Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nixon's Shadow 2

On pages 36-37 of Nixon's Shadow: The History of An Image, David Greenberg describes the phenomenon of Nixon-hating in the 1950's:

"With liberal Democrats blazing the way, many Americans came to regard Nixon as a singularly dark and dangerous presence in national life.  And while the hatred had an ideological component, there was far more to it.  Nixon's detractors viewed him as categorically different from other partisan foes.  'All the time I've been in politics,' Harry Truman told his biographer, 'there's only two people I hate, and he's one.'  Adlai Stevenson said Nixon was the sole public figure he ever 'really loathed' and once, upon hearing Nixon's name at a party, exclaimed, 'Please!  Not while I'm eating!'  Eleanor Roosevelt, a biographer wrote, considered Nixon 'the politician she most detested.'  Dean Acheson thought just two or three others as odious.  Averell Harriman once stalked out of a swanky Georgetown dinner party----the kind where Democrats, Republicans, and reporters normally mixed with ease----because he spied Nixon sitting nearby.  'I will not break bread with that man!' the diplomat boomed before exiting.  And John F. Kennedy, speaking to The New Yorker's Washington correspondent Richard Rovere, called his 1960 presidential opponent a 'son of a bitch' and a 'bastard.'"

Why was Richard Nixon so despised?  Nixon asked Monica Crowley this question, according to Monica's second book about Nixon, Nixon in Winter.  Nixon believed it was because of his role as a Congressman in exposing Alger Hiss as a spy for the Soviets, for Hiss was a darling of the liberal establishment.  But David Greenberg does not buy that, for Greenberg says on page 44 that "many liberals and journalists had sided with" Nixon on the Hiss case.  Stephen Ambrose a couple of times in his Nixon trilogy (particularly volume 2) takes Nixon to task for his persecution complex, arguing that Nixon brought some of that persecution on himself.

Greenberg goes into the antagonistic view of Nixon held by many 1950's liberals.  According to a number of 1950's liberals, Greenberg narrates, Nixon was unprincipled and shady, and also dangerous because he could exploit the mass media (i.e., television, as in his Checkers Speech) to sucker the masses.  They regarded Nixon's common-man persona as phony.  They noted that Nixon was a ruthless campaigner----perhaps "demagogue" would be an appropriate word for how they characterized his campaign strategy.  They didn't think that Nixon was genteel or personable enough.  And yet, they still regarded him as a more sophisticated version of Joe McCarthy.

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