1963: Nixon in East Berlin

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    Richard Nixon and family show their papers to an East Berlin officer before entering the east side of the divided city in 1963.

    Immediately after RN’s move to New York in 1963 he and his family left on a vacation to tour Europe for six weeks. Between June and August the Nixons traveled to Portugal, Spain, Italy, Lebanon, Egypt, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, France, and England.

    A travel map of Richard Nixon’s 1963 European tour.

    The condensed itinerary for Richard Nixon’s 1963 European tour.

    One of the highlights of this trip was a visit to Soviet controlled East Berlin on July 24, halfway through his tour. Early in the day RN crossed through Checkpoint Charlie into the area under Communist rule with over 20 car loads of both Western and Communist security agents, reporters, and guides. Communist handlers showed RN around, but he was unsatisfied with the level of interaction he was allowed with the citizens of East Berlin, who were unwilling to speak in such close proximity to the police escorts provided for RN.

    Nixon Crosses into East Berlin

    A newspaper headline covers former Vice President Nixon’s entrance into East Berlin.

    After sundown, RN returned for a second, unannounced visit. He arrived with a smaller entourage in an attempt to find out what life was really like in East Berlin. According to RN the citizens he spoke to were very candid about their pro-American feelings when they were not being monitored by the East Berlin police or ‘Vopo’ as they were known to citizens.

    In addition to the locals on the streets, RN was able to speak to a taxi driver. The driver asked for an autograph from the former Vice President before going on to describe the social situation of East Berlin. He explained that there was little nightlife or activity in the city after dark because the citizens worked each day to a point that approached exhaustion, leaving them too tired to go out after work.

    After their interaction with the cab driver RN’s small group was dropped off at a government-owned night club where the former Vice President was recognized by patrons and invited up onto the stage. He recited “The Missouri Waltz” on the bar’s piano, a performance dedicated by RN to Harry S. Truman.

    RN later commented that of all the countries behind the Iron Curtain of which he visited during his tour, the citizens of East Berlin were among the most outspoken about their pro-Western views, though only when out of earshot of the authorities.

      Planning for Contingencies in Vietnam

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        John Negroponte, pictured on the far right, prepares briefing material for Henry Kissinger en route to Paris for the peace signings.

        The year 1970 saw President Nixon make some profound decisions regarding United States operations in Vietnam in addition to some real progress in negotiations. Secret bilateral negotiations between Kissinger and Hanoi’s chief negotiator Le Duc Tho began early in the year, yet intelligence reports were indicating that Communist infiltration from North to South Vietnam was increasing substantially. Likewise, the North Vietnamese were beginning to move large caches of equipment and weapons into their Cambodian sanctuaries. All indications pointed to an imminent and concerted North Vietnamese (NVA) assault upon South Vietnam (SVN). However, the buildup did not persuade to continue his Vietnamization plan. On April 20, 1970, President Nixon announced the withdrawal of 150,000 additional American troops to be completed within a year’s time.

        Ten days later, President Nixon ordered the joint US/ARVN assault on Cambodian Communist sanctuaries, one of the most successful offensive operations of the entire war.

        Following this success and an indication that Hanoi was seriously considering U.S. proposals during peace talks, it appeared that the turmoil of the late 1960s was turning to hope. However, the South Vietnamese presidential elections were quickly approaching and the sustained strength of a stable South Vietnamese government was far from certain.

        One who had served ten years in the foreign service and dedicated a majority of that time as a provincial specialist in Vietnam, John Dimitri Negroponte was brought onto Kissinger’s NSC staff for his experience in Indochina affairs. He acquired immense expertise as a result of his time analyzing the political situation as a provincial reporting official in South Vietnam following the deposition of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963 and later with his involvement in the Paris peace talks of 1968. Negroponte understood the dangers associated with a volatile South Vietnamese government and the residual effect it had on the South Vietnamese countryside, an area highly vulnerable to the Viet Cong political apparatus.

