Nixon Campaign Staff Member Patrick Hillings comments on key aspects of Nixon's career.
The Importance of Winning
I don't think that winning was everything because in politics in those days, the Republicans had been out of power for so long, and it looked like, after the war, that we were moving toward the possibility of gaining control in, we took control of the Congress right after the war and that led us to believe that maybe the next election, we could win the presidency. And we had some pretty popular names. One of them was Dwight David Eisenhower. I had heard Murray speak to young Republicans and tell them that even if we, even if they themselves, ran for offices in tough democratic areas and lost, if we ever won the presidency, the governorship and other things, there would be rewards in the form of appointments and judgeships. Those were things that Republicans had no control over since 1931, which was the last time that they had any influence in the government. So that I would say that while in his mind winning wasn't the only thing, it certainly was probably the most important thing.
Hannah Nixon's Telegram
The whole Nixon campaign had halted in Portland, Oregon in early, or in September of 1952, and it looked as if, at the time, that he might be replaced on the ticket. We stopped to figure out what we were going to do and that led to the famous Checkers broadcast. But at the time we were getting telegrams and messages from all over the country, a great number of them from friends of Nixon in Congress, like in the Chowder and Marching Society, and others saying that they were for him and all that. And then one evening I got a telegram from his mother. And she addressed him as Richard, which she always did, and said that she was praying for him and that she knew everything would be allright, and it was a little spiritual tone which was part of her Quaker background. And, at the time, I felt it would cheer him up. My judgment was bad. I took it into him and gave it to him, and he was sitting in a large chair, with his arms on the side, almost like the Lincoln statue that you see in Washington, the Lincoln Memorial, and I handed him the telegram, and he read it and he dropped it on his, in the chair and his head fell forward, and tears came down his eyes. And it was obvious that he'd been terribly moved by what all this meant. That it was so important to him to prove to his mother that he had never done anything wrong. And I was criticized later by Mr. Chotiner and some of my colleagues for doing that, but it turned out, I believe, that it inspired him. He's told me since, that that was one of the things that kept him fired up to go on and meet the challenge, which ultimately turned out to be successful.
Nixon's Political Consultant
Murray Chotiner was among the first of the political consultants which are now so popular, or unpopular, as the case may be. Recent books have come out attacking political consultants in campaigns and that sort of thing. In those days, most work was done by volunteers. But now political consultants are the dominant theme, along with the media in the campaigns. Murray Chotiner was one of the first. He was a lawyer, a brilliant lawyer, from Beverly Hills. But who was always interested in politics. He did not feel that he had the appeal to run for office himself, although he tried it once and lost. But he became an advisor to various city officials, and was quite successful.
So when the time came to find someone to help Richard Nixon run for the Senate, a lot of his friends in Los Angeles said to bring in Murray Chotiner. So Murray Chotiner was the paid manager of the campaign. But often the pay was pretty small and I still think he made his living primarily as a lawyer, at least at that point. And he was tough. When I say tough, I don't mean dirty or mean. But Murray was a very aggressive, hard driving fellow. And he tried to encourage Nixon to take more aggressive stands on issues and to work harder, at least work harder in attacking the opposition.
He was a mechanic, a nuts and bolts man. He found, for instance, that Nixon was reading letters in the car as he'd be driving, and signing the letters, letters going out to people thanking them for their help. And he took them away from him. He said the only thing he should be doing in that car is thinking of his next speech. And he did all kinds of things like that that were based on detail. But Murray Chotiner became a very effective fellow and was probably the smartest and most experienced political operative in the Nixon campaign at that time.
Here was Whittier, a small town, where this young man had grown and was raised and had gone to school, and was well known; his family was well known. And as a result, right after the war, when he suddenly surprised people by defeating a 14 year congressman, he became an overnight hero, and Whittier wanted a hero. They'd never had a hero before. Nobody from Whittier had ever done much of anything. And yet, here was this new congressman who was getting a lot of national publicity because of the Hiss matter and he would crowd every meeting. Every club, every organization wanted him.
My American Experience
Who is your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Reagan? Clinton? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?