November 13, 2013 By Chris Barber
“In formulating my policies, I tried to strike a moderate balance. Inevitably I dissatisfied the people on both extremes…So let’s just tackle the problems instead of talking about them. We will be judged by what we do rather than what we say on this issue.” –RN, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
“The lesson is to govern and to show up. Let me explain what I mean. On governing, it’s about doing things, accomplishing things, reaching across the aisle and crafting accomplishments.” –Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie
Governor Chris Christie’s commanding second term election victory in New Jersey, a blue state, has media and the public tagging him as the GOP’s presidential favorite in 2016. Christie’s public espousal of government action and criticism for petty partisanship has led to his success in the garden state. With his face graced on the cover of Time Magazine, pundits are now calling him Mr. Pragmatic, and the savior of the GOP. Is he the next Richard Nixon?
Why the comparisons with President Nixon? Nixon, a conservative at heart but a man who understood the importance of progressive policies, would most certainly have been considered too activist for the modern Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)—an annual political conference that evaluates popular candidates for the presidency. CPAC declined to invite Governor Christie to their 2013 conference.
Christie’s public praise of President Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy and his public reproach of House Speaker John Boehner as well as Congressional Republicans over inaction for a Sandy Relief bill has fellow party members doubting—even shunning—his conservatism. Likewise, the Governor’s popularized words have overshadowed his successful conservative record.
Contrary to public perception, Christie has developed a hard strung conservative line in his left-leaning state. He has vetoed legislation to hike taxes on millionaires; he has successfully capped property taxes; he has attacked tenure policies for incompetent public teachers; and he has successfully reformed his state’s employee pension system. In all, he has made his state fiscally sound and administratively more effective. Yet he is plugged by the conservative base as a liberal-leaner.
In response, it appears Governor Christie is taking a stance against far-right hardline conservative wing Republicans, so a comparison to President Nixon may fall short in this sense. President Nixon fought determinably for the Republican Party, often referred to as the horse for the GOP during campaign seasons. In 1964, he famously defended the RNC’s selection of Barry Goldwater as its presidential nominee, not because he believed the man to be astoundingly capable, but because he believed in party unity and a united front to challenge the political landscape. Will Governor Christie do the same if he declares his candidacy?
If he does, fortunately, and much like President Nixon, Governor Christie has cover from extremist elements. His successful battle against the New Jersey Education Association over teacher tenure policies and a $100 million increase in school funding provides ample conservative cover, just as President Nixon’s successful interrogation of Alger Hiss provided cover against allegations he was soft on communism for engaging China and the USSR. It will be hard to deny Christie presidential prominence simply by chiding his remarks in favor of President Obama.
During his presidency, Nixon was hardly pulled to the left by a Democratic Congress—rather, he held them accountable for inefficiency and inaction. His overarching goal for domestic policy as President was to consolidate agencies, weed out inefficiencies, and draw a hard line regarding law and order—all conservative values. Governor Christie has comparatively not been pulled by a left-leaning state—his record speaks for itself.
Christie comes off as a conservative populist, but is able to unite the intrinsic values of his blue-collar New Jerseyans. This is the reason why he is a Republican favorite to ride the ticket, because he can accomplish in the face of idealistic differences.
The New Jersey arena stands in stark contrast to the national political arena. Whereas most of President Nixon’s political career revolved around the national stage, Governor Christie has only engaged in state affairs. He has yet to test the waters of in-party opposition and will face an uphill battle to bind the factions of the GOP under his wing.
November 12, 2013 By Chris Barber
Documents from the National Archives detail how the Nixon administration approached the President’s re-election in 1972. The midterm elections of 1970 garnered minimal gains for the Republican Party and the prognosis of election year 1972 appeared pessimistic. Democrats still outnumbered Republicans 5 to 3. As one staffer for President Nixon claimed, “we have a ball which must be played from where it lies.”
In a November 11, 1970 memo, Bill Safire, one of the President’s senior speech writers, broke down recommendations for the President’s posture and political attitudes in the years leading up to re-election.
The likely appeals of President Nixon over the next two years would be peace without surrender, prosperity without war, and confidence in the President as President. To achieve success with these appeals, the President would have to punctuate the peace theme (the President as peacemaker and peacekeeper), would have to encourage the public that the country is moving steadily along towards economic improvement, and would have to counterattack the selection of the Democratic nominee.
In a political strategy document dated in early 1971, the outlook for re-election without far-reaching political efforts was poor.
“Unless we are in the process of a major party realignment, unless we are living at the beginning of a new political ‘era’—a ‘Nixon Era’—the historical odd in favor of the President’s re-election in 1972 are one in five.”
A memo from John Ehrilchman to the President dated November 18, 1970 submitted his ideas for the President’s political posturing for the two years ahead.
“For the entire two years (November 1970 – November 1972), you must always be the President,” he wrote, “never a politician, never a candidate, never anything else.”
