OTD in History… August 8, 1968, Republican Party nominates Richard Nixon for President

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OTD in History… August 8, 1968, Republican Party nominates Richard Nixon for President

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history August 8, 1968, The Republican Party nominates Richard M. Nixon for President at their convention in Miami Beach, Florida, and Nixon delivers his acceptance speech.This was the second time the Republican Party chose Nixon as their nominee, the first was in 1960, where then-Vice President Nixon went up against then-Senator John F. Kennedy and lost by a slim margin. In 1968, Nixon rehabilitated his image into a new Nixon devising a Southern strategy to win over the Southern states who were disenchanted with the Democratic Party and President Lyndon Johnson over his racial policies. Nixon’s campaign focused on the escalating Vietnam War and law and order issues.

Nixon chose as his running mate Maryland Governor Spiro T. Agnew. They would go on to beat narrowly Democratic nominee and Vice President Hubert Humphrey largely because of opposition to the growing Vietnam War. Although they would be reelected in 1972, neither Nixon nor Agnew would complete their terms. Agnew resigned after being charged with tax evasion and political corruption in 1973. While six years to the day after his nomination Nixon would become the first president to resign from office over his impending impeachment over the Watergate scandal.

In the primaries, Michigan Governor George Romney was the early front-runner. He faced opposition over being a Mormon and his support for the Vietnam War. Romney claimed, he “originally supported Johnson’s Vietnam policy because he had been “brainwashed” by government briefing officers.” Romney withdrew in February 1968 because of public ridicule over his Vietnam flap, and the public’s fear of his religion.

Since his 1962 defeat for the California governorship, Richard Nixon gained support and friendships with Republican Party leaders. In the 1966-midterm elections, Nixon campaigned successfully for Republican candidates. In 1968, Nixon became the front-runner winning all the early primaries. Nelson Rockefeller announced in a March 1968 press conference he would not run for the nomination. After Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Rockefeller changed his mind announced his candidacy. California Governor Ronald Reagan was the conservative candidate, until April 1968, he did not commit to running beyond a favorite son campaign. Rockefeller and Reagan entered the race too late, and could not compete with Nixon, who accumulated enough delegate support to clinch the nomination on the first ballot.

At the Republican National Convention held August 5–8, 1968, Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts became the first African-American Senator elected as convention temporary chairman. Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot against Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan. Nixon amassed 692 votes, to Rockefeller’s 277 and 182 votes for Reagan. Nixon chose Governor Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland, an unknown eliciting the response of “Spiro Who?” as his running mate, Nixon chose him to appeal to the Border States and Deep South. Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy’s (president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) the Poor People’s Campaign demonstrated outside the convention hall.

In his acceptance speech, Nixon emphasized the bad state the country was in under the Democrats. Nixon expressed, “When the strongest nation in the world can be tied down for four years in Vietnam with no end in sight, when the richest nation in the world can’t manage its own economy, when the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of law is plagued by unprecedented racial violence, when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home, then it’s time for new leadership for the United States of America”.

Nixon also mentioned the silent majority voting bloc he was appealing to in his campaign. Nixon stated, “It is another voice, it is a quiet voice in the tumult of the shouting. It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans, the non-shouters, the non-demonstrators…. They’re good people. They’re decent people; they work and they save and they pay their taxes and they care…. And this I say, this I say to you tonight, is the real voice of America. In this year 1968, this is the message it will broadcast to America and to the world.”

Nixon faced competition in the general election from Alabama Governor George Wallace, his greatest competition for Southern votes; Wallace was also running on integration and law and order issues. Until September 25, Nixon led and Humphrey trailed in the polls. Then Humphrey broke with Johnson on Vietnam and announced he support of Vietnam bombing halt. Humphrey became the peace candidate, which increased anti-war Democrat and liberal support for Humphrey after the announcement, allowing Humphrey to close in on Nixon at the polls.

In October, President Johnson was attempting to reach an agreement with the North Vietnamese in the Paris peace talks. This would allow him to halt the bombing, which would salvage Humphrey’s campaign. Nixon realized that Johnson was attempting to use the power of the presidency to help Humphrey, and accused him of doing so on October 25. Johnson denounced such claims as “ugly and unfair.” Five days before the election on October 31, however, President Johnson announced a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam. The bombing halt allowed many people to conclude that the end of the war might be approaching, putting Humphrey in a favorable position. Humphrey went up in the polls, however, when the South Vietnamese government indicated it would not negotiate, Humphrey’s numbers slid again.

Nixon would go on to win a narrow victory over Humphrey with the popular vote, 31,783,783 and 43.42 percent of the vote to Humphrey’s 31,271,839 and 42.72 percent of the vote. The Electoral College votes would be more decisive 301 for Nixon and 191 for Humphrey. The Democrats, however, retained control of both houses in Congress. Despite the split results and the lack of resolution for many of the central campaign issues, historian Lewis Gould in his book 1968: The Election That Changed America, argues “In fact, the 1968 election proved to be a watershed event in American politics.”

Gould explains the reason, claiming, “Republicans used the skills they brought to Nixon’s campaign to create an ascendancy in presidential politics. Democrats, divided and torn after 1968, emerged as only crippled challengers for the White House in the 1970s and 1980s. Bitterness over racial issues and discord on the Vietnam War continued to shape national affairs. The events of 1968 changed the way Americans felt about politics and their leaders. An erosion of confidence in American institutions began that has not yet reached a conclusion.” (Gould, 8)

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Gould, Lewis L. 1968: The Election That Changed America. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2010.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida

August 8, 1968

Mr. Chairman, delegates to this convention, my fellow Americans.

Sixteen years ago I stood before this Convention to accept your nomination as the running mate of one of the greatest Americans of our time—or of any time—Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eight years ago, I had the highest honor of accepting your nomination for President of the United States.

Tonight, I again proudly accept that nomination for President of the United States.

But I have news for you. This time there is a difference.

This time we are going to win.

We’re going to win for a number of reasons: first a personal one. General Eisenhower, as you know, lies critically ill in the Walter Reed Hospital tonight. I have talked, however, with Mrs. Eisenhower on the telephone. She tells me that his heart is with us. And she says that there is nothing that he lives more for and there is nothing that would lift him more than for us to win in November and I say let’s win this one for Ike!

We are going to win because this great Convention has demonstrated to the nation that the Republican Party has the leadership, the platform and the purpose that America needs.

We are going to win because you have nominated as my running mate a statesman of the first rank who will be a great campaigner and one who is fully qualified to undertake the new responsibilities that I shall give to the next Vice President of the United States.

And he is a man who fully shares my conviction and yours, that after a period of forty years when power has gone from the cities and the states to the government in Washington, D.C., it’s time to have power go back from Washington to the states and to the cities of this country all over America.

