Richard Nixon: Controlled tactician
A vision of victory
The vision of victory-within-reach was reflected in every face on the platform. Buoyed by the cheers of a Charlotte, North Carolina audience, the candidate responded with a victor’s salute. At the side, his wife smiled with head bowed, as though remembering other days.
For both Dick and Pat Nixon, it was a moment flavored by the memory that, a few turns of the calendar ago, such a scene seemed totally impossible. Now, with the election a month away, they seemed to be sweeping toward the White House.
The signs were clear — painfully so to Hubert Humphrey. Struggling against the handicaps of a fragmented party, abusive hecklers and ties to an administration that he could neither break with nor get real support from, Humphrey admitted that if the election were held now he would lose. The polls agree.A month ago Gallup showed Nix on leading Humphrey 43% to 31%, with 19% favoring George Wallace. Last week, the same poll showed Nixon holding at 43%, but Humphrey slipping to 28%. Wallace was edging up at 21%.
Events were running with Nixon: war, assassination, domestic turmoil had narrowed the field and darkened the country’s mood. Preaching dignity, moderation and a change at the top, Nixon reached for the Silent Center of the electorate and found it remarkably large and responsive. So much so that he may ride into office with not only a popular mandate but a sympathetic Congress as well.
“We’re going to win big”, Nixon says. But, as Brock Brower writes, he is running with a pacemakers’ care that no late misstep deprive him of the prize. And if Nixon is running with a kind of controlled vigor, so is Pat, the wife who has endured the crises, defeats, revilement that have gone with being Mrs Richard Nixon. From it, she has emerged as a woman of grace and unshakable composure.
The Nixons – Dick, Pat and Tricia
Young politician’s wife
The Nixons — Tricia was a year old then — went to Washington in 1947. They have always been a close family. The girls consider Pat less of a “pushover” than their father but, says Julie, “Mother has always been demonstrative. She told me her father was very stern and reserved, but once in awhile, he’d let affection show through and it meant so much to her.”
Vice President’s clan
In 1953, the new Vice President walked the beach with famous dog Checkers, who figured in 1952 controversy over Nixon’s political expense fund. By now, Pat was carrying a full share of political burdens. “She’s a stem disciplinarian in her own life and in her home,” Nixon says. “She runs a ship-shape house, but tends to do too much herself — and she is sometimes impatient with inefficiency.”
Tears in defeat
Pat stood beside her husband on election night in 1960, tearfully facing a Kennedy victory. She takes things more to heart than her husband. “I think men don’t take things as personally as women do,” she says. Her self-control keeps her from biting back: “I know it doesn’t do any good, and I’ve seen other people make fools of themselves. At least I can keep my own pride and self-respect.”
Cheering up the family
Pat was originally against her husband’s 1962 race for governor of California. The family voted three to one for his running, the teen- age girls siding with their father. Pat recalls: “l said something to Dick like, ‘It isn’t in my heart, but if you feel it’s the thing to do, I’m willing to help.'” On election eve, defeat inevitable, she tried to cheer her despondent family.
>> Also see: The final Richard Nixon interview with David Frost