In a November 19, 1970 memo, political strategist Harry S. Dent also explained the posture the President should maintain through 1971, in light of minimal Republican gains in Congressional seats that same year.
“1971 would be a good year to show more courageous leadership actions such as the Cambodia operation,” he said. “Let’s go against the safe or sure route on some domestic matters, even where there is a risk of defeat on an issue—just so we know where we can reasonably expect to wind up.”
In July of 1972, when the Democratic National Convention selected as its Presidential nominee George McGovern, it appeared the Nixon administration would have an easy time going into the general election campaign stretch. The DNC was a cacophony and after McGovern was nominated, he lost the support of his own party.
“The 1972 Democratic convention in Miami was a political shambles. After Humphrey’s defeat in 1968, the party machinery had been taken over by radical reformers who sought to cleanse it of the “old politics” of the traditional organizations and power blocs by replacing them with the ‘new politics’ of minority groups and radical activists.” RN, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
However, despite the favorable polls indicating the surety of a Nixon victory, the President told Bob Haldeman that “we have implicitly operated as if we are care-takers hoping to be extended in residence for another term.” He believed that the most difficult part of the 1972 campaign for his staff would be a tendency to relax and become complacent over polls.
Bruce Herschensohn, another Nixon presidential speechwriter, voiced similar concerns over complacency in a staff memo dated September 21, 1972 that integrated his concern over President Nixon’s permanence.
“What it probably is, is that we want President Nixon to be permanent—to live beyond his mortality—which, of course, is what all great men do,” he said. “We all feel he is great, but temporary, and that doesn’t jibe.”
Thus, to develop a “sense of mission and not back into victory by default,” the President devised five basic components to a 1972 election strategy:
On the campaign front, President Nixon believed that the best way to beat McGovern would be to do less campaigning and to do more in the oval office. This would ensure that on the domestic front Americans understood how well his administration was doing. Election day wasn’t about putting the Republican candidate in office, it was re-electing a proven leader.
“There was no major area of American life in which we had not made progress or proposed dramatic new alternatives.”
By election day 1972, inflation had been curbed, the GNP had increased, the real earnings of Americans were increasing at an annual rate of 4 percent, and increasing crime rates had been curtailed from 122 percent from 1960-1968 to 1 percent in 1972. Perhaps more importantly to the American citizen at that time, draft calls had been reduced from 299,000 to 50,000 from 1968 to 1972 and relations with China and the Soviet Union had been improving.
The landslide victory for President Nixon in 1972, in which he amassed 60.7% of the popular vote and swept all the electoral votes in all but one state and the District of Columbia, demonstrated that the American people most certainly agreed.
November 9, 2013 By Robert Nedelkoff
In just under two weeks – on a Friday, as the workings of the calendar would have it – will fall the fiftieth anniversary of an event that took place early on a Friday afternoon in Dallas, Texas, which marked one of American history’s most profound tragedies. November 22, 1963 is a day which, alongside December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001, evokes the most solemn and searing memories in the collective American consciousness – and all the more so because, unlike Pearl Harbor, which was preceded by two years of world war, and 9/11, which was presaged by a series of terrorist actions against Americans abroad, the assassination of President Kennedy came utterly out of the blue.
A few days after the death of the President, his remains, in a caisson pulled by a riderless horse named Black Jack, went through the streets of Washington, followed by a procession of dignitaries that included three Presidents – Lyndon Johnson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Harry S. Truman.
It is not a very common occurence for three Presidents to be in Washington on the same day, and it is an extremely unusual event for three Presidents – current, former, or future – to be in the same city unless a political convention or a Presidential funeral is underway. But on the morning of November 22, 1963, three Presidents were in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, within thirty miles of each other.
In Fort Worth that day, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson awoke in the Hotel Texas and prepared to board the plane that would take him on the brief flight to Love Field in Dallas, and from there to the motorcade that would enter Dealey Plaza just before 12:30 Central Standard Time.
And in Dallas that morning, Richard Nixon awoke in the Baker Hotel. There was a policeman stationed in the hallway outside his door, but the officer was there not so much to protect the former Vice President as to deter jewel thieves or autograph seekers from bothering movie star Joan Crawford who was a few doors down from RN.
Both the Hollywood legend and the future President were in town for the same reason – to attend the annual convention of the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages. Both were there on behalf of the Pepsi-Cola corporation – Miss Crawford as a member of its board of directors (she was the widow of its chairman), and RN in his capacity as an attorney working on Pepsi’s behalf.
After meeting various bottling-plant executives the previous day, RN had spoken to reporters that night, delivering a vigorous critique of the Kennedy White House’s policies in his capacity as Republican elder statesman.
In the morning, RN proceeded to Love Field, and boarded a plane which departed a little more than an hour before Kennedy and Johnson’s arrival.
