Second Debate

Sunday, October 9, AD 2016

I loved the show Rawhide when I was a kid and I imagine that there were more than a few ticked CBS viewers on October 7, 1960 when they tuned in to see the Western only to view two politicians debating!  Nixon wore television makeup for this second ever Presidential debate, unlike the first one, and most pundits at the time thought he won this second debate.  Nixon had spent little time actually practicing law, but he was good at the cut and thrust of verbal warfare, while Kennedy was better at set piece speeches.  Unfortunately for Nixon, viewership fell off by about twenty million viewers after the initial debate that he lost.  In those long ago days before the internet, if the debate wasn’t watched when first broadcast, it wasn’t going to be seen at all, except in the briefest of snippets on the evening news.

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3 Responses to Second Debate

  • Nixon had spent little time actually practicing law, but he was good at the cut and thrust of verbal warfare, while Kennedy was better at set piece speeches.

    Don’t think Nixon did any trial work at all. I think in his second pass at law practice, he offered oral arguments in appellate proceedings. IIRC, Nixon was a debate team veteran, like Ted Cruz but on a smaller scale.

  • From 1937-41 Nixon worked for the law firm of Wingert and Bewley, eventually becoming a partner. He did some trial work, mostly commercial litigation. He avoided divorce cases, as all smart lawyers should! Nixon was proud that among modern presidents he was the only practicing attorney which just shows that people can be proud of the strangest things!

  • IIRC, the Conrad Black biography says he did a couple of divorce cases, but found them unpalatable because the clients he had tended to discuss aspects of marital intimacy, so he avoided them after that.

    Gerald Ford practiced law for about 7 years, in partnership with Philip Buchan (who, I think, continued to practice in Grand Rapids after Ford left for Washington). I think Roosevelt practiced for a few years ca. 1910, but had some financial sector job during the 1920s.

    Supposedly, Nixon came to despise law practice, and told a friend ca. 1966 that he had to do something else or he’d be intellectually dead in five years and physically dead not long after. It’s a pity. Those 3 or 4 years may have been the most congenial his wife ever had.

September 26, 1960: The First Kennedy-Nixon Debate

Thursday, September 8, AD 2016



Fifty-six years ago in the historical rear view mirror, the four Kennedy-Nixon debates were the first presidential debates and set the precedent for presidential debates, although the next would not occur until 1976 between Ford and Carter.  In the first debate Kennedy, who secretly suffered from numerous ailments, radiated health and vigor.  Nixon looked terrible in comparison, having been  hospitalized for two weeks in August over an infected knee and having not regained the weight he lost during his recovery.  Nixon insisted on campaigning until the time of the debate and refused to wear television makeup.  Nixon’s mother called him after the debate and asked him if he was ill. After the debate, polls indicated that Kennedy went from a slight deficit to a slight lead.

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July 24, 1959: The Kitchen Debate

Sunday, July 24, AD 2016



Hard to believe that it is 57 years since the Kitchen Debate between Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschchev.  The US scored one of the biggest propaganda coups of the Cold War by building a typical American house, cut in half for easy viewing, at the American National Exhibit at Sokolniki Park in Moscow in 1959.  This was part of an agreement where the Soviets staged an exhibit in New York the same year.  Ordinary Soviets flocked to see it and were awed at the technology in the house featuring the latest labor saving and recreational devices in 1959.  They were floored at the contention of the Americans that this was a typical house that an average American could afford.  The impromptu debate between Khruschchev redounded greatly to the benefit of Nixon who came across to American audiences as an able champion of their cause.  Khruschchev was also impressed by Nixon, so much so that he later claimed that he did everything in his power to defeat Nixon when Nixon ran for President in 1960.

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2 Responses to July 24, 1959: The Kitchen Debate

  • Great performance by Nixon though I wish the video had a dubbed translation of Khrushchev’s remarks.
    In Khrushchev’s memoirs (fascinating reading) he gives the kitchen debate short shrift. I’m sure it would have gotten a much fuller treatment if he thought he had won.

