September 23, 1952: Checkers Speech

The  “Checkers Speech” given by Richard Nixon which allowed him to stay on the ticket as Vice-President on September 23, 1952.  The speech got its name from Nixon’s use of the pet dog given to his daughters, Checkers, to gain sympathy by stating that the girls had gotten fond of the dog and he would not return it.  The speech was classic Nixon:  go on the offensive, self-pitying, maudlin and oh so effective.  Nixon was never a great orator, but until Watergate he never lost the touch of appealing to the average American.  His high brow, usually left wing, critics savaged him, but Nixon never forgot that the purpose of a political speech is  persuasion.

 

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A classic anti-Nixon poster asked if you would buy a used car from him.  For most of his career, Nixon could have sold a car with a shot transmission and four bald tires to to a substantial segment of the American population and they would have thanked him for it.  Whence this power?  I think Nixon early tapped into the resentment that a growing number of average Americans had toward the chattering classes that were rapidly losing touch with them, and looked down on them.  That Nixon privately shared many of the views of the chattering classes that despised him as the ultimate enemy is one of the greater ironies of American political life during Nixon’s career.

 

The “Checkers Speech” will always be remembered for this peroration:

One other thing I probably should tell you because if we don’t they’ll probably be saying this about me too, we did get something—a gift—after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he’d sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl—Tricia, the 6-year-old—named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.

 

 

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Published in: on September 23, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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November 17, 1973: I Am Not a Crook

 

 

Hard to believe that it is forty-eight years since the infamous “I am not a crook” news conference of President Nixon.  The video clip gives a taste of the surreal quality of those times.  For the sake of attempting to cover up a politically inspired burglary in a presidential election that the Democrats were busily throwing away, Nixon in 1972 embarked on a cover-up that eventually destroyed his Presidency, with his resignation in disgrace coming in August of 1974.

Greek tragedy is too mild a term to apply when discussing the presidency of Nixon.  Dealt a bad hand in Vietnam, he extricated the country from Vietnam while building up the South Vietnamese military to the extent that they could hold their own against the North Vietnamese, as long as supplies kept flowing from the US and their ground forces were supported by American air power.  His diplomatic opening to Red China was a masterful, if fairly obvious, strategic win over the Soviets.  Talks with the Soviets helped lower the temperature of the Cold War.  Domestically Nixon was the liberal Republican he always was, with wage and price controls and an expansion of the Federal government.  (more…)

Published in: on November 17, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 17, 1973: I Am Not a Crook  
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September 26, 1960: The First Kennedy-Nixon Debate

Sixty-one years ago in the historical rear view mirror, the four Kennedy-Nixon debates were the first presidential debates and set the precedent for presidential debates, although the next would not occur until 1976 between Ford and Carter.  In the first debate Kennedy, who secretly suffered from numerous ailments, radiated health and vigor.  Nixon looked terrible in comparison, having been  hospitalized for two weeks in August over an infected knee and having not regained the weight he lost during his recovery.  Nixon insisted on campaigning until the time of the debate and refused to wear television makeup.  Nixon’s mother called him after the debate and asked him if he was ill. After the debate, polls indicated that Kennedy went from a slight deficit to a slight lead. (more…)

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Watergate

The Nixon tragedy: A man of unsurpassed courage and outstanding intelligence but without vision. An opportunist who missed his greatest opportunity.

Eric Hoffer

For the sake of attempting to cover up a politically inspired burglary in a presidential election that the Democrats were busily throwing away, Nixon in 1972 embarked on a cover-up that eventually destroyed his Presidency, with his resignation in disgrace coming in August of 1974.

Greek tragedy is too mild a term to apply when discussing the presidency of Nixon.  Dealt a bad hand in Vietnam, he extricated the country from Vietnam while building up the South Vietnamese military to the extent that they could hold their own against the North Vietnamese, as long as supplies kept flowing from the US and their ground forces were supported by American air power.  His diplomatic opening to Red China was a masterful, if fairly obvious, strategic win over the Soviets.  Talks with the Soviets helped lower the temperature of the Cold War.  Domestically Nixon was the liberal Republican he always was, with wage and price controls and an expansion of the Federal government.

The ironic thing about Nixon is that he was hated by liberals and the elite media, yet on domestic policy questions he was in virtual lockstep with them, including on abortion which he was privately in favor of, although he publicly opposed it.  The intense hatred went back to Nixon’s early political career where he used anti-communism to win both his House seat and his Senate seat.  Nixon also committed the unforgivable sin of being right about Alger Hiss being a Soviet agent.

