About This Blog

I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:

· To post questions or comments;

· To follow up on class discussions;

· To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

Syllabus: https://gov124.blogspot.com/2021/01/cases-in-american-political-leadership.html

Statement on viewpoint diversity: https://heterodoxacademy.org/teaching-heterodoxy-syllabus-language/

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Nixon in Context

Nixon and Trump

The Nixon Puzzles

  • In just six years, from 1946 to 1952, he went from a not-very-successful small-town lawyer to vice president.
  • Hoff (p. 3) says he was "aprincipled" -- meaning?
  • Schoen (pp. 12-15) -- a moderate polarizer?
  • His relationship with JFK was "mysterious and inexplicable," said Haldeman (quoted in Matthews, p. 20)

Shortly after resigning, he told former aide Ken Clawson:

What starts the process, really are laughs and slights and snubs when you are a kid.Sometimes it's because you're poor or Irish or Jewish or Catholic or ugly or simply that you are skinny. 
But if you are reasonably intelligent and if your anger is deep enough and strong enough, you learn that you can change those attitudes by excellence, personal gut performance while those who have everything are sitting on their fat butts.
 You were a good athlete. But I was not and that was the very reason that I tried and tried and tried. To get the discipline for myself and to show the others that here was a guy who could dish it out and take it. Mostly, I took it.
"But once you learn that you've got to work harder than everybody else it becomes a way of life as you move out of the alley and on your way. In your own mind you have nothing to lose so you take plenty of chances and if you do your homework many of them pay off. It is then you understand, for the first time, that you have the advantage because your competitors can't risk what they have already.

Early Life

  • Born January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda in a house that his father built from a kit.
  • Parents: Hannah (Milhous) Nixon and Francis A. "Frank" Nixon. His mother was a Quaker, and his father converted from Methodism to the Quaker faith.  See a senior thesis about RN's religion.  Western Quakers were different from Eastern Quakers, closer to mainstream Protestants.
  • Four brothers: Harold (1909–1933), Donald (1914–1987), Arthur (1918–1925), and Edward (1930–2019). Four of the five Nixon boys were named after kings.Richard was named after Richard the Lionheart.
  • He later quoted a saying of Eisenhower: "We were poor, but the glory of it was we didn't know it"
  •  The Nixon family lemon ranch failed in 1922, and the family moved to Whittier, then a Quaker town.
  • Frank Nixon opened a grocery store and gas station.
  • Richard's younger brother Arthur died in 1925 at the age of seven from tubercular meningitis. Harold died in 1933 of tuberculosis.  His father got milk from his own cow and did not believe in pasteurization. “He refused to pay any attention to the doctor's warning that the cow ought to be tested for tuberculosis,” he remembered. “Our family paid a heavy price."
  • Compare with today:  The death rate for boys in that age group in that year was 2.2 per 1000.  Today it's 0.29. In 1933, the TB death rate was 59.6 per 100k.  Today it's 0.5.
  • Hannah stayed with Harold in an Arizona sanitarium and worked there to help pay.
Nixon at Whittier High 
  • Nixon went to Fullerton Union High, living with an aunt during sophomore year. He had greater success as a debater.
  • At the start of his junior year in September 1928, transferred to Whittier High School. He lost his bid for student body president. He often rose at 4 a.m., to drive the family truck into Los Angeles and purchase vegetables at the market. 
College and law school education
  • Nixon was offered a tuition grant to attend Harvard, but Harold's illness his mother's absence meant Richard was needed at the store. He attended Whittier College.  
  • Nixon played football, mostly as a tackling dummy.
  • Nixon did drama and debate.
  •  Nixon was snubbed by the only fraternity, the Franklins; many of the Franklins were from prominent families, but Nixon was not. He responded by helping to found a new society, the Orthogonian Society.

  • After graduating summa cum laude with a BA degree in history  in 1934, Nixon received a full scholarship to attend Duke Law. he graduated third in his class in June 1937.