  • Another matter to consider always with regard to Khrushchev (cf. “Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar”) is that he came up the ranks from his extremely poor upbringing in southern Russian farm near the Ukrainian border, later working during WW1 as a metal worker, then eventually becoming a party boss in Moscow in the 1930’s. What aided his ascension up the ranks was his facility as a skilled murderer and efficient hit-man for the Communist party leaders. Though very short in height, he was beastly strong and was known to throttle strong men with his bare hands or squeeze unfortunates to death in a fatal bear hug. The deceased were said to have “died of natural causes”, always a plus.

    Later when Stalin was conducting his purges against NKVD people like Yagoda and others for “crimes against the people”, Montefiore records how Khrushchev nervously admitted to another party boss (I think it was Molotov), “Look at us: we all have blood on our hands, who will be next?”

    Give credit to Nixon that he could see through Khrushchev from the start, and knew exactly what a devil he was dealing with.

September 23, 1952: Checkers Speech

Wednesday, September 23, AD 2015

The  “Checkers Speech” given by Richard Nixon which allowed him to stay on the ticket as Vice-President on September 23, 1952.  The speech got its name from Nixon’s use of the pet dog given to his daughters, Checkers, to gain sympathy by stating that the girls had gotten fond of the dog and he would not return it.  The speech was classic Nixon:  go on the offensive, self-pitying, maudlin and oh so effective.  Nixon was never a great orator, but until Watergate he never lost the touch of appealing to the average American.  His high brow, usually left wing, critics savaged him, but Nixon never forgot that the purpose of a political speech is  persuasion.




A classic anti-Nixon poster asked if you would buy a used car from him.  For most of his career, Nixon could have sold a car with a shot transmission and four bald tires to a substantial segment of the American population and they would have thanked him for it.  Whence this power?  I think Nixon early tapped into the resentment that a growing number of average Americans had toward the chattering classes that were rapidly losing touch with them, and looked down on them.  That Nixon privately shared many of the views of the chattering classes that despised him as the ultimate enemy is one of the greater ironies of American political life during Nixon’s career.

The “Checkers Speech” will always be remembered for this peroration:

One other thing I probably should tell you because if we don’t they’ll probably be saying this about me too, we did get something—a gift—after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he’d sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl—Tricia, the 6-year-old—named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.

The whole scandal arose because of accusations that Nixon had a private slush fund provided by donors.  It is amusing to contemplate considering his future, but Nixon was absolutely innocent of wrong-doing.  Having private donors pay for campaign expenses, including travel costs and postage, was completely legal at the time. 

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2 Responses to September 23, 1952: Checkers Speech

November 17, 1973: I Am Not a Crook

Sunday, November 17, AD 2013

Hard to believe that it is forty years since the infamous “I am not a crook” news conference of President Nixon.  The video clip gives a taste of the surreal quality of those times.  For the sake of attempting to cover up a politically inspired burglary in a presidential election that the Democrats were busily throwing away, Nixon in 1972 embarked on a cover-up that eventually destroyed his Presidency, with his resignation in disgrace coming in August of 1974.

Greek tragedy is too mild a term to apply when discussing the presidency of Nixon.  Dealt a bad hand in Vietnam, he extricated the country from Vietnam while building up the South Vietnamese military to the extent that they could hold their own against the North Vietnamese, as long as supplies kept flowing from the US and their ground forces were supported by American air power.  His diplomatic opening to Red China was a masterful, if fairly obvious, strategic win over the Soviets.  Talks with the Soviets helped lower the temperature of the Cold War.  Domestically Nixon was the liberal Republican he always was, with wage and price controls and an expansion of the Federal government.

The ironic thing about Nixon is that he was hated by liberals and the elite media, yet on domestic policy questions he was in virtual lockstep with them, including on abortion which he was privately in favor of, although he publicly opposed it.  The intense hatred went back to Nixon’s early political career where he used anti-communism to win both his House seat and his Senate seat.  Nixon also committed the unforgivable sin of being right about Alger Hiss being a Soviet agent.

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Richard Milhous Obama

Tuesday, May 14, AD 2013

10 Responses to Richard Milhous Obama

  • Nixon actually got the US (me and my friends) out of the Vietnam War. Then, in early 1975, the post-Watergate VietCong-ress refused to carry out US obligations under the Paris Peace Accords.

