NIXONNixon had a difficult early life with many trials and hardships, which affected his character and way of thinking about the world and himself. The premature death of two of his brothers caused him deep-rooted trauma. He had a lifelong inability to trust other people. From the competition between his siblings, he got a keen sense of competition and struggle and a belief that in the end, he was alone against fate and his enemies.
He believed vehemently that The mark of the man is to be resilient and continually return after set-backs. Nixon believed that the successful competitor never lets his enemies have the final say in a contest of will. Some of his cruel attempts to discredit his political enemies may have come from the regular beatings his father used to keep Nixon in line. Nixons ambition was the theme of his life story.
Nixon was born in Orange County, California on January 9, 1913, the second of five sons of Francis A. and Hannah Milhaus Nixon. The Nixons were longtime members of the Society of Friends, more commonly known as Quakers. Nixon was nine at the time that his family moved to Whittier, California, where his father owned and operated a local gasoline station and country store. He attended public schools until the age of 17, when he entered Whittier Collage, a small local Quaker institution. Success in student politics and strong debating skills crowned Nixons collage years.
Upon graduation in 1934, he won a scholarship to Duke Law School in Durham, N.C. Since his family was short of funds to pay for his lodging and books, he got a part time job. He graduated 3rd in his class and was elected president of the Duke Bar Association. Nixon looked forward to a career with the FBI in Washington, D.C., but returned instead to Whittier to join the town’s oldest law firm.
When the firm opened a branch office in La Habra, he transferred there and got some excellent practical experience.Early in World War II, Nixon worked for six months in the Office of Emergency Management; an experience which he said disillusioned him with bureaucracy. At a play tryout during this time, Nixon met Thelma Patricia Ryan, a schoolteacher, whom he married on June 21, 1940. Though he wanted to move to a big city firm to be able to better support his new wife, World War II brought him to Washington, where he worked in the tire-rationing section of the Office of Price Administration.
In August 1942 he joined the Navy as a lieutenant. He served in New Caledonia for the remainder of the war. He left the service four years later, in 1946Before Nixon’s release from active duty, Nixon decided to run for Congress. Nixon’s campaign was an example of the aggressive style characteristic of his political career. He accused his opponent of being “soft” on Communism. In 1946, when the Cold War between the United States and the USSR was just beginning, this charge was very damaging.
The two men confronted each other in a series of debates, and Nixon succeeded in putting his opponent on the defensive. Nixon won the election.Later, as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Nixon personally pressed the investigation of Alger Hiss, a high State Department official. During the investigation Nixon gained a national reputation as a dedicated enemy of Communism, and in 1948, he was reelected to Congress after winning both the Republican and Democratic nominations!In 1950 the Republicans chose Nixon as their candidate for the U.S. Senate from California. His opponent was the liberal Helen Gahagan Douglas.
In another bitterly fought campaign, Nixon linked her voting record with that of another member of Congress who was widely regarded as pro-Communist. This is another excellent example of Nixons deadly and effective political style. He won the election by a landslide!In 1952, Nixon was selected to be the running mate of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had won the Republican presidential nomination. In the campaign that followed, Nixon once again attacked the Democrats and their presidential candidate as soft on Communism. The Eisenhower-Nixon ticket won a resounding victory. In 1956, Eisenhower and Nixon were reelected, after Nixon survived an attempt by some Republicans to replace him.
As President Eisenhower neared the end of his second term, his vice president emerged as his successor, and the president publicly endorsed Nixon in March. However, even with this support, Nixon was narrowly beaten in the 1960 election by John F. Kennedy.
Nixon was beaten again in 1962 in a race for governor of California. After this, Nixon seemed to withdraw from political life, and even publicly stated that his political career was over. As if to confirm his withdrawal from politics, Nixon moved to New York City and accepted a partnership with a Wall Street law firm. He continued to speak at occasional fund-raisers, but neither he nor anyone else expected that any future presidential opportunities would be available to him. But he soon got on the campaign path again, and after much success in the polls, was assured the 1968 Republican presidential nomination.Since the Democratic Party was split between pro-war and anti-war factions, Nixon exploited the situation by catering to the pro-war faction.
But at the same time he made vague promises of ending the war, which appealed to the anti-war faction. He held on to his Republican base by focusing on restoring law and order after eight years of Democratic control of the presidency, which had torn the country apart. Nixon won resoundingly, taking 32 of 50 states.Nixon began by removing many US troops from Vietnam, and thus reducing US casualties. He wanted to give the South Vietnamese a reasonable chance to survive as a free people, so he accelerated the training of Vietnam’s armed forces. This was known as Vietnamization. A cease-fire was agreed upon on Jan.
28, 1973. The agreement allowed for the withdrawal of all American troops from South Vietnam. But various Vietnamese groups continued to fight each other, with the South still getting substantial U.S. financial aid!In the Middle East, the 1967 cease-fire was disrupted by war between Israel and several Arab states in 1973.
Pressure from Nixon and the USSR forced an end to the fighting. At the same time, the Middle East oil-producing countries imposed a brief embargo on petroleum products and then sharply increased their prices. Inflationary pressures and the unemployment rate increased in the United States. Nixon imposed price controls, but these were ineffective and contrary to the economic principles of his political base (the Republican Party and its business contributors). Despite Nixons efforts “to bring us together,” the war contributed to the strained relationship between the Nixon administration, the press, and the Republican Party.
