I have three items for my write-up today on Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician.
I read about Richard Nixon's 1946 run for Congress against Democratic
Congressman Jerry Voorhis. Ambrose overlaps with Irwin Gellman on
certain issues, particularly in his contention that Nixon's campaign was
not primarily bankrolled by wealthy big business interests, as well as
his notion that Murray Chotiner (a campaign manager whose strategy was
to attack severely the opponents of the candidates for whom he was
working) did not play a significant role in Nixon's 1946 campaign, for
Chotiner was busy with another campaign. But Ambrose still maintains
that Nixon played rough, for Nixon alleged that Voorhis was supported by
NC-PAC, which had some of the same prominent members as the Congress of
Industrial Organizations, into which Communists were making
incursions. While Voorhis had NC-PAC's support in 1944, he did
not have it in 1946 on account of his commitment to an anti-Communist
foreign policy, though there were some liberals within NC-PAC who wanted
for the organization to endorse Voorhis. Nixon also brought
up Voorhis' past as a socialist. But Ambrose and Gellman both present
Voorhis' responses to Nixon's accusations as quite inept, so Voorhis'
loss was partly his own fault. For example, in Ambrose's
narration, rather than denying that he had support from NC-PAC, Voorhis
said that NC-PAC and the CIO were two separate groups, and he also
repudiated the support of NC-PAC, which he didn't even have.
the question of whether people on Nixon's campaign staff called voters
and told them that Voorhis was a Communist, a charge against Nixon's
campaign that Gellman thinks is without factual basis, Ambrose appears
to be open. Ambrose says there is no firsthand evidence for such a
notion, and that Nixon's supporters say that such a strategy would
backfire anyway, as they hint that the Democrats made those calls so
that Nixon would get the blame. Yet, Ambrose mentions a Voorhis leader
whose niece claimed to work for two days in Nixon's 1946 campaign, and
she said that she got $9 a day for making phone calls alleging that
Voorhis was a Communist.
2. Ambrose talks about Nixon's role on
the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) when he was a
Congressman. Ambrose depicts Nixon as open-minded when he was asked to
serve on HUAC, for freshman Congressman Donald Jackson related that
Nixon wondered aloud if liberals were correct in their criticisms of
HUAC. When Nixon listened to a speech by President Harry Truman about
the dangers of international Communism, as well as talked with Father
John Cronin, an anti-Communist priest who was once in the CIO and who
helped the FBI on projects, Nixon became more convinced that Communism
was a threat.
What did Nixon believe that the Communist
Party in the United States would do, however? Did he fear that it would
overthrow the United States government? Ambrose's answer to that is
no. Ambrose notes that Nixon stated that the U.S. government was
"stronger than that of the Czar in 1917" (Ambrose's words on page 151).
But Nixon feared that, if there were a war between the U.S.S.R. and the
West, the Communists in the U.S. would support the U.S.S.R. and would
sabotage the U.S. economy. As Ambrose says on page 151,
"Everyone recalled that during the Hitler-Stalin pact period, CIO unions
that were Communist-dominated had called strikes for the purely
political purpose of disrupting American aid to Britain."
much left to read before I can judge whether Ambrose will portray
Nixon's activity on HUAC as fair and moderate, or as extreme and
exploitative. Irwin Gellman in The Contender argued for the
former. On page 159, however, Ambrose tries to read between the lines
on the issue of Nixon's approach to alleged Communist influence within
Hollywood: "Always unspoken in Nixon's remarks, but always there, was
the implication that the Jewish studio owners and the Communist movie
writers were involved in a conspiracy. They were willing, in fact
eager, to attack Nazis, but hesitant, not to say unwilling, to go after
3. On pages 137-138, Ambrose talks about the inflation that existed
during the Truman Administration. The inflation was essentially due to
demand exceeding supply right after World War II. Ambrose narrates :
"After the binge of the V-J Day celebration, America went into a long
hangover. Throughout the nation, people had eagerly anticipated the
coming of peace. It would mean jobs, houses, new cars, new
refrigerators, electric toasters, plentiful supplies of meat and liquor,
the good life they had fought to preserve and expand. But a year after
the Japanese surrender, all these items remained in short supply. The
economic dislocations of the war could not be set straight overnight."
can see Nixon's point that the governmental Office of Price
Administration (OPA) was part of the problem. The OPA's limits on the
price of beef discouraged ranchers from putting their cattle on the
market, since the price for their product was too low, and thus there
was a shortage of beef on the market. That encouraged more people to
look for substitutes such as chicken and fish, thereby increasing demand
for those products, and thus prices.
Did Swinburne get Swindled?
1 hour ago