  Overview and Politics

  Garry Wills interviewed him for Nixon Agonistes (1969):
“You asked me if Teddy Roosevelt is my hero. Not in the sense that Wilson is. I think he was our greatest President of this century. You'll notice, too, that he was the best-educated."
Nixon recommended Wilson's essay "Leaders of Men."
The competent leader of men cares little for the interior niceties of other people’s characters: he cares much-everything for the external uses to which they may be put. His will seeks the lines of least resistance; but the whole question with him is a question of the application of force. There are men to be moved: how shall he move them? He supplies the power; others supply only the materials upon which that power operates. The power will fail if it be misapplied; it will be misapplied if it be not suitable both in kind and method to the nature of the materials upon which it is spent; but that nature is, after all, only its means. It is the power which dictates, dominates: the materials yield. Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

In the Beginning: Claremont and Nixon

 Wingert & Bewley became Bewley, Lassleben & Miller 

In Richard Milhous Nixon, Roger Morris describes the district:
The district began in the east among the quiet settlements strung out beneath the San Gabriels at the northern rim of the basin. Claremont with its vineyards, shaded campuses, and midwestern Victorian homes gave way to the tiny citrus towns of La Verne, Glendora, and San Dimas; farther west, Monrovia, Duarte, and Arcadia nestled in the foothills...In its own rich valley to the south lay the business and residential center of Pomona ... Across the valley floor lay the old fiftieth Assembly district, more white-walled and red-tiled homes in Covina and West Covina ... El Monte, a larger town of 36,000, was nearby with its walnuts, still more oranges, and one of the basin's famous lion farms.  And still farther south ... the district took in the slopes and valleys of Whittier and La Habra.

Jerry Voorhis

  A young man wearing a suit and tie turns profile to the camera, holding a pipe in his hand.

Roy P. Crocker was chair of Lincoln Savings and Loan and a benefactor of CMC. In a memo for a 1975 oral history, he recalled:
Herman L. Perry, Manager of the Bank of America branch in Whittier, knew about Richard M. Nixon's ability as a debater when he was in Whittier College. He telephoned to Nixon, who was in Baltimore renegotiating airplane contracts for the U. S. Navy Group, and suggested that he return to California and appear as a prospective candidate before the Fact Finding Committee, consisting of leading Republicans in the 12th Congressional District. Nixon appeared at about the second meeting of the committee and made an instantaneous favorable impression and he was selected as the candidal over seven other aspirants. Nixon received all but eight votes on the final ballot and then the vote was made unanimous. There were three assembly districts in the 12th Congressional District and three members from each district were selected to manage the primary campaign. I was one of the nine members chosen and I was elected Chairman of the Campaign. Roy Day was chosen by the committee as the Campaign Manager..

Business card for Richard Nixon as a congressional candidate, showing an address and phone numbers in Whittier

an election handout urging Nixon's election

debatedebate Sat, Oct 12, 1946 – 9 · The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Wed, Nov 6, 1946 – 1 · The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Al Felzenberg:
Nixon's internationalism, anti-communism, and interest in foreign affairs, for example, were evident very early. In his first months in Congress, Nixon took his first trip to Europe as part of a fact-finding tour of postwar conditions assembled by Massachusetts representative (and future secretary of state) Christian Herter. Nixon returned prepared to take on his party's isolationist wing in support of the Marshall Plan. In the last address he ever gave, he vividly recalled the impact that trip had on him. (William Elliott, the Harvard professor who advised the Herter Committee and befriended Nixon, would later help launch the career of another young man of promise, Henry Kissinger.)
Los Angles Times 11/4/1949

Fri, Nov 4, 1949 – 2 · The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) · Newspapers.com

Image result for richard nixon claremont

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

CMC Gov 124A Syllabus - Cases in American Political Leadership: Nixon

Cases in American Political Leadership: Richard Nixon

CMC Government 124A Spring 2021
Tue, Thu 11 AM- 12:15 PM Pacific
Office hours: email for a time.
Email: jpitney@cmc.edu Web: http://www1.cmc.edu/pages/faculty/JPitney/


Richard M. Nixon, the House member representing Claremont, entered the national arena in 1947. He stayed there until his death in 1994. Few political leaders have cast such a long shadow: his 47 years of political activity covered more than one-fifth of U.S. history. During those years, he left his mark on electoral strategy, foreign and domestic policy, economics, governmental institutions and, of course, political ethics. In this course, we shall see how he has shaped American politics through the present day, His career will serve as a case study of how a political leader gains, exercises, and loses power. It will also be a case study in the complexity of political character. He started his career as an anticommunist, and went on to negotiate with the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. He made deeply prejudiced comments about Jews and African Americans, yet saved Israel in 1973 and extended affirmative action. He called himself a conservative but imposed peacetime wage-price controls, and proposed a guaranteed wage and national health insurance. And he was an intensely private man who bared his soul on audiotape.


Classes will include lecture and discussion. Finish the readings before class because our discussions will involve those readings. We shall also talk about Nixon's relationship to current affairs, so you must read a good news source such as Politico, RealClearPolitics or the New York Times.