We are going to win because at a time that America cries out for the unity that this Administration has destroyed, the Republican Party—after a spirited contest for its nomination for President and for Vice President— stands united before the nation tonight.

I congratulate Governor Reagan. I congratulate Governor Rockefeller. I congratulate Governor Romney. I congratulate all those who have made the hard fight that they have for this nomination. And I know that you will all fight even harder for the great victory our party is going to win in November because we’re going to be together in that election campaign.

And a party that can unite itself will unite America.

My fellow Americans, most important—we are going to win because our cause is right.

We make history tonight—not for ourselves but for the ages.

The choice we make in 1968 will determine not only the future of America but the future of peace and freedom in the world for the last third of the Twentieth Century.

And the question that we answer tonight: can America meet this great challenge?

For a few moments, let us look at America, let us listen to America to find the answer to that question.

As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame.

We hear sirens in the night.

We see Americans dying on distant battlefields abroad.

We see Americans hating each other; fighting each other; killing each other at home.

And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish.

Did we come all this way for this?

Did American boys die in Normandy, and Korea, and in Valley Forge for this?

Listen to the answer to those questions.

It is another voice. It is the quiet voice in the tumult and the shouting.

It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans—the non-shouters; the non-demonstrators.

They are not racists or sick; they are not guilty of the crime that plagues the land.

They are black and they are white—they’re native born and foreign born —they’re young and they’re old.

They work in America’s factories.

They run America’s businesses.

They serve in government.

They provide most of the soldiers who died to keep us free.

They give drive to the spirit of America.

They give lift to the American Dream.

They give steel to the backbone of America.

They are good people, they are decent people; they work, and they save, and they pay their taxes, and they care.

Like Theodore Roosevelt, they know that this country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless it is a good place for all of us to live in.

This I say to you tonight is the real voice of America. In this year 1968, this is the message it will broadcast to America and to the world.

Let’s never forget that despite her faults, America is a great nation.

And America is great because her people are great.

With Winston Churchill, we say: “We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies because we are made of sugar candy.”

America is in trouble today not because her people have failed but because her leaders have failed.

And what America needs are leaders to match the greatness of her people.

And this great group of Americans, the forgotten Americans, and others know that the great; question Americans must answer by their votes in November is this: Whether we shall continue for four more years the policies of the last five years.

And this is their answer and this is my answer to that question.

When the strongest nation in the world can be tied down for four years in a war in Vietnam with no end in sight;

When the richest nation in the world can’t manage its own economy;

When the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of law is plagued by unprecedented lawlessness;

When a nation that has been known for a century for equality of opportunity is tom by unprecedented racial violence;

And when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home without fear of a hostile demonstration—then it’s time for new leadership for the United States of America.

My fellow Americans, tonight I accept the challenge and the commitment to provide that new leadership for America.

And I ask you to accept it with me.

And let us accept this challenge not as a grim duty but as an exciting adventure in which we are privileged to help a great nation realize its destiny.

And let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth—to see it like it is, and tell it like it is—to find the truth, to speak the truth, and to live the truth —that’s what we will do.

We’ve had enough of big promises and little action.

The time has come for honest government in the United States of America.

And so tonight I do not promise the millennium in the morning.

I don’t promise that we can eradicate poverty, and end discrimination, eliminate all danger of war in the space of four, or even eight years. But, I do promise action—a new policy for peace abroad; a new policy for peace and progress and justice at home.

Look at our problems abroad. Do you realize that we face the stark truth that we are worse off in every area of the world tonight than we were when President Eisenhower left office eight years ago. That’s the record. And there is only one answer to such a record of failure and that is a complete housecleaning of those responsible for the failures of that record. The answer is a complete re-appraisal of America’s policies in every section of the world.

We shall begin with Vietnam.

We all hope in this room that there is a chance that current negotiations may bring an honorable end to that war. And we will say nothing during this campaign that might destroy that chance.

But if the war is not ended when the people choose in November, the choice will be clear. Here it is.

For four years this Administration has had at its disposal the greatest military and economic advantage that one nation has ever had over another in any war in history.

For four years, America’s fighting men have set a record for courage and sacrifice unsurpassed in our history.

For four years, this Administration has had the support of the Loyal Opposition for the objective of seeking an honorable end to the struggle.

Never has so much military and economic and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively.

And if after all of this time and all of this sacrifice and all of this support there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership—not tied to the mistakes and the policies of the past. That is what we offer to America.

And I pledge to you tonight that the first priority foreign policy objective of our next Administration will be to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam. We shall not stop there—we need a policy to prevent more Vietnams.

All of America’s peace-keeping institutions and all of America’s foreign commitments must be re-appraised. Over the past twenty-five years, America has provided more than one hundred and fifty billion dollars in foreign aid to nations abroad.

In Korea and now again in Vietnam, the United States furnished most of the money, most of the arms; most of the men to help the people of those countries defend themselves against aggression.

Now we are a rich country. We are a strong nation. We are a populous nation. But there are two hundred million Americans and there are two billion people that live in the Free World.

And I say the time has come for other nations in the Free World to bear their fair share of the burden of defending peace and freedom around this world.

What I call for is not a new isolationism. It is a new internationalism in which America enlists its allies and its friends around the world in those struggles in which their interest is as great as ours.

And now to the leaders of the Communist world, we say: After an era of confrontation, the time has come for an era of negotiation.

Where the world’s super powers are concerned, there is no acceptable alternative to peaceful negotiation.

Because this will be a period of negotiation, we shall restore the strength of America so that we shall always negotiate from strength and never from weakness.

And as we seek peace through negotiation, let our goals be made clear:

We do not seek domination over any other country.

We believe deeply in our ideas, but we believe they should travel on their own power and not on the power of our arms.

We shall never be belligerent but we shall be as firm in defending our system as they are in expanding theirs.

We believe this should be an era of peaceful competition, not only in the productivity of our factories but in the quality of our ideas.

We extend the hand of friendship to all people, to the Russian people, to the Chinese people, to all people in the world.

And we shall work toward the goal of an open world—open skies, open cities, open hearts, open minds.

The next eight years, my friends, this period in which we are entering, I think we will have the greatest opportunity for world peace but also face the greatest danger of world war of any time in our history.

I believe we must have peace. I believe that we can have peace, but I do not underestimate the difficulty of this task. Because you see the art of preserving peace is greater than that of waging war and much more demanding. But I am proud to have served in an Administration which ended one war and kept the nation out of other wars for eight years. And it is that kind of experience and it is that kind of leadership that America needs today, and that we will give to America with your help.

And as we commit to new policies for America tonight, let us make one further pledge:

For five years hardly a day has gone by when we haven’t read or heard a report of the American flag being spit on; an embassy being stoned; a library being burned; or an ambassador being insulted some place in the world. And each incident reduced respect for the United States until the ultimate insult inevitably occurred.