Nixon ran for reelection as an overwhelming favorite. Vietnam had been largely defused as an issue, although fighting continued through election day. New diplomatic discussions with China and Russia had appealed to the publics desire for peace. Inflation had lessened temporarily. The Democratic presidential nominee was seen by many voters as too liberal. Although he campaigned very little, and with none of his usual panache, Nixon swept to victory, getting almost double the number of his opponents votes.
Nixon and Vice President Agnew were inaugurated for second terms on Jan. 20, 1973. Nine months later Agnew resigned after pleading no contest to a charge of income tax evasion. This was a sign of what was to come.The times were difficult. Critics of the war complained that Nixon was moving too slowly to disengage from Vietnam.
Nixon regarded their criticism as disloyalty. As a result, Nixon began to monitor persons he perceived as being threats to national (or his own) security. Without court approval, Nixon ordered the telephones of many government officials and reporters tapped.Daniel Ellsberg, who acknowledged leaking confidential information about the Vietnam War to newspapers, was indicted for espionage.
Nixon created an investigation unit–the “plumbers.” Agents of the unit broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to get information that could be used to discredit Ellsberg before his trial. When the break-in was revealed to the court, the judge dismissed the charges against Ellsberg.In the end, White House efforts aimed at opponents of the war and security leaks merged with the campaign for Nixon’s reelection. The “plumbers” were involved in the wiretapping of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Agents employed by officials of the Committee for the Re-election of the President (CRP, commonly called CREEP) were arrested at the Watergate on June 17, 1972.
The election, just four months later, forced Nixon to cover up White House involvement in Watergate. On June 23, Nixon approved a plan to stop an inquiry by the FBI. The cover-up included promises of leniency and bribes (hush money) to the men arrested at the Watergate. But the cover-up collapsed when John Dean, one of Nixons lawyers, revealed the truth. Even then, Nixon and his staff could have relied on party and political loyalty, but Nixons own White House taping system provided the smoking gun that sealed his fate. Persons found guilty of illegal acts in the ensuing investigations–some unrelated to Watergate–included Nixon’s chief of staff, his chief domestic adviser, two attorneys general, three White House counsels, his personal attorney, his campaign finance chairman, his deputy campaign manager, and his appointments secretary.Nixon’s last year in office was filled with many new humiliations as many of his past illicit activities were exposed.
A House committee reported that $17 million in public funds had been spent on his private interests. The IRS assessed Nixon nearly $300,000 in back taxes. After it was learned that he had taped conversations that later proved incriminating to himself and others, Nixon fought without success in the courts to keep the tapes from the prosecutors. Nixon’s reputation was damaged in other ways. The tapes revealed that he wanted to get revenge on a number of “enemies.
” More recently (last week), new tapes were released that showed that Nixon was profoundly anti-Semitic, urged the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam and was so unconcerned about civilian casualties in Vietnam that he was recorded as saying I dont give a damn. In 1974 a grand jury named Nixon a co-conspirator in the Watergate cover-up. It was recommended that he be impeached for covering up Watergate and abusing his powers. Realizing that he would be impeached and removed from office, Nixon announced his resignation on August 8, 1974.
Gerald Ford was sworn in as his successor. On September 8, Ford granted him a pardon for any federal crimes that he might have committed while President (this basically amounts to an immunity from the law – I wish I could get something like this).In televised interviews conducted in 1977, Nixon acknowledged “mistakes” of judgment on Watergate but denied having committed any impeachable offense. As time passed, Nixon got back into political life and even went on some diplomatic missions. He died in New York City on April 22, 1994.
This biography reveals that although Nixon was ambitious and chose a very public profession, he was also secretive and perhaps even paranoid. Although he showed obvious skill in the arts, law, public speaking, and general political maneuvering, he ended up wasting his many talents. Instead of the honor he so craved, he resigned the presidency disgraced and an object of public mockery and ridicule. The ensuing years have not been kind to Nixons legacy.
As more tapes have been released, more and more degraded, mean spirited aspects of his personality have come to light. Thus, he has been denied the dulling of perceptions and the lessening of public criticism that the passage of time would otherwise have provided. Nixon is the ultimate American anti-hero. A self-made man, he achieved the American dream he rose from humble roots to become president. He had the strength of will to hold on to his goal through many setbacks. But his ambition ultimately consumed him, and perhaps his mind.
This may have created the paranoia that was his final undoing.BIBLIOGRAPHYBernstein, Carl, and Woodward, Bob. All The Presidents Men. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975.Nadle, Laurie. The Great Stream of History: a Biography of Richard M.
Nixon. New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1991Maroon, Fred J., Wicker, Tom. The Nixon Years 1969-1974: White House to Watergate. New York: Abbeville Press, 1999.Richard M.
Nixon. Author Unknown. Date Unknown.
Richard Milhous Nixon. Originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of American Political Parties. Date Unknown. RICHARD M. NIXON. Tom Wicker.
Date Unknown. Richard M. Nixon At a Glance. Author Unknown. Date Unknown.