Our class blog is at https://gov124.blogspot.com/. I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I strongly encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
  • To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
  • To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
  • To post relevant news items or videos.

The following will make up your course grade:
  • Three 4-page essays: 20% each
  • One 6-page research paper: 25%
  • Class participation, blog: 15% 
  • The papers will develop your research and writing skills, and test your comprehension of class materials In grading your papers, I will take account of the quality of your writing, applying the principles of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. If you object to this approach, do not take this course, or anything else that I teach.
  • The research paper will give you an opportunity to delve into scholarly and primary sources. Students will make very brief oral presentations on their topics.
  • Class participation will hone your ability to think on your feet, as I shall call on students at random. If you often miss class or fail to prepare, your grade will suffer. I shall use the cold calls to judge how well you are keeping up with the material. If you object to this approach, do not take this course. I also expect you to post relevant material to the blog.
  • Before each week's Thursday class, email me your reactions to that week's readings. In these emails, you may describe the overall theme of the readings, identify important information or concepts that you have learned, or raise questions or criticisms. These emails should be short -- two or three sentences will be fine -- but they will provide me with a good sense of what you are getting out of the course readings.
  • In addition to the required readings (below), I may also give you emails and web links covering current events and basic factual information.
  • Because constructive disagreement sharpens thinking, deepens understanding, and reveals novel insights, I encourage and expect it. All viewpoints are welcome here, and no ideas are immune from scrutiny and debate. Your opinions will not affect your grade, as long as you can back up what you say. See this statement: https://heterodoxacademy.org/teaching-heterodoxy-syllabus-language/
  • Check due dates. Plan your schedule accordingly. Do not plan on extensions.
  • Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty hurt fellow students. Please study our Statement of Academic Integrity, which reads in part: "The faculty of Claremont McKenna College is firmly committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity. Each faculty member has the responsibility to report cases of academic dishonesty to the Academic Standards Committee, which has the duty of dealing with cases of alleged academic dishonesty."
  • Students who need accommodations for documented disabilities should contact Disability Support Services. You may find more information here: https://www.cmc.edu/dean-of-students/disability-support-services
Required Books
  • Joan Hoff, Nixon Reconsidered (New York: Basic Books, 1994).
  • Christopher Matthews, Kennedy and Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America (New York: Touchstone, 1997).
  • Michael Nelson, Resilient America: Electing Nixon in 1968, Channeling Dissent, and Dividing Government (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2014).
  • Douglas E. Schoen, The Nixon Effect: How Richard Nixon's Presidency Fundamentally Changed American Politics (New York: Encounter, 2016)
Schedule (subject to change, with notice)

Jan 27, 29: Introduction

“I saw both greatness and meanness in Nixon in such bewildering combination that, years later, peering out of a hotel window at the White House which I had been forced to leave, I muttered out loud: ‘Nixon was the weirdest man ever to live in the White House.’" -- H.R. Haldeman
  • Hoff, introduction
  • Schoen, introduction
  • Matthews, introduction 
Feb 2, 4: Young Men in a Hurry

"To test him, Day invited students from all-female Scripps College to a coffee. They sat in a circle on the floor, interrogating Nixon, who responded, to Day's great relief, by taking each pointed question, complimenting the questioner, and tugging the women toward his position without being confrontational." -- John A. Farrell, Richard Nixon: The Life.
  • Matthews, ch. 1-7

Feb 9, 11: Kennedy v. Nixon

"And I can only say that I'm very proud that President Eisenhower restored dignity and decency and, frankly, good language to the conduct of the presidency of the United States. And I only hope that, should I win this election, that I could approach President Eisenhower in maintaining the dignity of the office; in seeing to it that whenever any mother or father talks to his child, he can look at the man in the White House and, whatever he may think of his policies, he will say: "Well, there is a man who maintains the kind of standards personally that I would want my child to follow." -- Richard Nixon, debate with JFK, October 13, 1960.
  • Matthews, ch. 8-14
Feb 16, 18: Wilderness

"You won't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference..." -- Richard Nixon, November 7, 1962
  • Matthews, 15-19
  • Nelson, ch. 1-2

Feb 23, 25: Comeback

"Nixon hates psychiatrists. He's got this thing, apparently. They make him very very nervous. You should have heard him on the phone when I told him I had one on the panel. Did you hear him? If I've ever heard a guy's voice turn white, that was it." -- Roger Ailes, organizing a TV panel for the 1968 campaign, quoted in The Selling of the President 1968.