For the rest of the story – plus a very vivid account of the sixteen-year friendship of RN and JFK – I’m happy to recommend this article from the Dallas Morning News by Alan Peppard. For nearly a half-century now, conspiracy theorists have read all manner of sinister meanings into the fact that Richard Nixon was in Dallas the morning of the assassination, and Mr. Peppard’s article, part of the News’ thoroughly well-researched and well-written coverage of the 11/22/63 events this month, tells the real story, minus all the smoke and mirrors so often attached to it, and tells it well.
The article’s conclusion, describing how RN concluded the day, gives a good indication of its overall quality, of a kind increasingly rare in the journalism of today. (It’s worth adding that the letters referred to below can be seen at the Nixon Library.)
Nixon entered the cocoon of his 10-room apartment overlooking Central Park. The long hallway was hung with Chinese paintings, a gift from Madame Chiang Kai-shek. The living room featured light colored drapery and large Oriental jardinières.
His private library was furnished with comfortable, upholstered easy chairs and sofas. On the mantel was his extensive collection of elephants made from teak, ivory, crystal, stone and plastic.
“That night, I sat up late in my library,” Nixon remembered. He thought of his brothers Arthur and Harold, dead at ages 7 and 23, both from tuberculosis. He thought of Kennedy and the close-knit Kennedy family. From father Joe down to youngest child, Ted, Nixon knew all of the Kennedys. And he thought of Jackie, who had once interviewed him as part of her job as the “Inquiring Photographer” for the Washington Times-Herald.
While Jackie waited out the autopsy and embalming of her husband at Bethesda Naval Hospital, the fire in Nixon’s library burned itself out.
Before the dawn of Nov. 23, he put pen to paper.
Nixon began, “Dear Jackie, While the hand of fate made Jack and me political opponents, I always cherished the fact that we were personal friends from the time we came to the Congress together in 1947.”
Several weeks later, he received a letter written in her precise, feminine script: “You two young men — colleagues in Congress, adversaries in 1960 — and now look what has happened.”
Jackie foresaw Nixon’s election as president. “Just one thought I would say to you,” she wrote. “If it doesn’t work out as you have hoped for so long, please be consoled by what you already have — your life and your family.”
November 9, 2013 By Robert Nedelkoff
Last Thursday night, Manhattan attorney Christopher Nixon Cox spoke at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire. His talk, “The 40th Anniversary of President Nixon’s Trip to China – Moving Forward,” not only examined his grandfather’s epoch-making visit to the People’s Republic of China in 1972, but also described his own visit to the PRC in May of this year, in a group that included his wife Andrea, former National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane, and USMC Col. Jack Brennan, who had been among those traveling with RN in 1972.
On Monday, Mr. Cox will visit China again, where he will meet with some of the nation’s leaders. In an interview with the Keene (New Hampshire) Sentinel he talks about the importance of continuing to build strong business ties between America and China:
He believes the economies of both countries can benefit greatly from trade agreements, that China represents a tremendous economic opportunity for the U.S. He says it’s a terrific way to ensure long-term peace between the two powers.
“We don’t act like we’re adversaries,” he said, noting that tens of thousands of students from both countries are involved in educational exchanges. “Trade agreements are the best thing we can do for peace across the world. We should be welcoming the Chinese to come in and invest in our infrastructure and our culture and we should be investing in their infrastructure and culture.”
He says U.S.-China relations will be most important of all as the next century unfolds, given the strength of the two economic superpowers. He remembers Nixon telling him a peaceful and prosperous China is a cornerstone for peace and stability worldwide.
In the interview Mr. Cox also reminisces about his days as a student at Princeton University, an institution whose faculty members in the political-science and history departments, several of them veteran New Leftists, are for the most part not well known for their admiration of the thirty-seventh President:
As a college student, he loved chiding professors who didn’t know his family background. By then, he says, he could handle himself when someone criticized his grandfather.
“They would say some things and I’d go up to the liberal ones, and challenge them to look at the record: EPA, workplace improvements with OSHA, Title IX, Bridge to Human Dignity, health care,” he said.
Mr. Cox in this article also mentions an event in his trip this spring which especially evoked memories of his grandfather, who passed away when he was fifteen:
In Hangzhou, a city 2½ hours west of Shanghai, Cox planted a redwood sapling next to a sapling Nixon planted on his trip. Nixon’s sapling has since grown into a huge tree.
“This tree is symbolic of the relationship between China and the U.S. It will ultimately grow to be a giant in the forest. That gave me the chills,” said Cox, adding that he hopes the tradition continues with his children and grandchildren.
November 3, 2013 By Jonathan Movroydis
On November 3, 1969, RN moved the nation and emphasized his pledge to end the Vietnam War in a way that the forces of freedom could win the peace.
“Let us be united for peace. Let us also be united against defeat,” he said to the millions of Americans watching on television. “Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.”
Watch the whole speech below: