I have two items for my blog post today about Roger Morris’ Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician. The context is the 1952 race for the Republican nomination for President. It has been alleged that Richard Nixon, even though as a Californian he was pledged to vote for Governor Earl Warren, was actually promoting Dwight Eisenhower, seeking to weaken Warren’s hold on the California delegates. According to this narrative, Nixon was angling to get the Vice-Presidential slot. You can read about Nixon’s response to this charge, as well as Irwin Gellman’s defense of Nixon, in my post here.
1. On page 685 of Morris’ book, we read the following:
“Before the end of May, Senator Nixon had become not simply one more name for the Vice Presidency whispered about Washington or the hustings, the campaign’s time-honored bait to attract disparate ambitions and support. He was, from the Roosevelt and Mayflower, a part of secret and strategic deliberations at which his would-be rivals could only guess. With unfailing instinct for improving his position still further, even for the intramural politics of the eventual regime that was taking shape in the Eisenhower candidacy, he boldly wrote John Foster Dulles in mid-May, enclosing highlights of his Waldorf-Astoria speech. Dulles remained an influential force in the GOP eastern establishment, albeit not a member of the Dewey-Clay inner group. They May letter made sure Dulles understood the Senator’s rising stock with the other powers in the campaign. It came, too, as part of a continuing Nixon correspondence that periodically and none too subtly reminded the shadow secretary of state of their mutual history in the Hiss case, and of the potential political embarrassment to Dulles in the early Carnegie Endowment ties to Hiss. Nixon would vouch for Dulles with the right if the occasion arose, his letters suggested, and Dulles was well advised to support the senator’s ambitions in turn.”
This passage essentially presents Richard Nixon as ambitiously pursuing the Vice-Presidential slot, which contrasts with the aw-shucks attitude that Nixon implies that he had. According to Morris, even Nixon’s speech to the Waldorf-Astoria, which impressed Thomas Dewey, was Nixon’s way of promoting himself for the VP slot. Nixon was energetically proclaiming in that speech that the Republicans needed to conduct a fighting campaign that would be principled yet also draw Democrats and independents. Incidentally, that was the kind of campaign that Nixon conducted in his 1950 Senate race. At a Bible study group one time, we were reading Genesis, and we were at the part where Joseph was suggesting that the Pharaoh set a wise person over Egypt who would supervise the collection of grain in preparation for the coming famine (Genesis 41:33-36). Someone in the group said that Joseph wasn’t pointing to himself when he recommended that Pharaoh do that. Well, Morris is implying that Nixon in his Waldorf-Astoria was implicitly pointing to himself as one who would be an effective VP candidate. Nixon was angling for power, in short.
2. On pages 708-709, we read the following:
“‘Warren had very little if any chance of getting the nomination,’ John Dinkelspiel remembered Nixon telling them. ‘The California delegation would effectively insure [sic] Eisenhower’s victory…[and] if they could be counted on by the Eisenhower people, would have a very strong effect on the convention.’ Otherwise, Nixon warned, California would be ‘left at the post’ as Eisenhower moved on to the nomination in any case. He also spoke movingly, as listeners later recounted, about the ‘Taft fraud in Texas and Georgia,’ and told them they would have a chance to vote early on the fair-play amendment, ‘moral issues regarding Texas and Georgia where Taft stole the votes.’ They must join the Eisenhower bandwagon with no more delay. When some delegates asked about breaking their oath to Warren, Hillings reportedly told them ‘that that would be all right because the law provided no penalty for that.’ In any case, Dinkelspiel and others remembered Nixon urging ‘that it should be made publicly known that the delegation would throw its strength to Eisenhower as soon as it could.’ As Dinkelspiel recalled, he argued ‘either that the delegation should note vote for Warren on the first ballot, if Warren were willing, or if he insisted that the delegation keep its pledge, that it be made known in advance that the delegation at least on the second ballot would vote for Eisenhower rather than Taft, not just sit back and not state its position.’ And while the senator himself did not immodestly mention the subject of those meetings, his men soon spread word of California’s expected reward for the defection. ‘If they acted quickly and did not waste their votes,’ one writer reported, ‘the delegation could suggest Nixon as Vice President.'”
Morris goes on to say that Earl Warren would write years later that “During the night, the Nixon delegates—-but not the senator as far as I know—-held caucuses and urged other delegates to vote for General Eisenhower on the first ballot.” But Morris refers to Dinkelspiel and “others” who claimed that Nixon himself was directly involved in urging the California delegates to vote for Eisenhower.
What I wonder is why the California delegates were required to vote for Warren in the first place.