I have three items for my write-up today on Richard Nixon’s 1962 book, Six Crises.
1. On page 300, Nixon responds to the charge that, at the 1952 Republican National Convention, he agreed to deliver the California delegates to Dwight Eisenhower in exchange for receiving the Vice-Presidential nomination:
“Despite the success of my New York speech and [Thomas] Dewey’s unexpected reaction to it, I did not consider myself a serious contender for the vice presidential nomination when I attended the Chicago Convention in July 1952. And this is perhaps as good a place as any to lay to rest one of the many myths regarding my selection as General Eisenhower’s running mate in 1952. It has been alleged that there was a ‘deal’ between Dewey and myself under which I was to receive the vice presidential nomination in return for ‘delivering’ the California delegation to Eisenhower. There are two facts which completely demolish this allegation. In the first place, I was for Eisenhower long before I met Dewey at the New York dinner in May. And in the second place, the California delegation was pledged to Governor Earl Warren and stayed with him to the finish. It did not shift to Eisenhower until after he had already been assured the nomination by reason of the switch to him, over Harold Stassen’s objection, of the Minnesota delegation.”
Earlier in the book, on page 75, Nixon says that he did not expect to be nominated as the Republican candidate for Vice-President. He states that he was aware that his name was “mentioned as one of a number of possible candidates for Vice President”, but he thought that his chance of actually being nominated was “remote”. Nixon narrates, “I had not even bothered to pack a dark suit for the trip since I did not expect to have an opportunity to speak in Convention Hall.” Two days prior to Eisenhower’s nomination, when the Chicago Daily News speculated on the front page that the ticket would be Eisenhower-Nixon, Nixon told a member of his staff to purchase a half-dozen copies, saying, “That will probably be the last time we see that headline and I want to be able to show it to my grandchildren.” In Nixon’s narration, his selection to be the Vice-Presidential nominee was a surprise to him, perhaps implying that he was not angling to get the slot through shady maneuvers.
In a post on Irwin Gellman’s The Contender, I say the following:
“One narrative that Gellman seeks to refute says that, in 1952, Nixon was waffling in whom he was supporting to be the Republican nominee for President because he was trying to position himself to be selected as the running mate. Did Nixon support California Governor Earl Warren, only to stab him in the back and support Dwight Eisenhower? Gellman contends that Nixon continued to support Warren, in the face of conservatives who felt that Warren was as much of a spendthrift as the Democrats! Gellman also disputes Stephen Ambrose’s claim that Nixon ‘worked for Eisenhower within the California delegation by weakening Warren’s hold on its members’ (Gellman’s words on page 457), for Gellman states that ‘Warren had absolute control over how the delegation would vote; Nixon had no ability to change that’ (page 457)… The thing is, on page 433, Gellman says that Warren himself felt that Nixon was betraying him and was working for Eisenhower, something that Eisenhower denied.”
As I look again at Gellman’s discussion of the 1952 Republican National Convention, I see things that I missed, and that was probably because that was the first time that I had read a discussion of Nixon’s role in the 1952 Republican National Convention, so I was reading a lot of details without any familiarity with the topic. Gellman states on page 447 that Nixon supported Eisenhower, but Nixon also pledged to go with how the delegation voted, which was for Warren, and thus he was committed to Warren until Warren would release his (Warren’s) hold on the delegates. According to Gellman, Nixon did not have the votes to undermine the delegation’s support for Warren, so he was not trying to do so. Then why did Warren distrust Nixon? Nixon sent out a questionnaire to his constituents, mainly those who supported him in his race for Senate in 1950, asking whom they’d support as the Republican nominee for President. A majority of those who responded said Eisenhower. Supporters of Warren contended that Nixon was portraying Warren as unelectable, but Nixon responded that he sent out the questionnaire so he could make an informed decision about whom to support were Warren to withdraw from the race.
2. But back to Six Crises! On page 306, Nixon talks about Democrat Hubert Humphrey’s chances for the 1960 Democratic nomination for President:
“Hubert Humphrey was a tireless campaigner, a good speaker, and had strong support among the liberal elements of the Democratic Party in the North and the West. But while he had become more restrained and moderate in recent years, some of his more radical and irresponsible positions of the early days in Washington could not be lived down. The Southerners and the big city bosses of the party would never take him.”
I don’t think that Nixon is suggesting that a candidate should pander to the South, for Nixon later in the book talks about how he (Nixon) endorsed civil rights even when he campaigned in the South.
In any case, I could somewhat identify with Nixon’s characterization of Humphrey. It’s hard to live an image down after people have already defined you. When I was in college, I established a reputation as a right-winger, through articles and letters-to-the-editor that I wrote as well as my contributions to message boards. I thought that I made some decent arguments, but I also said some outlandish things and took extreme stances. Later in my college career, when I tried to become more reasonable and moderate, I felt that people did not respond to what I actually said, but rather to their stereotypes of what I believed. Like Humphrey, I could not live down my image!
But Humphrey eventually may have lived down his liberal image. I don’t know much about him, but he did run in 1968 as the Democratic nominee for President, and my impression is that he was considered to be one of the more conservative candidates for the Democratic nomination because he had been the Vice-President under Lyndon Johnson, and thus Johnson’s policies in Vietnam were attached to him. Meanwhile, there were other Democratic candidates who were against the Vietnam War. So it is possible to get a new image. Humphrey’s new image did not exactly help him in 1968, however!
3. On page 323, Nixon says, “my view is that debates between the major party candidates will be a feature of all future presidential campaigns, regardless of the candidates’ own desires.”
The reason that this stood out to me was that there actually were no Presidential debates in 1968 and 1972, years that Nixon was running for President. I wonder why, since debates were such a prominent aspect of Nixon’s life, not only in 1960, but even prior to that. I think of Nixon’s debate as a child over whether it’s better to own or to rent a house, his debate with Democrat Jerry Voorhis in his race to become a Congressman, his debate with John F. Kennedy over Taft-Hartley, and the list goes on. Was Nixon tired of debates by 1968? Did he reflect that they did not really help him in 1960, and so he figured that he could win in 1968 without them? I don’t know. I will say, though, that, had John F. Kennedy not been assassinated, there probably would have been Presidential debates in the 1964 Presidential election, for Kennedy and Republican Barry Goldwater both hoped that the 1964 election would contain a reasonable discussion of ideas (see here).