        In late 1970, as Negroponte was transitioning into a full time role with the National Security staff as a member of the planning staff, he crafted a memo to Kissinger outlining possible contingencies in case the situation in South Vietnam unraveled. Negroponte warned of the possibility that as presidential elections were approaching, South Vietnam may revert to its cycle of instability, as was witnessed from November 1963 to May 1966. Stability was SVN’s greatest hope, but contingencies needed to be accounted for. Kissinger signed the document with his initials, indicating that he had reviewed it, and scribbled a very prominent “Excellent.”

        View Negroponte’s memo below:

        Negroponte outlined three different ways he believed things in South Vietnam could quickly unravel. He cited the dangers of a political crisis in South Vietnam coinciding with presidential elections, the prospects of military setbacks in I and II Corps in the northern South Vietnamese regions, and an overextension of South Vietnamese governmental resources in Cambodia.

        Negroponte offered steps to placate these circumstances in the event that they occurred:

        Political Crisis in South Vietnam

        -Stability of GVN is essential to Vietnamization, and therefore support for Thieu, upon his likely decision to run, is highly advantageous.

        -Play the situation as a “temporary setback” to Vietnamization, which would not delay long-range plans.

        -No change in the present diplomatic position, because irrespective of internal situation in GVN, Communist insistence on negotiating away the GVN’s existence is a constant.

        Military Setbacks in I and II Corps

        -Citing, again, a “temporary setback” to Vietnamization, recalling past GVN recoveries from even more substantial NVA/VC pushes such as the Tet Offensive.

        -Continue redeployments while lifting some operational constraints of remaining combat forces, altering the ratio of remaining combat to support troops, or a brief bombing campaign.

        -The alternative option of stopping redeployments, which would be welcomed by the GVN and would frustrate Hanoi, would incite rath at home.

        -In the case of this “temporary setback,” on the diplomatic front urge the GVN to be more forthcoming on internal political matters while maintaining a firm stand on military issues. Warn Hanoi of the futility and risks involved in increasing application of force.

        Overextension of GVN Resources in Cambodia

        -Stress Hanoi’s responsibility for widening the war, citing GVN’s intervention as evidence of regional effort.

        -Military efforts would be similar to contingency B–the difference being that the GVN would seek to sharply reduce its commitments in Cambodia and that the U.S. would be faced with either saving Cambodia unilaterally with Thai assistance or to beef up military support for affected areas in SVN to retain RVNAF forces in Cambodia.

        With Negroponte’s contingency options, Kissinger began 1971 well prepared for his uphill negotiating battle with the North Vietnamese.

          Nixon in New York

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            Richard Nixon enjoys time with his dog, Checkers, in Central Park, New York City.

            In 1963, after losing the governor’s race in California, Richard Nixon moved away from politics and his home state. He and his family relocated to New York City where he resumed his career in law. He joined the Wall Street law firm Mudge, Stern, Baldwin, and Todd which was subsequently renamed Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, and Alexander.

            Before his move across the country, RN delivered a press conference that appeared to mark the unequivocal end of his political career.  Shortly thereafter his political career was detailed in a documentary that aired on ABC bearing the title “The Political Obituary of Richard M. Nixon”, a blunt and apparently final assessment of his political career.

            In a Los Angeles Times interview, RN expressed his desire to stay in California, claiming it was where he would prefer to live because of proximity to family and friends; however, he was still viewed as a Party leader in California, and the challenges of organizing and maintaining the Party without staff were becoming too taxing. He stated that he was personally spending upwards of $50,000 per year (or, roughly $380,000 adjusted for 2015) answering political mail. As a lawyer RN would be able to work without the emotional and financial stresses of political campaigning, making the move and change of career an attractive decision.

            The move to New York had a profound effect on RN. In a short amount of time he was already expressing that a career in law did not have the same driving purpose as a career in public service.

            This time away from his political career, which would later be known as RN’s “Wilderness Years”, offered him clarity, intellectual preparation and perspective. It would thus become the great motivator for him to resume his life in politics, ultimately leading to his decision to campaign for the presidency in 1968.

