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The Political Career of Richard Nixon

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The Political Career of Richard Nixon

1. Nixon's Beginning in Politics

2. Emergence in National Politics

A. The Hiss Case

B. Nixon's Political Obituary

C. Resurgence as a presidential candidate

3. The 37th President

A. Nixon's Appointment's

B. Foreign Policy

1. Nixon's plans for Europe

2. Vietnam

C. Domestic Policy

4. Nixon's Second Administration

A. Reelection

B. Watergate

A few weeks after the United States entered World War II a young man named Richard Nixon went to Washington, D.C. In January 1942 he took a job with the Office of Price Administration. (Morris 233) Two months later he applied for a Navy commission, and in September 1942 he was commissioned a lieutenant, junior grade. During much of the war he served as an operations officer with the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. (Morris 247)

After the war Nixon returned to the United States, where he was assigned to work on Navy contracts while awaiting discharge. (Toledano 40) He was working in Baltimore, Maryland, when he received a telephone call that changed his life. A Republican citizen's committee in Whittier was considering Nixon as a candidate for Congress in the 12th Congressional District. (Toledano 46) In December 1945 Nixon accepted the candidacy with the promise that he would "wage a fighting, rocking, socking campaign." (Toledano 47) Jerry Voorhis, a Democrat who had represented the 12th District since 1936, was running for reelection. Earlier in his career Voorhis had been an active Socialist. He had become more conservative over the years and was now an outspoken anti-Communist. Despite Voorhis' anti-Communist stand the Los Angeles chapter of the left-wing Political Action Committee (PAC) endorsed him, apparently without his knowledge or approval. (Toledano 48) The theme of Nixon's campaign was "a vote for Nixon is a vote against the Communist-dominated PAC." The approach was successful. On November, 5 1946, Richard Nixon won his first political election. The Nixons' daughter Patricia (called Tricia) was born during the campaign, on February 21, 1946. (Toledano 49) Their second daughter, Julie, was born July 5, 1948.

As a freshman congressman, Nixon was assigned to the Un-American Activities Committee. (Toledano 58) It was in this capacity that in August 1948 he heard the testimony of Whittaker Chambers, a self-confessed former Communist espionage agent. Chambers named Alger Hiss, a foreign policy advisor during the Roosevelt years, as an accomplice while in government service. Hiss, a former State Department aide, asked for and obtained a hearing before the committee. (Toledano 78) He made a favorable impression, and the case would then have been dropped had not Nixon urged investigation into Hiss's testimony on his relationship with Chambers. The committee let Nixon pursue the case behind closed doors. He brought Chambers and Hiss face to face. (Toledano 89) Chambers produced evidence proving that Hiss had passed State Department secrets to him. Among the exhibits were rolls of microfilm which Chambers had hidden in a pumpkin on his farm near Westminster, Md., as a precaution against theft. (Toledano 94) On December 15, 1948, a New York federal grand jury indicted Hiss for perjury. After two trials he was convicted, on Jan. 21, 1950, and sentenced to five years in prison. The Hiss case made Nixon nationally famous. While the case was still in the courts, Nixon decided to run for the Senate. In his senatorial campaign he attacked the Harry S. Truman Administration and his opponent, Helen Gahagan Douglas, for being "soft" toward the Communists. (Toledano 110)

Nixon won the election; held on Nov. 7, 1950, by 680,000 votes, and at 38 he became the youngest member of the Senate. (Mazzo 15) His Senate career was uneventful, and he was able to concentrate all his efforts on the upcoming 1952 presidential election. The "Secret Fund" Nixon did his work well. He hammered hard at three main issues--the war in Korea, Communism in government, and the high cost of the Democratic Party's programs. (Mazzo 85) At their 1952 national convention the Republicans chose him as Eisenhower's running mate, to balance the ticket with a West Coast conservative. Only a few days after the young senator's triumph his political career seemed doomed. The New York Post printed a story headed "Secret Rich Men's Trust Fund Keeps Nixon in Style Far Beyond His Salary." (Mazzo 109) The public was shocked. The Republicans were panic-stricken. Prominent members of the party urged Eisenhower to dump Nixon before it was too late.

There was really nothing secret about the fund. Nixon was a man of limited means, and when he won his Senate seat a group of businessmen had publicly solicited funds to enable him to keep in touch with the voters in his home state while he served in the Senate. Nixon took his case directly to the people in a nationwide television hookup. (Mazzo 122) He invited investigation of his finances and explained that no donor had asked for or received any favors. The best-remembered part of his speech was his admission that an admirer had once sent the Nixons a small cocker spaniel named Checkers. "The kids love that dog, and I want to say right now that regardless of what they say, we're going to keep it," he declared. (Mazzo 130) The speech was a political triumph. Eisenhower asked Nixon to come to Wheeling, W. Va., where he was campaigning. The president-to-be met his running mate at the airport with the words "Dick, you're my boy." The Republicans won by a landslide. (Toledano 159)

The only duties listed for the vice-president in the Constitution are to preside over the Senate and to vote if there is a tie. Eisenhower, however, groomed his vice-president for active duty. Nixon regularly attended Cabinet meetings and meetings of

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