One Man’s Opinion: When Nixon Wore the White Hat

‘Tricky Dick,’ ...Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994), the 37th President of the United States, is among the most reviled and scrutinized presidents in modern U.S. history.  Nixon is perhaps most remembered for Watergate, Deep Throat, and the skullduggery of members of his administration and campaign team committing various high crimes and misdemeanors during his re-election campaign in 1973, and the subsequent cover-up.  Nixon was flawed as a human, at some level we all are, and I have certainly come to know other public office holders and appointed officials who have more greatly abused the public trust.

But U.S. voters gave Nixon big wins and the U.S. White House twice, as there were also significant domestic policy and foreign affairs wins and accomplishments.  The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts both became law during the Nixon years.  The former President eventually got the U.S. out of Vietnam and opened up relations with then closed China.  With inflation near records only being surpassed today, Nixon froze prices (with limited effect) and moved the U.S. currency off of the gold standard.  There is still a Fort Knox, and vault filled with our U.S. strategic gold reserves, but that gold and silver no longer back up the value of every U.S. dollar.

But perhaps Nixon’s bright mind and care for this nation shone brightest before he ever reached the office of President.  In 1960, then Vice-President Nixon had the endorsement of popular and departing President Dwight Isenhower. The first televised  Presidential Debate in U.S. history would prove pivotal in the race between Nixon and handsome, young Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy.  Those who listened on the radio typically pronounced Nixon the winner, while those who watched the telecast noted Nixon’s five-o’clock shadow, poor make-up. and perspiration.  The telegenic Kennedy, a fresh face to most Americans by comparison, had charisma and confidence and was declared the victor by most who viewed the debate in stark black and white.

That Presidential election would be among the closest and tightest races in U.S. history.  Kennedy would receive 34.2 million votes and Nixon 34.1 million.  A fifty-state difference of roughly 100,000 votes and 1/6 of one percentage point.  The Electoral College vote would be more decisive, due to where those votes fell, though questions of ballot manipulation in Texas and Illinois almost immediately followed the election.  Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago reached out to the soon-to-be President-elect (Kennedy) on that nail-biting election night to tell him, “Mr. President, with a little bit of luck and the help of a few close friends, you’re going to carry Illinois.”

Lyndon Baines Johnson, then-Senate Majority leader, and Kennedy’s running mate in 1960 had purportedly wired elections in his home state of Texas dating back to 1948.  Joseph Kennedy the President-elect’s father, was bragging within days of the election that his family could still ‘deliver’ votes in machine-style in Boston and Massachusetts, a state which was then still competitive for Republicans.

For comparison purposes, the margin of the popular vote between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump was 7,000,000 votes.  The Electoral College victory margin by Biden over Trump, was the same as Trump’s over Hillary Clinton in 2016.  Clinton also won that popular vote, largely based on a massive win margin in California, by 4,000,000 votes.

President Eisenhower, V.P. Nixon, and Nixon’s campaign team all believed the contest was stolen and encouraged Nixon to challenge the results.  Nixon said no.  Nixon knew such a challenge and any resulting review would be divisive for the nation, take months if not years, and likely be unsuccessful.  He was also keenly aware that many young and then-forming democracies of the world considered the U.S. to be their model and shining beacon.  What might an internal challenge to U.S. elections do to harm those efforts?

Richard Nixon understood that the Presidency is more important than who occupies that seat and that the Republic which is the United States has remained a global model for then nearing two centuries of democracy in action.  On January 6, 1961, outgoing Vice President Richard Nixon presided over the joint session of Congress and certification of the results of the Electoral College, confirming Kennedy’s election.

Nixon said, “In our campaigns, no matter how hard-fought they may be, no matter how close the election may turn out to be, those who lose accept the verdict and support those who win.”  Novel concept...yes on that day and for students of history quite a few more later, Richard Nixon was wearing the white hat.


One Opinion Vlog # 12 - The Devil Came Down to Georgia





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