And I say to you tonight that when respect for the United States of America falls so low that a fourth-rate military power, like North Korea, will seize an American naval vessel on the high seas, it is time for new leadership to restore respect for the United States of America.

My friends, America is a great nation.

And it is time we started to act like a great nation around the world. It is ironic to note when we were a small nation—weak militarily and poor economically—America was respected. And the reason was that America stood for something more powerful than military strength or economic wealth.

The American Revolution was a shining example of freedom in action which caught the imagination of the world.

Today, too often, America is an example to be avoided and not followed.

A nation that can’t keep the peace at home won’t be trusted to keep the peace abroad.

A President who isn’t treated with respect at home will not be treated with respect abroad.

A nation which can’t manage its own economy can’t tell others how to manage theirs.

If we are to restore prestige and respect for America abroad, the place to begin is at home in the United States of America.

My friends, we live in an age of revolution in America and in die world. And to find the answers to our problems, let us turn to a revolution, a revolution that will never grow old. The world’s greatest continuing revolution, the American Revolution.

The American Revolution was and is dedicated to progress, but our founders recognized that the first requisite of progress is order.

Now, there is no quarrel between progress and order—because neither can exist without the other.

So let us have order in America—not the order that suppresses dissent and discourages change but the order which guarantees the right to dissent and provides the basis for peaceful change.

And tonight, it is time for some honest talk about the problem of order in the United States.

Let us always respect, as I do, our courts and those who serve on them. But let us also recognize that some of our courts in their decisions have gone too far in weakening the peace forces as against the criminal forces in this country and we must act to restore that balance.

Let those who have the responsibility to enforce our laws and our judges who have the responsibility to interpret them be dedicated to the great principles of civil rights.

But let them also recognize that the first civil right of every American is to be free from domestic violence, and that right must be guaranteed in this country.

And if we are to restore order and respect for law in this country there is one place we are going to begin. We are going to have a new Attorney General of the United States of America.

I pledge to you that our new Attorney General will be directed by the President of the United States to launch a war against organized crime in this country.

I pledge to you that the new Attorney General of the United States will be an active belligerent against the loan sharks and the numbers racketeers that rob the urban poor in our cities.

I pledge to you that the new Attorney General will open a new front against the filth peddlers and the narcotics peddlers who are corrupting the lives of the children of this country.

Because, my friends, let this message come through clear from what I say tonight. Time is running out for the merchants of crime and corruption in American society.

The wave of crime is not going to be the wave of the future in the United States of America.

We shall re-establish freedom from fear in America so that America can take the lead in re-establishing freedom from fear in the world.

And to those who say that law and order is the code word for racism, there and here is a reply:

Our goal is justice for every American.

If we are to have respect for law in America, we must have laws that deserve respect.

Just as we cannot have progress without order, we cannot have order without progress, and so, as we commit to order tonight, let us commit to progress.

And this brings me to the clearest choice among the great issues of this campaign.

For the past five years we have been deluged by government programs for the unemployed; programs for the cities; programs for the poor. And we have reaped from these programs an ugly harvest of frustration, violence and failure across the land.

And now our opponents will be offering more of the same—more billions for government jobs, government housing, government welfare.

I say it is time to quit pouring billions of dollars into programs that have failed in the United States of America.

To put it bluntly, we are on the wrong road—and it’s time to take a new road, to progress.

Again, we turn to the American Revolution for our answer.

The war on poverty didn’t begin five years ago in this country. It began when this country began. It’s been the most successful war on poverty in the history of nations. There is more wealth in America today, more broadly shared, than in any nation in the world.

We are a great nation. And we must never forget how we became great.

America is a great nation today not because of what government did for people—but because of what people did for themselves over a hundred- ninety years in this country.

So it is time to apply the lessons of the American Revolution to our present problem.

Let us increase the wealth of America so that we can provide more generously for the aged; and for the needy; and for all those who cannot help themselves.

But for those who are able to help themselves—what we need are not more millions on welfare rolls—but more millions on payrolls in the United States of America.

Instead of government jobs, and government housing, and government welfare, let government use its tax and credit policies to enlist in this battle the greatest engine of progress ever developed in the history of man—American private enterprise.

Let us enlist in this great cause the millions of Americans in volunteer organizations who will bring a dedication to this task that no amount of money could ever buy.

And let us build bridges, my friends, build bridges to human dignity across that gulf that separates black America from white America.

Black Americans, no more than white Americans, they do not want more government programs which perpetuate dependency.

They don’t want to be a colony in a nation.

They want the pride, and the self-respect, and the dignity that can only come if they have an equal chance to own their own homes, to own their own businesses, to be managers and executives as well as workers, to have a piece of the action in the exciting ventures of private enterprise.

I pledge to you tonight that we shall have new programs which will provide that equal chance.

We make great history tonight.

We do not fire a shot heard ’round the world but we shall light the lamp of hope in millions of homes across this land in which there is no hope today.

And that great light shining out from America will again become a beacon of hope for all those in the world who seek freedom and opportunity.

My fellow Americans, I believe that historians will recall that 1968 marked the beginning of the American generation in world history.

Just to be alive in America, just to be alive at this time is an experience unparalleled in history. Here is where the action is. Think.

Thirty-two years from now most Americans living today will celebrate a new year that comes once in a thousand years.

Eight years from now, in the second term of the next President, we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution.

And by our decision in this election, we, all of us here, all of you listening on television and radio, we will determine what kind of nation America will be on its 200th birthday; we will determine what kind of a world America will live in in the year 2000.

This is the kind of a day I see for America on that glorious Fourth— eight years from now.

I see a day when Americans are once again proud of their flag. When once again at home and abroad, it is honored as the world’s greatest symbol of liberty and justice.

I see a day when the President of the United States is respected and his office is honored because it is worthy of respect and worthy of honor.

I see a day when every child in this land, regardless of his background, has a chance for the best education our wisdom and schools can provide, and an equal chance to go just as high as his talents will take him.

I see a day when life in rural America attracts people to the country, rather than driving them away.

I see a day when we can look back on massive breakthroughs in solving the problems of slums and pollution and traffic which are choking our cities to death.

I see a day when our senior citizens and millions of others can plan for the future with the assurance that their government is not going to rob them of their savings by destroying the value of their dollars.

I see a day when we will again have freedom from fear in America and freedom from fear in the world.

I see a day when our nation is at peace and the world is at peace and everyone on earth—those who hope, those who aspire, those who crave liberty—will look to America as the shining example of hopes realized and dreams achieved.

My fellow Americans, this is the cause I ask you to vote for. This is the cause I ask you to work for. This is the cause I ask you to commit to—not just for victory in November but beyond that to a new Administration.

Because the time when one man or a few leaders could save America is gone. We need tonight nothing less than the total commitment and the total mobilization of the American people if we are to succeed.

