For my write-up today on Greg Mitchell's Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady: Richard Nixon vs. Helen Gahagan Douglas----Sexual Politics and the Red Scare, 1950, I'll feature and comment on five quotes that stood out to me.
1. On page 151, Mitchell narrates the following about the Korean War:
the past several weeks, General Curtis Le May's SAC bombers, with
little fanfare, had dropped more than three thousand tons on bombs on
North Korean targets----said to be 'military' or 'industrial' in nature
but often the centers of large cities. As in World War II, 'precision
bombing' was a misnomer of profoundly tragic dimensions. Le May had
also introduced a little-known weapon, napalm, a mixture of
phosphorus-ignited acids that burned inside wounds for as long as
fifteen days. Thousands of civilians had already perished in this
limited war, and a U.S. military dispatch described a 'wilderness of
scorched earth' across parts of North Korea."
This passage stood
out to me because it was about the tragic aspects of war. And civilian
casualties have occurred in a number of other wars that we have fought:
Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and (if you count this as a war) the
drone-strikes. Like Ron Paul, I have wondered if there are better ways
than war for the U.S. to keep herself or her allies safe, such as trade.
Republican Governor Earl Warren of California, who later was the
notorious liberal Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, ran for
re-election in 1950 against Democrat James Roosevelt, who was Franklin
Roosevelt's son. For a variety of reasons----James Roosevelt's
alienation of Harry Truman, James' lack of political experience, James'
lack of political talent, etc.----James' candidacy was not going too
well. But I chuckled at what Mitchell said on page 162: "[James]
Roosevelt, with his pedigree, could not even charge the governor with
shattering the unspoken limit of two gubernatorial terms." Yup, I guess
James couldn't (since his father FDR served more than two terms as
3. On page 163, Mitchell says that California voters
liked the fact that Governor Earl Warren "had balanced seven consecutive
state budgets..." On page 175, Mitchell says that "Somehow Warren
managed to reduce taxes while increasing medical, unemployment, and
old-age benefits, earning Democratic support despite attacking the New
Deal as impractical and bureaucratic." Remarkable! What was Warren? A
4. The McCarran bill would require Communists to
register with the U.S. Government. Some liberals had a problem with
this bill, so (to avoid appearing soft on Communism) they proposed an alternative: to allow the President to
declare an "internal security emergency", during which time the Attorney
General could "round up persons whom the president had 'reason to
believe' might engage in espionage, sabotage, or other acts of
subversion" (page 159). A White House aide called this "a concentration
camp bill". Liberals claimed that this was better than the McCarran
bill because it would "focus on acts, not just on agitation" and would
"avoid character assassination" (Mitchell on page 159). Mitchell says
on pages 159-160:
"Now it was time for the Republicans (and
conservative Democrats) to rail against an 'unconstitutional' measure
that would lead to 'dictatorship.' But that didn't mean they could not
live with it...Rather than attempt to vote down the Democrats'
substitute measure, the GOP brain trust (which included Congressman
Nixon) decided to incorporate the detention-camp aspect into their own
I admire bipartisanship and openness to the other side's ideas, but not in this case!
President Harry Truman vetoed the McCarran bill, noting that federal
intelligence agencies said it "would weaken, not strengthen, the fight
against communism" (Mitchell on page 167). He compared the rule that
Communists register with "requiring thieves to register with the local
police" (Mitchell on page 167), and he said that the concentration camp
part of the bill was "probably unconstitutional" (Mitchell on page
167). Truman said that people should be punished for crimes, not for
holding certain opinions. The House overrode Truman's veto by 286-48
(as Douglas voted against overriding it), and the Senate overrode it
57-10. The outcome of the McCarran Act, according to Mitchell, was that
no one registered with the Attorney General, so "now it was up to the
attorney general to find the Reds, go after them, and punish them----if
he could" (page 227).
5. I got a chuckle out of what Mitchell said on page 165:
and perhaps most effectively, Nixon resorted to a simple rhetorical
trick he would rely on for the rest of the campaign: claiming that
unnamed advisers had urged him to avoid certain issues, but he was going
to talk about them anyway. No matter that the 'warning' from his aides
might be apocryphal. Murray Chotiner believed that these avowals
demonstrated to the voters that the candidate was 'willing to meet'
difficult issues. Usually, the issue Nixon purportedly was told to
ignore concerned the Hiss case or some other aspect of the Communist
threat. But in his kickoff speech, the subject he claimed to have been
advised to avoid was the gender of his opponent."
Nixon said that he would criticize his opponent, even though his aides
advised him that criticizing a woman could cost him the election. Nixon
may not have actually heard this from his aides (I don't know). But,
elsewhere in the book, Mitchell says that Nixon was walking a fine line:
he wanted to criticize Douglas, but he also did not want to look like a
bully. Apparently, Nixon got around that by resorting to his strategy
of claiming that he was bravely going against the advice of his aides,
out of his commitment to telling voters the truth.
Make America Great Again!
46 minutes ago