband, as attorney general, an ultimate symbol of patriarchy at its worst.
Who else in the Nixon administration, or close to it, was able to say what all of America knew about Vietnam? Yes, Mrs. Mitchell, the Vietnam War stunk. While she was misguided on integration (how, exactly, could we have "worked out the integration battle without letting them march?"), like many Southerners of her day (she felt the South was the "orphan of the nation"), she was the first whistleblower in the Nixon administration. While John Dean would, under duress, crack and tell all, Martha never had any qualms about shouting the administration's misdeeds- though instead of in testimony to Congress she did her shouting in 3 AM phone calls.
Despite her calling attention to this, she still felt her husband to be one of the most intelligent men in the country. This serves as a warning to any woman who may be blinded by love. When you feel your loved one is nearly perfect, take a moment and assess- is he perfect, really, or is he John Mitchell? You can save yourself a lot of heartache that way, and it's a tip I've never seen in a dating manual.
That said, John's quotes in the book tend to be all one note: "My wife is crazy, I can't help but let her speak." (a summary, not a direct quote). Quite telling that he feels he even could be in a position to let his wife speak- the notion that Martha should be in anyway compelled to obey him in the matter of what she says. No wonder the poor woman drank.