Government can pass laws. But respect for law can come only from people who take the law into their hearts and their minds—and not into their hands.

Government can provide opportunity. But opportunity means nothing unless people are prepared to seize it.

A President can ask for reconciliation in the racial conflict that divides Americans. But reconciliation comes only from the hearts of people.

And tonight, therefore, as we make this commitment, let us look into our hearts and let us look down into the faces of our children.

Is there anything in the world that should stand in their way?

None of the old hatreds mean anything when we look down into the faces of our children.

In their faces is our hope, our love, and our courage.

Tonight, I see the face of a child.

He lives in a great city. He is black. Or he is white. He is Mexican, Italian, Polish. None of that matters. What matters, he’s an American child.

That child in that great city is more important than any politician’s promise. He is America. He is a poet. He is a scientist, he is a great teacher, he is a proud craftsman. He is everything we ever hoped to be and everything we dare to dream to be.

He sleeps the sleep of childhood and he dreams the dreams of a child.

And yet when he awakens, he awakens to a living nightmare of poverty, neglect and despair.

He fails in school.

He ends up on welfare.

For him the American system is one that feeds his stomach and starves his soul. It breaks his heart. And in the end it may take his life on some distant battlefield.

To millions of children in this rich land, this is their prospect of the future.

But this is only part of what I see in America.

I see another child tonight.

He hears the train go by at night and he dreams of faraway places where he’d like to go.

It seems like an impossible dream.

But he is helped on his journey through life.

A father who had to go to work before he finished the sixth grade, sacrificed everything he had so that his sons could go to college.

A gentle, Quaker mother, with a passionate concern for peace, quietly wept when he went to war but she understood why he had to go.

A great teacher, a remarkable football coach, an inspirational minister encouraged him on his way.

A courageous wife and loyal children stood by him in victory and also defeat.

And in his chosen profession of politics, first there were scores, then hundreds, then thousands, and finally millions worked for his success.

And tonight he stands before you—nominated for President of the United States of America.

You can see why I believe so deeply in the American Dream.

For most of us the American Revolution has been won; the American Dream has come true.

And what I ask you to do tonight is to help me make that dream come true for millions to whom it’s an impossible dream today.

One hundred and eight years ago, the newly elected President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, left Springfield, Illinois, never to return again. He spoke to his friends gathered at the railroad station. Listen to his words:

“Today I leave you. I go to assume a greater task than devolved on General Washington. The great God which helped him must help me. Without that great assistance, I will surely fail. With it, I cannot fail.”

Abraham Lincoln lost his life but he did not fail.

The next President of the United States will face challenges which in some ways will be greater than those of Washington or Lincoln. Because for the first time in our nation’s history, an American President will face not only the problem of restoring peace abroad but of restoring peace at home.

Without God’s help and your help, we will surely fail; but with God’s help and your help, we shall surely succeed.

My fellow Americans, the long dark night for America is about to end.

The time has come for us to leave the valley of despair and climb the mountain so that we may see the glory of the dawn—a new day for America, and a new dawn for peace and freedom in the world.

 

Richard Nixon: “Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida,” August 8, 1968. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25968.

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OTD in History… August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers accuses Alger Hiss of being a Communist

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

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OTD in History… August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers accuses Alger Hiss of being a Communist

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Whittaker Chambers giving his HUAC testimony. Source: New York Times

On this day in history, August 3, 1948, former Communist turned FBI informant Whittaker Chambers accuses former State Department official Alger Hiss of having been a Communist in his testimony in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and then Congressman Richard M. Nixon. Although Hiss would be convicted of perjury two-years later, he would fight the rest of his life against the accusation. After the fall of the Soviet Union, historians have been able to gain access to archives and documents and conclude that Hiss probably was a Communist spy.

At the time, however, the Chambers-Hiss accusation was one of the most notorious coming out of the HUAC anti-Communist crusade. The investigations by the FBI, Director J. Edgar Hoover, the HUAC and later Senator Joseph McCarthy amounted to the blacklist and convictions of many supposed Communists in politics and the entertainment industry amounted then to a witch-hunt. Freshman Congressman Nixon would build a name for himself in HUAC and his red hunting pursuit of Hiss, by 1952, he would on the Republican ticket as the nominee for Vice President.

In 1948, rehabilitated Communist Chambers was an editor at TIME magazine but in the 1930s he had been a member of the Communist Party, however, with the start of the House of Representatives investigations into Communists in the late 1930s, Chambers left the Communist Party and became a Communist informant. With the HUAC investigations in the late 1940s, Chambers as an informant was called as a witness after accusing Hiss of being a Communist.

Hiss was a New Deal Democrat, who worked in the Justice Department in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, then the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) legal team, an investigator and legal assistant to the Nye Committee. In 1936, hiss moved to the State Department, first as an assistant to Assistant Secretary of State Francis B. Sayre, then “an assistant to Stanley Hornbeck, a special adviser to Cordell Hull on Far Eastern affairs.” In 1944, Hiss served as Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs on post-war plans, and intentional organizations and attended the big three Yalta and Potsdam Conferences. In 1946, Hiss left government to serve as the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In an editorial in TIME, Chambers accused Hiss of having belonged with his in “an underground organization of the United States Communist Party,” the “Ware group,” led by agriculturalist Harold Ware, who wanted to make an agricultural uprising in the cotton industry. Chambers claimed, “The purpose of this group at that time was not primarily espionage. Its original purpose was the Communist infiltration of the American government. But espionage was certainly one of its eventual objectives.” Chambers accused eight members in total. By making it about espionage, the only illegal crime Chambers ensured it relevant to HUAC who was trying to prove the Democratic administrations of Roosevelt and then Harry Truman were soft on Communists.

Hiss was on the radar since 1939, when accusations against him started circulating. Nixon received information from former Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Director Allen Dulles and Roman Catholic Priest John Francis Cronin implicating Hiss. Cronin was the author of “The Problem Of American Communism In 1945”, where he declared, “In the State Department, the most influential Communist has been Alger Hiss.” Nixon made it his mission to go after Hiss, and the House made Nixon the chair of the HUAC subcommittee responsible for investigating Hiss, and he was figured prominently in questioning Chambers on August 3 and then Hiss on August 5 and during their subcommittee testimonies.

On August 3, Chambers gave his testimony in the Cannon Caucus Room in front of the HUAC naming Hiss a Communist. Both Chambers and Hiss alleged the other was lying, Committee Chairman J. Parnell Thomas of New Jersey told the two, “certainly one of you will be tried for perjury.” Only after Chambers declared on Meet the Press that Hiss was a Communist and Hiss filed a libel suit did Chambers accuse Hiss of being a spy as well.

