I have three items for my write-up today on Irwin Gellman's The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years, 1946-1952.
Gellman talks often about Richard Nixon's relationship with Senator
Joseph McCarthy. My impression is that McCarthy admired Nixon for his
investigative work on the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and
so McCarthy, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee for
Expenditures in the Executive Departments, named Nixon to that
committee, while bumping off Senator Margaret Chase Smith because of her
open criticism of McCarthy on the floor of the Senate. But Gellman
states that McCarthy and Nixon were different in their approaches:
McCarthy was reckless in his statements, whereas Nixon sought facts.
Nixon believed that McCarthy was addressing a legitimate problem in
talking about Communist subversion in the U.S. Government, but he did
not care for McCarthy's reckless speculations.
criticized President Harry Truman for firing General Douglas MacArthur
during the Korean War. On page 366, Gellman states that "Nixon argued
for stopping all trade with Communist China, bombing enemy bases across
the Yalu River, receiving significant assistance from the United
Nations, and permitting the Chinese Nationalists on Formosa as well as
guerrilla forces on the mainland to assist in the victory."
agree with Truman or MacArthur? I'll admit that I have much to read on
this topic before I can offer an informed opinion, but I'll say what I
think right now. I can see Truman's point that we needed to keep the
war limited to Korea, for why would we want to make the war worse and
possibly start another world war, which would have cost us a lot in
lives and resources? Moreover, I don't think that atomic warfare should
have even been on the table (though this article says that it's unclear whether MacArthur even wanted to use nuclear weapons in the Korean War).
the other hand, I do believe that Truman was tying MacArthur's hands
and preventing him from winning the Korean War. If the Communist
Chinese were sending resources to North Korea across the Yalu River, I
can see MacArthur's point that this needed to be stopped. Would we have
been able to bomb the enemy bases across the Yalu River, without
provoking retaliation and starting another world war?
has a chapter about the graft within the Truman Administration. I found
this chapter to be dull because I was not particularly interested in
who was giving to whom and following the mazes of how the graft took
place. But it's an important chapter, if you're interested in that
subject. What I got out of this chapter was that Truman was not
personally guilty of the corruption within his administration but
allowed his relationship with the wrongdoers to get in the way of
seriously addressing the problem. Nixon, meanwhile, was criticizing the
Truman Administration. Even when an official did something that was
shady but technically legal, Nixon said that we should value what's
right, not just what's legal. I wonder how Nixon's Administration would
fare were that standard applied to it!