    Nobel Peace Prize update: so far, Obama bombed six countries, two more than Bush and three more than Nixon.

    One of Nixon’s worst unleashings of unnecessary hells was going off the gold standard in 1971.

    Anyhow, aside from that, whatever Nixon did was eye-wash compared to Obama’s crimes.

  • I have always regarded Nixon as one of our worst presidents T. Shaw. Few Presidents have had as much contempt for the Constitution as he had, or the limited role that the Founding Fathers envisioned for the Federal government. In regard to South Vietnam, I believe it would be free and independent today, and the economic power of Southeast Asia, but for Watergate and the crop of isolationist Democrats elected to Congress as a result of Nixonian paranoia and contempt for the rule of law.

  • Mac, “isolationist Democrats” you are being “charitable.” I wasn’t in school when all that was happening.

    You’re a lot smarter than I. What were Liddy, et al looking for in the Watergate offices?

    Maybe 100 years from now, if America has recovered, they will look at Nixon in a different light.

    I can’t say where I was at the time. I wll say that Nixon could have fought it out. The resignation was as far as humanly possible the opposite of “contempt for the Constitution.”

  • No he couldn’t have fought it out T.Shaw. He had lost Barry Goldwater and he realized that without the support of Republicans in the Senate he would have been convicted. But for that, I am sure the villian would have put the country through a Senate trial. Nixon was always about Nixon and nothing else.

  • Someone once said of Nixon that he was five different people who never coalesced into an integral whole. He was a good family man. His circle of friends was small but intimate. He could inspire the loyalty of people who were not themselves pathological (Pat Buchanan, Rose Woods). He may have had the most vigorous intellect of anyone to hold the office in the last 80 years. (His scores on psychometric tests were a standard deviation higher than John Kennedy’s). And yet, the man was a disaster. It is difficult to discern from looking at his career what his motors were other than ambition, anxiety, and resentment. You read John Dean’s memoir and Richard Nathan’s account of the administration and some of the stray details in the WoodStein books and you realize he was an incompetent administrator who had no idea how to select for talent and commitment (and little to which to tell his subordinates to be committed). It was such a waste. Another waste was Spiro Agnew. Ironically, these two exemplars of misapplied talent and virtue – men who had quite a bit in common – disliked each other.

  • Art – It’s not rare to find intelligent people who are bad judges of others’ character. It’s very odd to find them in politics. Or is it? I’d assume that the skill of relating to people overlaps with the skill of appraising people. I toss it out to the historians of our group – haven’t there been a few American presidents who weren’t people-persons, and proved incapable of leading and of surrounding themselves with talent?

  • But will Obama suffer the same fate as Nixon? I doubt it.

  • We now know that JFK had a fondness for exercising the droit du seigneur and can fairly be considered a borderline rapist today. But did fellows like Alsop or Schlesinger raise the alarm about it. No, that would be breaking the code of the omerta. Nixon’s faults were exaggerated by the same set, which should indicate the kind of people his enemies were. Just because you are paranoid, does not mean they are not out to get you.

  • RMN would have gone down as a brilliant academic. Instead, he earned his place as a lousy politician. At the end, he wasn’t fighting for anything other than the career of Richard Nixon. He didn’t believe in the limits of power and couldn’t defend himself when that power was turned against him.

  • Draw a blank, Mr. Dalasio. Richard Nixon never had an academic job and found law practice tedious. Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, and George McGovern were all lapsed professors, but they were strictly rank-and-file instructors who never published any scholarly work.

Bush: Nixon or Truman?

Wednesday, January 21, AD 2009

One hears rather often that George W. Bush has ended his presidency with record low approval ratings. Some articles I’ve read have said (apparently incorrectly) that they are the lowest ever.


The above was sent to me yesterday, and it provides an interesting comparison. Two presidents left office with approvals as low as Bush’s: Truman, who faced a struggling post-war economy and a increasingly difficult situation in the Korean War; and Nixon, who was in the middle of being impeached when he resigned.

History has been far kinder to Truman, overall, than Nixon. Indeed, I suspect that few people know that Truman ended his presidency as unpopular as Nixon and Bush. Certainly, I hadn’t realized it. It remains to be seen whether, in 50 years time, Bush will be seen as more like the former or the latter.

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24 Responses to Bush: Nixon or Truman?

  • It might be instructive to line these numbers up with congressional approval ratings, which have been generally about 1/2 George Bush’s since shortly before the Democrats took over.

    God Bless,


  • Approval ratings at the time one leaves office are a poor indicator of what one’s historical legacy will be. It’s too early to make any definitive judgments about our most recent presidents, but I’ll venture a guess as to one of them.

    Bill Clinton left office with the highest approval ratings ever recorded. Yet, this time last year, he was being treated as the enemy by the very people who were most supportive of him when he was in office – African-Americans and left-leaning pundits. How many times in 2008 did we hear people lamenting that they wished Bill Clinton would just go away.

    In 50 years, what will Bill Clinton be remembered for? What were the “big” things that he accomplished for which history marks presidential greatness? The economy? I doubt it. That may help keep one’s approval numbers high, but it’s not the kind of stuff history is made of. I can’t name one other president not named Herbert Hoover or FDR who is remembered for the economy.

  • Good point, Jay.

    I think the reason Truman is remembered as a mixed-to-good president is because it’s recognized that he strove with big problems and got a certain number of them right. Nixon isn’t remembered very positively because he didn’t have any big historic successes, and he went out in disgrace.

    In that sense, I’d say that how Bush is remembered will have a lot to do with what the historical legacy of the events he was involved with were. Primarily — if Iraq and Afghanistan somehow settle out to islands of liberal democracy in the Middle East, and that has good effects in the long run, I would imagine that Bush will be remembered well. If not, then probably he won’t be remembered much, well or badly.

  • can’t name one other president not named Herbert Hoover or FDR who is remembered for the economy.

    In a sense I think Reagan is as well. Surely the Cold War stuff and battling the Soviets is a big part of his legacy, but a lot of people also remember the roaring 80s and tie that in with Reagan. The economy is not the first thing I think about regarding Reagan, but I would guess that’s a big component of his legacy.

  • The economic stuff during the 80s isn’t enough to mark Reagan as a “great” president. Coupled with things such as the Cold War victory, it merely “pads” his legacy.

    But even then, the economy in the 80s was a mixed bag both at the beginning of the decade and by the end of the decade, and I bet people remember the 80s as much for the movie Wall Street as they do for the role Pres. Reagan played in bringing about sustained economic growth.

    My point is that unless your name is Herbert Hoover or FDR, the economy, alone, is not enough to build a historical legacy for good or ill.

  • “Nixon isn’t remembered very positively because he didn’t have any big historic successes …”

    Well, he does get credit from historians for going to China. It’s even become a figure of speech.

  • “My point is that unless your name is Herbert Hoover or FDR, the economy, alone, is not enough to build a historical legacy for good or ill…”

    And, potentially, Obama….

  • While FDR is remembered for ending the Great Depression, in fact, he did more to prolong it than any other factor.

    Thomas Woods a Catholic historian has studied this in detail.

    the lesson is that how presidents are remembered does not necessarily reflect reality.


  • “And, potentially, Obama….”

    I believe we’d have to have a crash of epic proportions … another Great Depression, if you will … for that to happen. It might, but short of that, presidents just aren’t remembered for economic successes or failures.

    President Obama’s place in history is already secured by virtue of being the first black president. The economy isn’t going to make or break that legacy. Regardless of what he does – barring an epic failure (and maybe even despite such), he’ll likely forever be rated by historians as among the top 10 presidents in U.S. history.

  • I think Bush will likely be most remembered by his “Bush-isms” – simply put, all the silly things he’s said over the past 8 years. Cobble that together with the war in Iraq and possibly 9/11. The economy? I seriously doubt anyone will remember Bush for that…

  • Additionally, you have to be a bit careful about who you are talking about when referring to how someone is going to be regarded in history – are you referring to how history buffs and historians will regard him, or how the general population will remember him?

  • Ho hum. So much has happened in the War On Terror that neither GWB nor his top aides may yap about in their lifetimes. Heavy deep cover stuff involving branches of armed forces not made public. Wait about 50 years. Hear that sound of silence? No car bombs going off in U.S. downtown areas on regular basis. No hostage dramas consuming cable teevee nets- now that Official Obama Worship is declining, back to missing Caucasian women and children as their obsessives. Thank You, Mr. Bush and Company.

  • A large part of how Bush will be remembered is how Obama does. One large attack on a continental US target by terrorists during the Obama administration and public attitudes toward Bush will change overnight. Additionally if future historians credit Bush with initiating policies that lead to the ultimate defeat of the Islamic jihadists, then his stock will rise just as Harry Truman received credit long after he left office for initiating policies which helped ultimately to win the cold war. It will also depend on whether academia continues to be largely dominated by the Left or if future historians are a more ideologically diverse bunch than the current servants of Cleo.

  • The Truman comparison is apt. Truman was also a war criminal. See Anscomsbe, Elizabeth.

  • Morning’s Minion,

    and yet his unpopularity was in no way related to what you consider a war crime, which the vast majority still support to this day as justified. I don’t think that’s the point of this post anyway.


  • “Truman was also a war criminal.”

    I think he was hero who saved millions of lives including one of my uncles who was scheduled to participate as a marine in the invasion of Japan. Of course I can understand how people can have different opinions on the matter. What I can’t understand is how someone who can have so much concern about civilian casualties at Hiroshima and Nagasaki could vote for a pro-abort like Obama. I doubt that the late Elizabeth Anscombe, who got arrested late in life in an Operation Rescue style sit-in against abortion in England, could understand that either. If Harry Truman is a war criminal for civilian deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what sort of criminal does that make our newly elected President who conducts a never-ending fight to keep the ongoing slaughter of the innocents a constitutional right?

  • Under Truman, the Marshall Plan was implemented and Europe, a smoking ruin of a continent in ’45, was rebuilt. Of course, that left the post-war generation of Europeans, raised in peace and prosperity, with the means and lesiure time to denounce American imperialism and capitalism. Gratitude is the most transient of human emotions.

  • Donald,

    Given that Anscombe was probably the greatest Catholic philsopher of the 20th century, I’m sure she “understood” the issues perfectly. Anscombe had the virtue of consistency, sadly lacking among many American Catholics today– she was indeed arrested for protesting abortion, and she also had a champagne party to celebrate Humanae Vitae in 1968– but she also denounced Truman as a war criminal in the most strudent terms. By the way, she invented the term “consequentialism”, and this was picked up and condemned explicitly by John Paul many years later in Veritatis Splendour. I would hope that a Catholic blog understands that evil cannot be condoned, no matter what good might come of it.

  • Thank you for your information Tony, all of which I was already aware of. Now, once again, if President Truman is to be considered a war criminal for Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the killing of noncombatants , what sort of criminal is President Obama, who you supported in the last election, for his unwavering devotion to abortion, including the disguised infanticide which occurs in partial birth abortion?

  • evil cannot be condoned, no matter what good might come of it.

    Neither can you condone pro-choice policies just because you might get universal health care out of the deal. Wait a minute, you do just that.

  • I think it would be more useful to discuss the morality of Hiroshima without bringing every conversation back to tu quoque comments about the election.

  • Although, I probably should add that the morality of Truman’s actions wasn’t really the original subject of the thread either.

  • John Henry, I respectfully disagree. Whenever anyone starts tossing around the term “war criminal” then I want to understand if they are consistent in the application of the term “criminal”, or if the term is simply used as a pejorative. If Hiroshima and Nagasaki are to be condemned for the taking of innocent human life, then one can only imagine the magnitude of evil in the taking of 44,000,000 innocent lives in this country since Roe, and what term should be applied to politicians who support abortion as a constitutional right.

  • Well, does bringing up abortion help define the term ‘war criminal’? I agree that there are many suggestive analogies between war and abortion, but they are separate things. I would not classify an abortionist as a ‘war criminal’.