On November 17, 1948, Chambers produced evidence, retyped State Department documents from the “November and December 1937 arrest and disappearance in Moscow of a Latvian-born man and his wife, an American citizen” the documents mostly dated from 1938 and included handwritten notes by Hiss. Chambers claimed Hiss wanted them sent to the Soviets. The documents became known as the Baltimore Papers. Additionally, On December 2, 1948, Chambers led investigators to his Maryland farm and “microfilmed copies of classified State Department documents” from 1938 in a hollowed out pumpkin. Collectively HUAC referred to all the documents as the “Pumpkin Papers,” they were enough evidence to charge Hiss with perjury. After two trials the first with a hung jury, Hiss was found guilty of two counts of perjury in January 1950, sentenced to five concurrent years, Hiss only served 44 months in prison.

Historian Tim Weiner writing, in his book Enemies: A History of the FBI argues the turning point was when Chambers upped his accusation from Communist to Communist spy. Weiner notes, “This was a crucial point. Infiltration and invisible political influence were immoral, but arguably not illegal. Espionage was treason, traditionally punishable by death. The distinction was not lost on the cleverest member of HUAC, Congressman Richard Nixon…. He had been studying the FBI’s files for five months, courtesy of J. Edgar Hoover. Nixon launched his political career in hot pursuit of Hiss and the alleged secret Communists of the New Deal.”

Nixon was able to make a public name for himself as a combatant of Communism, he parlayed this into being Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate in 1952 and then Vice President, in 1960 to the Republican Presidential nomination and finally in 1968 to win the presidency. The Hiss conviction helped fuel the anti-Communist investigations in government. Just two weeks afterward on February 9, Senator Joseph McCarthy delivered his Wheeling Speech. McCarthy famously alleged, “The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 — a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” The speech catapulted McCarthy to head a Senate investigation in Communists infiltrating the government leading to his McCarthyism reign of terror in the early 1950s. By 1954, the Senate censured McCarthy, and the Communist hysteria finally died down.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Summers, Anthony, and Robbyn Swan. The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon. New York: Penguin, 2001.

Tanenhaus, Sam. Whittaker Chambers: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1997.

Weiner, Tim. Enemies: A History of the FBI. New York: Random House, 2012.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 27, 29 & 30, 1974, the House introduces articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon

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OTD in History… July 27, 29 & 30, 1974, the House introduces articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommends that President Richard Nixon is impeached with obstruction of justice the first of eventually three articles of impeachment. The decision came three days after the Supreme Court ruled on July 24, in the United States v. Nixon against the president stating he would have to hand over to the Federal Court the missing White House Tapes recordings his conversations in the West Wing. The Judiciary Committee would decide on two more articles of impeachment in the coming days, on July 29 for abuse of power and contempt of Congress on July 30. To avoid the House of Representatives impeachment trial, Nixon decided to become the first president to resign from the office, when he did on August 9, 1974, over two years after the Watergate burglary began the president’s descent into a cover-up that consumed his presidency and launched the nation into a Constitutional Crisis.

In the early morning hours of July 17, 1972five burglars were caughtwiretapping and stealing documents from the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex beginning the Watergate scandalAll were associated with Nixon’s reelection campaign, the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) after the police discovered the committee’s phone number in the belongings. The burglars first bugged the DNC in May, and they were returning after the wiretapping did not work properly to fix it.

From the minute, President Nixon first found out about the burglary, he and members of his White House staff and cabinet went down the road of creating an elaborate cover-up to hide the president’s involvement. Nixon and his advisors decided to have the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interfere in the FBI investigation and on August 1, Nixon ensured that hush money was given to the intruders, saying, “Well…they have to be paid. That’s all there is to that. They have to be paid.” In August, Nixon delivered a speech assuring the American voters neither he nor the White House was involved in the Watergate break-in. With the public assured, the story faded into the background and Nixon won his reelection bid against George McGovern in a landslide.

Just days after Nixon’s inauguration on January 30, 1973, five of the Watergate burglars and conspirators pled guilty at the president’s request two more were found guilty. When burglar James McCord claimed a letter that the burglars were forced to keep quiet, and perjury was committed at the Watergate trial Judge John Sirica began to be suspicious of a wider conspiracy.

Outside, the investigation continued, two young Washington Post reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were set on uncovering the president and White House’s involved, and a source within only referred to as Deep Throat, help them unravel the conspiracy. The reporting was the basis of their Pulitzer Prize-winning book all the President’s Men and then revealing the Final Days. In 2005, Bernstein and Woodward announced that W. Mark Felt, a former associate director of the FBI was their source after his death.

Soon Nixon’s aides began to turn on each other and the president. Former president assistant and CREEP deputy director Jeb Stuart Magruder was one of the first turn against the White House claiming White House counsel John Dean and Former Attorney General John Mitchell were responsible for a cover-up. The Nixon’s cover-up began to crumble with Dean’s suspicion of the president and a possible recording system. Each time the trail led closer Nixon would fire and force the resignation of his aides, on April 30, advisers H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resigned but Dean was fired.

At the same time, the Senate formed the Watergate Committee chaired by Senator Sam Ervin, D-NC, to investigate the mounting evidence of a conspiracy and later the Justice Department tapped a Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox to investigate. The Senate’s televised testimony captured the nation which began on May 18, while Dean’s July testimony might have been the most damning revealing a possible recording system in place in the West Wing. Soon after on July 13, Alexander Butterfield, the former presidential appointments secretary confirms Dean, testifying that Nixon has been recording his conversations since 1971.

The news of the tapes prompts Nixon to order the system disconnected but by July 23, the Senate Watergate Committee was demanding copies of the tapes. The tapes were Nixon’s downfall. Nixon and his lawyers tried to evade the Senate’s subpoena citing executive privilege eventually offering transcripts. The Saturday Night Massacre on October 23, was a turning point, where Nixon fired Cox, and Attorney General Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned after refusing to comply with Nixon’s orders to fire the special prosecutor. Solicitor General Robert Bork finally fired Cox and appointed a new Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski to take over the investigation.

Afterward, Congress began earnestly talking impeachment, with 84 House representatives “co-sponsoring 17 resolutions” for impeachment. Even as Nixon declared on November 17, “I’m not a crook,” to the press, the evidence mounted against him, contradicted it. Nixon finally agreed to comply partially with the subpoena but an 18-minute gap in one of the tapes only added to questions about his involvement.

By 1974, Congress was well on its way to Impeaching the president, the first time in over 100 years. On February 6, the House passed H.Res. 803, the resolution allowed the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether there were grounds to impeach the president. The House Judiciary Committee chaired by Peter W. Rodino ordered an impeachment inquiry, that included the hiring of 34 counsel with a total staff of 44 lawyers, and 100 overall, the inquiry took eight months. On April 11, the Judiciary Committee again demanded in a subpoena that Nixon had over the actual tapes, 42 with conversations possibly relating to Watergate, while Jaworski subpoenaed 69 more tapes. On April 29, Nixon released a version of the tape transcripts to the public, with redactions for expletives, and where he claimed were for national security reasons.

In March and April, the DC Grand Jury wind down their indictments of in the Watergate case indicting the Watergate seven among them, top aides John N. Mitchell, H. R. Haldeman, and John D.Ehrlichman, including naming Nixon an “unindicted co-conspirator.” In total 69 were indicted and 48 found guilty in association with the Watergate burglary and cover-up.

On May 9, 1974, the Judiciary Committee began its impeachment hearings, only the brief opening was televised the remaining two months were closed-door sessions. The emphasis was whether the president had obstructed justice. On July 9, the committee released their version of Nixon’s tapes “restoring” some of the “damaging “conversations that were deleted, based on testimony, and on July 12 they released all their evidence 3,888 pages.

On July 24, the committee resumed televising the hearings, allowing Americans to see “six days of 13 hours-per-day coverage,” this included Texas Democrat Barbara Jordan’s notable speech on July 25, supporting Nixon’s impeachment. One by one, the nation heard from Democrats and Republicans supporting impeachment, however, Nixon supporters claimed there was still not enough “specificity.”

The Americans supported impeachment according to two new polls from July 1974. A Harris poll showed 53 percent of Americans supported impeachment, and 47 percent believed the Senate should convict Nixon, with 34 percent claiming he should be acquitted, and according to Gallup Nixon only had a 24 percent favorability rating. The polls, however, were released before Nixon complied and released the tapes and the “Smoking Gun” from June 23, 1972, proved he was behind the cover-up.

On July 27, the House Judiciary Committee recommended the first article of impeachment for obstruction of justice. Article I passed with a vote of 27 to 11, with 21 Democrats and 6 Republicans voting in favor and 11 Republicans opposing:

On June 17, 1972, and prior thereto, agents of the Committee for the Re-election of the President committed unlawful entry of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence. Subsequent thereto, Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.

On July 29, the House Judiciary Committee recommended the second article of impeachment for abuse of power. Article II passed with a vote of 28 to 10, with 21 Democrats and 7 Republicans voting in favor and 10 Republicans opposing:

[Nixon] repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies.

On July 30, the House Judiciary Committee recommended the third article of impeachment for contempt of Congress, with 19 Democrats and 2 Republicans voting in favor and 2 Democrats and 15 Republicans opposing:

[Nixon] failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas.

According to estimates with the Democratic majorities, the House would have impeached Nixon with 300 votes, and the Senate would have convicted him receiving the 60 votes necessary. Nixon would lose most of his support because of the July 24 Supreme Court ruling ordering Nixon to comply with the subpoenas. On July 30, Nixon hands over the tapes to special prosecutor Leon Jaworski. On August 5, the “Smoking Gun” is made public, the previously unreleased tape of a June 23, 1972, conversation between Nixon and Haldeman in the Oval Office devising a plan to have the CIA obstruct the FBI’s investigation into the Watergate burglary was finally made public among other recordings.

The tape proved that Nixon was part of the cover-up, and he lost the Republicans, who were supporting him in the Judiciary Committee, they now were intending to support Article I, the Obstruction of Justice charge. Most importantly, Nixon lost the support of California Rep. Charles E. Wiggins, who said, “The facts then known to me have now changed… These facts standing alone are legally sufficient in my opinion to sustain at least one count against the President of conspiracy to obstruct justice.”

On August 7, Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., U.S. House Minority Leader John Rhodes, R-Ariz., and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, R-Pa met with Nixon in the Oval Office, telling him he basically has no support in Congress, would be impeached and convicted. Certain, he would eventually be removed from office. Goldwater later wrote, Nixon “knew beyond any doubt that one way or another his presidency was finished.” Rather than face certain impeachment and removal from office, Nixon decided to control the situation.

On August 8, Nixon spoke to the nation the last time, announcing his decision to resign effective at noon EST on August 9, 1974. Nixon announced in his address, “To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home. Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.”

Many historians see Watergate as the nation’s worst political scandal while clearly placing the blame on Nixon for the downfall of his presidency. Preeminent Watergate historian Stanley I. Kutler in his book The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon argued that Nixon was “at the center of Watergate,” and “The wars of Watergate are rooted in the lifelong personality of Richard Nixon. Kutler concludes, The Watergate scandal “consumed and convulsed the nation and tested the constitutional and political system as it had not been tested since the Civil War.” (Kutler, 616) London Times Washington Bureau Chief Fred Emery in his book Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon called Watergate “a self-destruct tragedy for Richard Nixon.” Emery determines that Watergate “was a pattern of malfeasance by him and his men that led to the damning — and bipartisan — vote in Congress.” (Emery, xii)

Historian Joan Hoff in her revisionist history, Nixon Reconsidered, viewed Nixon’s presidency as “more than Watergate,” and “Watergate more than Nixon.” Hoff believes the scandal was a product of the times, concluding, “Watergate was a disaster waiting to happen, given the decline in political ethics and practices during the Cold War.” (Hoff, 341) While historian Allan Lichtman notes Watergate “was a widespread conspiracy. Several dozen people went to jail, including other very high officials of the [Nixon] campaign and of the Nixon administration. So a lot of people who should have known much better got sucked into this terrible scandal and it is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions because in many ways Richard Nixon did a lot for the country.”

On August 9, left the White House flashing V signs before boarding Marine One and becoming the first president to resign from the office. At the same time, Vice President Gerald Ford took the oath of office, and declared, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” A month later, Ford pardoned Nixon, and in time, Nixon’s image rehabilitated but the stain of Watergate remained on the nation and Nixon.

SOURCES & READ MORE

Emery, Fred. Watergate: The Corruption and Fall of Richard Nixon. London: Pimlico, 1995.

Genovese, Michael A. The Watergate Crisis. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Hoff, Joan. Nixon Reconsidered. New York: BasicBooks, 1998.

Kutler, Stanley I. The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon. New York: Norton, 1992.

Kutler, Stanley I. Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes. London: Touchstone, 1999.

Small, Melvin. A Companion to Richard M. Nixon. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 24, 1959, VP Richard Nixon engages with Soviet leader Khrushchev in the Kitchen Debate

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OTD in History… July 24, 1959, VP Richard Nixon engages with Soviet leader Khrushchev in the Kitchen Debate

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On this day in history July 24, 1959, Vice President Richard Nixon on a mission to the Soviet Union engaged in the Kitchen Debate with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow. The exhibit featured an American home with modern conveniences that the average worker could afford. In their third meeting of the trip, Nixon and Khrushchev debated through translators over capitalism, communism and the technological race over a model American home and kitchen and its advanced appliances. The three television networks captured the vivid and headline-making exchange and they aired it on July 25. The debate was one of the most significant summits in the early Cold War era and the televised and much-publicized debate help catapult Nixon to the 1960 Republican presidential nomination.