Compared to many of his Democrat predecessors, Nixon’s crimes were fairly commonplace.  LBJ got into the Senate in 1948 by stuffing the ballot box and who probably elected Kennedy in 1960 by doing the same in Texas. There was no crime that Nixon did that LBJ had not done, usually with more skill. Victor Lasky’s It Didn’t Start With Watergate (1977) demonstrated that the main difference between Nixon and preceding Democrat presidents from FDR, who had the IRS audit political foes, forward is that he didn’t have a protective press. Nixon was the first Republican president since the Great Depression, Eisenhower not really counting because of his national hero status. That made him illegitimate already in the eyes of most of the media that had grown up in a world where the Democrats controlled the Federal government. Nixon’s mile long streak of paranoia helped his enemies ultimately get him, but even paranoids can have real enemies and that was the case with Richard Nixon. If Nixon had made a clean breast of things after the Watergate break in he would have survived politically and doubtless have won re-election, but it was not in him to expose his neck to his enemies like that and trust to the American people.

Getting Nixon’s scalp was a classic Pyrrhic victory for his foes.  His destruction weakened his wing of the Republican party and paved the way for the rise of Ronald Reagan and a much more conservative GOP which has proven a much more successful adversary against the Democrats than the party that Nixon led.

Published in: on June 2, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Watergate  
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October 21, 1960: Fourth and Final Nixon-Kennedy Debate

 

 

The fourth and final Nixon-Kennedy debate.  Most pundits scored this debate a draw.  Although the debates are famous, I do wonder if they exerted much impact on the election outcome.  They certainly were more dignified and issue oriented than our wretched presidential debates this year.  Of course that would have changed if the colorful, to say the least, private life of John Kennedy had been front and center.  However, it was a different world back then.  Many reporters knew that Kennedy was a womanizer.  This this was at a time when  the personal sins of most politicians were not revealed by the press.  Whether this was a good or bad thing I will leave to another post.  However, our world is so different now, that such reportorial discretion is almost unimaginable, at least if the politician has an R after his name.  Even with Democrats, the media is so diverse, such news would have a hard time being kept under wraps for any length of time.  Go here to view the entire debate.

Published in: on October 21, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 21, 1960: Fourth and Final Nixon-Kennedy Debate  
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July 24, 1959: The Kitchen Debate

 

Hard to believe that it is 57 years since the Kitchen Debate between Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschchev.  The US scored one of the biggest propaganda coups of the Cold War by building a typical American house, cut in half for easy viewing, at the American National Exhibit at Sokolniki Park in Moscow in 1959.  This was part of an agreement where the Soviet staged an exhibit in New York the same year.  Ordinary Soviets flocked to see it and were awed at the technology in the house featuring the latest labor saving and recreational devices in 1959.  They were floored at the contention of the Americans that this was a typical house that an average American could afford.  The impromptu debate between Khruschchev redounded greatly to the benefit of Nixon who came across to American audiences as an able champion of their cause.  Khruschchev was also impressed by Nixon, so much so that he later claimed that he did everything in his power to defeat Nixon when Nixon ran for President in 1960. (more…)

Published in: on July 24, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 24, 1959: The Kitchen Debate  
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October 13, 1960: Third Nixon-Kennedy Debate

In the third Nixon-Kennedy debate some then cutting edge technology was used to make it appear as if Nixon and Kennedy was in the same room.  Nixon was in Los Angeles and Kennedy was in New York.  The use of a split screen gave the illusion that they were in the same room.  Most pundits thought at the time that Nixon won this debate.  Go here to view the debate.

Published in: on October 13, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 13, 1960: Third Nixon-Kennedy Debate  
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Second Debate

 

I loved the show Rawhide when I was a kid and I imagine that there were more than a few ticked CBS viewers on October 7, 1960 when they tuned in to see the Western only to view two politicians debating!  Nixon wore television makeup for this second ever Presidential debate, unlike the first one, and most pundits at the time thought he won this second debate.  Nixon had spent little time actually practicing law, but he was good at the cut and thrust of verbal warfare, while Kennedy was better at set piece speeches.  Unfortunately for Nixon, viewership fell off by about twenty million viewers after the initial debate that he lost.  In those long ago days before the internet, if the debate wasn’t watched when first broadcast, it wasn’t going to be seen at all, except in the briefest of snippets on the evening news.

Published in: on October 9, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Second Debate  
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November 17, 1973: I Am Not a Crook

Hard to believe that it is forty years since the infamous “I am not a crook” news conference of President Nixon.  The video clip gives a taste of the surreal quality of those times.  For the sake of attempting to cover up a politically inspired burglary in a presidential election that the Democrats were busily throwing away, Nixon in 1972 embarked on a cover-up that eventually destroyed his Presidency, with his resignation in disgrace coming in August of 1974.

Greek tragedy is too mild a term to apply when discussing the presidency of Nixon.  Dealt a bad hand in Vietnam, he extricated the country from Vietnam while building up the South Vietnamese military to the extent that they could hold their own against the North Vietnamese, as long as supplies kept flowing from the US and their ground forces were supported by American air power.  His diplomatic opening to Red China was a masterful, if fairly obvious, strategic win over the Soviets.  Talks with the Soviets helped lower the temperature of the Cold War.  Domestically Nixon was the liberal Republican he always was, with wage and price controls and an expansion of the Federal government.  (more…)

Published in: on November 17, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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