              1.15.71 – The Dedication of The Eisenhower Center

                Eisenhower Center Dedication

                On a brisk morning forty four years ago on Capitol Hill, President Richard Nixon stood before members of Congress and the National Committee to give a brief speech dedicating the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Republican Center. Upon completion, the building was intended to house the National Committee, the Congressional and Senatorial Campaign Committees, the Young Republican Federation, the Federation of Republican Women, and the Capitol Hill Club.

                In his speech, Nixon reflected on a conversation he had had with General Eisenhower after their victory in the 1953 presidential election, in which they had discussed the most valuable qualities an individual can present to an organization. The clear answer to Eisenhower was selflessness, described by him as the ability to sacrifice personal comfort for the good of the organization. In his address, Nixon praised US Representative James C. Auchincloss specifically for his dedication to the completion of the Center, and the selflessness and perseverance that he had exhibited in spite of an occasionally daunting lack of support.

                Nixon also emphasized that though selflessness of the individual was important, an organization should also work towards its own form of this trait. He argued that the Republican Party was at risk of losing that attribute by working harder at defining itself by its limits rather than its goals. The President also stated that in doing so, Republicans could be potentially shutting a door on individuals who would otherwise be able to use the Republican Party as a platform to achieve their own goals and benefit the country. He invited those at the ceremony to be open minded about those willing to come together to support the Republican Party.

                Nixon stated that the Republican Party should be thought of as an open and inclusive organization whose primary goal is to promote freedom for all people. He invited those gathered to view the Eisenhower Center as the first step towards building a symbolic ‘open door’ for those citizens devoted to the promotion of freedom and the unity of the nation.

                “…ours should be the party of the open door, open to all people, all parties, all faiths, all races.”
                –Richard M. Nixon

                In closing his address, Nixon reiterated the two key thoughts he believed General Eisenhower would have wanted to convey on this occasion. First, the importance of personal sacrifice within political campaigns, no matter the outcome, and, secondly his advice that the Republican Party should focus on keeping its doors open to every American citizen.

                  President Nixon Congratulates the #1 College Football Team in America

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                    President Nixon addresses football players and students of the University of Nebraska at the university’s Coliseum in Lincoln, Nebraska, on January 14, 1971.

                    On January 14, 1971, President Nixon made an appearance at the University of Nebraska to present its football team with a presidential plaque recognizing them as undisputed national champions. The 1970 Nebraska Cornhuskers compiled an impressive record of 11-0-1, and capped off their national championship season with a gritting 17-12 victory over Louisiana State University in the Orange Bowl on January 1.

                    “This year of football, a year of many great teams, a year in which many can perhaps rightfully claim to be number one, to come to Nebraska, a great university clearly apart from its great records in the field of athletics, to come here to the only major college team that was undefeated, and to make an award is something that I am very proud to do, proud to recognize this university, to recognize its coach, to recognize its co-captains, to recognize its fine members of the team, and in so doing to present the plaque from the President of the United States.”

                    In his capacity as President of the United States, RN used this ceremonial occasion to expound upon the common problems faced by young and old people of the time. With the student body of the University of Nebraska in mind, the President consoled a generation weary from the burdens of war, and offered inspiration for what was expected to be the foundation for a generation of peace.

                    “I want yours to be the first generation in this century to enjoy a full generation of peace,” President Nixon emphasized.

                    To accomplish this would in no way be an easy task. For a nation that had seen all generations of the 20th century at war, the challenges with sustaining peace were just as great as the challenges of war. President Nixon understood this and afforded a solution to this tremendous endeavor.

                    “There needs to be something more than the mere absence of war in life. Young people need something positive to respond to, some high enterprise in which they can test themselves, fulfill themselves. We must have great goals–goals that are worthy of us, worthy of our resources, our capacities, worthy of the courage and the wisdom and the will of our people. And we do have such great goals at home in America.”

                    The great goals at home lay in the principal problems America faced domestically. From problems of the environment to the conditions of America’s cities, there were plenty of pressing national issues that required national attention and participation.

                    “We must face them together. There can be no generation gap in America,” the President The destiny of this Nation is not divided into yours and ours. It is one destiny. We share it together. We are responsible for it together. And in the way we respond, history will judge us together.”

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