The exhibition was the second of two the United States and the Soviet Union agreed upon in 1958, as part of a cultural exchange. The Soviets hosted their exhibition in New York in June.

President Dwight Eisenhower sent his Vice President Nixon to the exhibition’s opening in Moscow and his younger brother Milton S. Eisenhower. The exhibit featured products from 450 companies, while the exhibit’s “centerpiece” was a 30,000 square foot geodesic dome featuring “scientific and technical experiments.” Afterward, the Soviet’s would buy the laboratory.

Nixon met Khruschev four times during his mission. At the first meeting as Nixon showed him around, Khrushchev argued about the Congress’ recently passed Captive Nations Resolution calling those living under Soviet rule captives, who needed the nation’s prayers. The second debate was at the exhibit’s opening in a televised studio, there Khrushchev and Nixon debated the superiority of each country’s technology, rather than “compete” over weapons, military or politics. There Khrushchev quipped, “We haven’t quite reached 42 years, but in another 7 years, we’ll be at the level of America, and after that, we’ll go farther.” Nixon told Khrushchev “not be afraid of ideas. After all, you don’t know everything.” To which he shot back, “You don’t know anything about communism–except fear of it.” The Soviet leader also made Nixon promise their exchanges would be translated into English, to which Nixon responded, “Certainly it will, and everything I say is to be translated into Russian and broadcast across the Soviet Union. That’s a fair bargain.”

The third meeting took place near the famed Kitchen exhibit part of a model home than any American worker could afford. Nixon explained about the model, saying, “This house can be bought for $14,000 (about $92,000 in current dollars), and most American [World War II veterans] can buy a home in the bracket of $10,000 to $15,000. Let me give you an example that you can appreciate. Our steelworkers, as you know, are now on strike. But any steelworker could buy this house. They earn $3 an hour. This house costs about $100 a month to buy on a contract running 25 to 30 years.” Khrushchev responded, saying, “We have steelworkers and peasants who can afford to spend $14,000 for a house. Your American houses are built to last only 20 years, so builders could sell new houses at the end. We build firmly. We build for our children and grandchildren.” Nixon and Khrushchev’s third meeting was a five-hour closed-door session at Khrushchev’s dacha.

Their debate centered on luxury versus substance. The exchange, however, became heated over the differences between Communism with a dictator at the held and Capitalism and a democracy with the people making the decision. Nixon told Khrushchev, “I appreciate that you are very articulate and energetic.” To which, he responded, “Energetic is different from wise.” Nixon took advantage of the opening telling the Soviet leader, “If you were in our Senate, we would call you a filibusterer. You do all the talking and don’t let anyone else talk … To us, diversity, the right to choose, the fact that we have 1,000 builders building 1,000 different houses is the most important thing. We don’t have one decision made at the top by one government official.” Khrushchev became sarcastic and mocked American technology, asking Nixon, “Don’t you have a machine that puts food in your mouth and pushes it down?”

The debate, however, descended into Nixon claiming Khrushchev’s threats over nuclear weapons “could to war,” Khrushchev seeing this as threat retorted, warning of “very bad consequences.” The Soviet leader, however, backed off saying, “We want peace with all other nations, especially America.” Nixon agreed, “We also want peace.” Nixon somewhat apologized admitting, “I’m afraid I haven’t been a good host.”

The heated exchange had the press and television cameras following Nixon and Khrushchev as they argued through the exhibition. William Satire, who was working as a press agent for the house exhibit battled future Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev to obtain a photo of the exchange at the model kitchen. Safire would serve as Nixon’s speechwriter during his presidency and then a New York Times columnist. Safire commented on the exchange, “The shrewd Khrushchev came away from his personal duel of words with Nixon persuaded that the advocate of capitalism was not just tough-minded but strong-willed.”

The newspaper and three major television networks had a field day with the debate, airing the exchange the next day on July 25. Just airing the exchange caused a diplomatic skirmish as the Soviet claimed it was agreed the American and Soviet television would air the exchange on the same day. The Soviets would air it on late night television two days later on July 27. Unlike Nixon who kept his promise to air the debate with English translation for all of Khrushchev’s words, the Soviet only aired a partial translation of Nixon’s remarks.

The newspapers were divisive in their coverage, the New York Times called the debate, a political stunt, and “an exchange that emphasized the gulf between east and west but had little bearing on the substantive issue.” TIME, however, praised Nixon, saying he “managed in a unique way to personify a national character proud of a peaceful accomplishment, sure of its way of life, confident of its power under threat.” Unfortunately, despite the attention, the press paid to the event, historians have not been as kind.

Historian Irwin F. Gellman observed in A Companion to Richard M. Nixon in 2011 that few historians “have published anything on the genesis of Nixon’s evolution during the vice-presidency. No historian has written any study on how deeply involved the Vice President was in the administration’s foreign policies.” Even less attention was paid to his trip to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1959, with Gellman noting, “No scholar has evaluated the significance of that mission to Russia and Poland.”

Gellman would go on to write the book The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1952–1961 in 2015, arguing although never a partner, Eisenhower relied on and trusted Nixon, giving him much responsibility. Gellman notes, “Nixon’s trips to Asia, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were never ceremonial goodwill journeys; he conducted delicate business and sometimes tense negotiations with foreign leaders, and he gave Eisenhower detailed reports on what he saw, heard, and did.” (Gellman, 11)

The exchange and its subsequent press coverage increased Nixon’s profile to the public and allowed him to demonstrate to the country his foreign policy chops, the newfound credibility elevated him to the 1960 Republican presidential nomination. Nixon would lose the 1960 election, but would go to win in 1968; during his time in office, he instituted a détente with the Soviet Union that opened the door to the eventual end of the Cold War. As Gellman indicates, “This immersion in foreign affairs as vice president gave Nixon the background, when he became president, to conduct a foreign policy that included winding down the war in Vietnam, détente with the Soviet Union, and a historic opening of relations with China.” (Gellman, 11)

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Gellman, Irwin F. The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1952–1961. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.

Small, Melvin. A Companion to Richard M. Nixon. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Politics September 8, 2016: Clinton needs to review her history the 1960 debates show that personality matters

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Clinton needs to review her history the 1960 debates show that personality matters

By Bonnie K. Goodman

kennedy-nixon-debate

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is crying sexism after Republicans criticized her appearance during the NBC News Commander-in-Chief forum on Wednesday evening, Sept. 7, 2016; the problem is Clinton does not know her history. If Clinton knew her presidential campaign history, she would realize that “style” matters even more than “substance” in campaigns ever since the first televised debates in 1960 where Democrat nominee John F. Kennedy went head to head with Republican nominee Richard M. Nixon. Clinton’s comment only show one thing, GOP nominee Donald Trump is right; Clinton is playing the woman card too often.

After the forum, both candidates received lackluster reviews for their performances. The Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus took issue with Clinton and tweeted: “@HillaryClinton was angry + defensive the entire time – no smile and uncomfortable – upset that she was caught wrongly sending our secrets.”

Right away, Twitter erupted calling Priebus’ comment as sexist. Clinton’s campaign responded with a Tweet, “Actually, that’s just what taking the office of President seriously looks like.” The next morning, on Thursday, Sept. 8, Clinton gave a short press conference at the Westchester County Airport in New York where she elaborated working the victim angle. Clinton declared, “I’m going to let all of you ponder that last question. I think there will be a lot of Ph.D. theses and popular journalism writing on that subject for years to come.”

Clinton reporters her demeanor was because “we were talking about serious issues last night.” Continuing her argument about substance over style, saying, “I had a very short window of time in that event last night to convey the seriousness with which I would approach the issues of our country,” she said, before turning the table on her opponents.

Clinton chose to mock her opponent Republican nominee Donald Trump, whose comments drew criticism for substance, but he gave an animated performance that played more to television and the audience. Clinton criticized, “Trump chose to talk about his deep admiration and support for Vladimir Putin. Maybe he did it with a smile, and I guess the RNC would have liked that.”

Clinton might have thought she was taking the high road, emphasizing substance is claiming sexism when any mention of style or personality comes up, but all it shows it how much she does not know her history and the way the presidential campaign game is played. All she needed to do was go back to the first televised presidential debates in 1960 with Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy and then-Vice President Richard Nixon.

Both candidates were young and rising political stars, but Nixon had years more experience and accomplishments than his opponent. The first one-hour Sept. 26 debate, contrasted the two candidates in ways, where it cemented one’s frontrunner status and the other’s demise. Kennedy napped before the event at the Chicago TV station, and appeared rested, tanned, healthy, wore a dark suit, he smiled and spoke directly into the camera. Nixon, in contrast, had a recent knee injury was hospitalized and lost a lot a weight, it showed. Nixon’s gray suit looked too big for him, his makeup caked on, he perspired the makeup dripped; his beard was a shadow, he looked unwell and spoke towards his opponent as opposed the camera.

Seventy million Americans viewed the first debate; two-thirds of the population either watched or listened to the debates on the radio. Those that listened to the debates thought Nixon fared better; his responses were full of substance, facts, and statistics backing his arguments and policy proposals. In contrast, those viewing the debate on TV thought Kennedy won because he mixed style and substance and just appeared healthier and more presidential. The debate raised Kennedy’s profile and was the major turning point in what was a close election.

Nixon faced similar complaints about his demeanor that first debate as Clinton did in the forum. When it was a race between men, the issue was not one of sexism but perception and the new technology. Critics complained about the “cosmetic aspect” television brought to politics and the presidential campaign. Historians now routinely blame Nixon’s composure in comparison to Kennedy’s as the reason he eventually lost the election by such a slim margin. Even Nixon admitted in his memoir “Six Crises,” “I should have remembered that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.'”

The debates influenced politics so much that candidates refrained from them for 16 years, the next televised debates was in 1976 between Democrat Jimmy Carter and incumbent Republican Gerald Ford. Alan Schroeder, the author of “Presidential Debates: 40 Years of High-Risk TV,” indicated “The 1960 debates are the turning point from retail politics –glad handing and meeting everyone face to face — to the politics of mass media.” While, Presidential historian Robert Gilbert told CNN, “Since the age of television, presidents have become like movie stars.” Clinton cannot just cry sexism when she is not playing a game that is over 55 years old properly.

The problem with today’s world is the over politically correct notions that if an unflattering comment is made to a minority could it is discriminatory and derogatory when it is not necessarily. In Hillary’s case, it is not, and if she wants to play the game fairly she has to take the punches regardless of her sex. The Hill noted, “Presidential elections are often decided on personality instead of specific policies.” Personality and style often trump just substance is the consensus among historians and pundits something Clinton has repeatedly failed to learn.

Clinton has to realize her problem is not that she is a woman but her personality; she has never truly come across as warm and friendly throughout her time in the political limelight and always had a likeability problem. During her husband Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992 and in early in his presidency, she was not deemed traditional first lady material, looking to be a political force rather than the feminine role model the country long expected. It was Bill’s outgoing personality that shone and resonated with the voters and the public.

As Hillary became that type of first lady, the warm, children loving homemaker her star rose, when Bill’s numerous scandals let her be the wronged wife she thrived riding her newfound popularity to a Senate seat in New York and her place on the world political stage. Again, Clinton faced the likeability issue when she tried the first time for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and her place in the White House. Clinton was long deemed the frontrunner, but then bursting on the scene was the younger and enigmatic Junior Senator from Illinois Barack Obama.

Obama’s whose quest to become the first African-American president eclipsed her journey to break the glass ceiling and become the first woman president. Obama exposed their differences in the last debate before the New Hampshire primary, when Clinton was asked about her “personality deficit” responding Clinton said “Well, that hurts my feelings” but admitted Obama is “very likable,” Obama responded, “You’re likable enough, Hillary.”

Clinton was later caught crying; she parlayed her emotions to win the New Hampshire primary by 12 percent of the vote. The sentence deemed sexist was truthful and summed her ongoing problem with voters, her likeability and personality. Where Clinton stressed her experience, Obama passionately spoke of the future, “hope, and change.” In the end, however, personality and Obama won out.

In 2016, Clinton is again facing a larger than life personality in the form of GOP nominee Donald Trump, a business mogul and veteran reality star, who knows how to play the cameras and the press. Whether his comments are controversial or not Trump monopolizes the news cycle. Again Clinton is facing the substance versus style debate and her demeanor at the NBC forum is just an indication of the problems she will face during the debates.

Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public policy at Princeton University, noted Clinton’s “challenge remains the same as it always has been – show voters who she is and reveal the person beneath the candidate. To win people’s trust and to generate enthusiasm, she has to let some of her character come out.” The likability factor has always been “what she needs to work on.”  When Clinton or her supporters cry sexism they are only taking the easy way out; it is time for them to realize the problem is Clinton, not anybody else.

Sources:

Sabato, Larry, and Howard R. Ernst. Encyclopedia of American Political Parties and Elections. New York: Facts On File, 2006.

On This Day in History August 9, 1974…President Richard Nixon Resigned 40 Years Ago

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

History_Dates

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

President Richard Nixon Resigned 40 Years Ago Today

Source: WTVC, 8-9-14
WTVC NewsChannel 9 :: News - Top Stories - President Richard Nixon Resigned 40 Years Ago Today
40 years ago today, on August 9th, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon, who was facing imminent Congressional impeachment on charges of obstruction of justice for not complying with a U.S. Supreme Court order, resigned at noon….READ MORE
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