Sunday, February 17, 2013

Six Crises 3

I have two items for my write-up today on Richard Nixon's 1962 book, Six Crises.

1.  Something that stood out to me in Nixon's analysis of the Alger Hiss case was Nixon's criticism of elements of the political right.  For one, Nixon states that the recklessness of certain accusations from the political right about people's alleged Communist affiliations only advanced the cause of Communism.  Nixon did not explicitly mention Senator Joseph McCarthy, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's one of the right-wingers Nixon had in mind.  Second, on page 70, Nixon states: "Because I have consistently supported what some of them consider to be 'liberal' international policies----like foreign aid, reciprocal trade, collective security pacts, and adequate appropriations for our information and foreign service programs----the credentials I had gained as an anti-Communist because of my work in the Hiss case became somewhat tainted with a tinge of 'pink!'"  This was somewhat surprising to me because my impression is that Nixon prior to 1962 (when he had to fight off John Birchers in his race for Governor of California) was actually popular with the political right, notwithstanding his disagreement with it on foreign aid.  I base this on Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician.  Maybe there was more to the story than Ambrose portrays and Nixon had critics who considered him pink, or Nixon in Six Crises was merely saying that he had such critics in order to distance himself from the right-wing anti-Communists whom he considered to be irresponsible.

2.  In my reading of Six Crises so far, Nixon displays a sense of humor.  In talking about the unpopularity he gained for his role in the Alger Hiss case, Nixon refers to one elderly lady who said she didn't like Nixon because "he was mixed up with that awful Alger Hiss!", when Nixon actually challenged Alger Hiss and made a case against him!  When Nixon discussed the 1952 Presidential election and referred to a poll at the time that indicated that he wasn't well known, Nixon said that "This might have dampened my high spirits except that the same poll disclosed that only 32 per cent could identify the Democratic nominee" (page 76).  Then there was a story Nixon told about when he was campaigning for Eisenhower on a train and the train took off before he could finish his speech!  Nixon was upset, until he learned that it had a dramatic effect: when Nixon asked the crowd to "come along and join this crusade" while the train was moving away, and people were following it, that created "a sense of participation and excitement" with the audience (page 82).  Nixon relates that he learned from this experience to take his job, but not himself, too seriously!

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