Nelson, ch 3-5


Mar 2, 4: The 1968 Election

"Or some of our folks, including some of the old China Lobby, are going to the [South] Vietnamese embassy and saying, `Please notify the President [Thieu] that if he’ll hold out till November the 2nd they could get a better deal.' Now, I’m reading their hand, Everett. I don’t want to get this in the campaign. And they oughtn’t to be doing this. This is treason." -- President Lyndon Johnson to Senate GOP Leader Everett Dirksen, November 2, 1968

  • Nelson, ch. 6-8
  • Matthews. ch. 20

March 16, 18: The Nixon White House

"The Jews have certain traits. The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.” -- Richard Nixon to Chuck Colson, February 13, 1972
March 23, 25: The Domestic Presidency

"You know, the truth of the matter is when you look at some of my policies, in a lot of ways Richard Nixon was more liberal than I was. [He] started the E.P.A, you know, started a whole lot of the regulatory state that has helped make our air and water clean." --President Barack Obama, February 3, 2014.
  • Hoff, ch 3-4
  • Schoen, ch. 1
March 30, Apr 1: Diplomacy

"Mr. Richardson recalls that the first thing Mr. Nixon said when he entered the Oval Office to resign was a reference to Leonid I. Brezhnev, the Soviet leader. `Brezhnev would never understand it if I let Cox defy my instructions,' the President declared." -- NY Times, 4/12/76
  • Hoff, ch. 5-6.
  • Schoen, ch. 2.
April 6, 8: A Wartime President

Richard Nixon: "[B]ecause I look at the tide of history out there—South Vietnam probably can never even survive anyway. I’m just being perfectly candid...."
Henry Kissinger: "...So we’ve got to find some formula that holds the thing together a year or two, after which—after a year, Mr. President, Vietnam will be a backwater. If we settle it, say, this October, by January ’74 no one will give a damn." -- August 3, 1972
  • Hoff, ch. 7-8
April 13, 15: CREEP and the Parties

"I want the most, I want the most comprehensive notes on all of those that have tried to do us in. Because they didn't have to do it. They didn't have to do it. I mean, if the thing had been a clo -- uh, they had a very close election everybody on the other side would understand this game. But now they are doing this quite deliberately and they are asking for it and they are going to get it.." -- Richard Nixon to John Dean, September 15, 1972
  • Schoen, ch. 3-6

April 20, 22:  Downfall

"In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his consitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice..." - First article of impeachment, 1974

April 27, 29: Downfall and Return

"[A]lways remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself." -- Nixon farewell remarks, August 9, 1974
  • Schoen, ch. 9-10
  • Matthews, epilogue
  • Hoff, conclusion
May 4, 6: Legacy

"Two thousand years ago, the poet Sophocles wrote, `One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.' There is still some time before the sun goes down, but even now, I can look back and say that the day has indeed been splendid."
  • Schoen, ch. 7-8, and afterword

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Nixon Announces JFK Victory

On January 6, 1961, after the official counting of the electoral votes in a joint session of Congress, Vice President Richard Nixon announced the election of his 1960 opponent, John F. Kennedy.

Mr. Speaker,  since this is an unprecedented situation,  I would like to ask permission to impose upon the time of the Members of this Congress to make a statement which in itself is somewhat unprecedented.

I promise to be brief. I shall be guided by the 1-minute rule of the House rather than the unlimited time rule that prevails in the Senate.

This is the first time in 100 years that a candidate for the Presidency announced the result of an election in which he was defeated and announced the victory of his opponent. I do not think we could have a more striking and eloquent example of the stability of our constitutional system and of the proud tradition. of the American people of developing, respecting, and honoring institutions of self-government. 

In our campaigns, no matter how hard fought they may be, no matter how close the election may turn out to be, those who lose accept the verdict, and support those who win. And I would like to add that, having served now in Government for 14 years, a period which began in the House just 14 years ago, almost to the day, which continued with 2 years in the Senate and 8 years as Vice President, as I complete that 14-year period it is indeed a very great honor to me to extend to my colleagues in the House and Senate on both sides of the aisle who have been elected; to extend to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, who have been elected President and Vice President of the United States, my heartfelt best wishes, as all of you work in a cause that is bigger than any man's ambition, greater than any party. It is the cause of freedom, of justice, and peace for all mankind.

It is in that spirit that I now declare that John F. Kennedy has been elected President of the United States, and Lyndon B. Johnson Vice President of the United States.

Members of the Congress, the purpose for which the joint session of the two Houses of Congress has been called pursuant to Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, having been accomplished, the Chair declares the joint session dissolved.