Saturday, March 12, 2016

Respectable Republican Cloth Coat

    Today it has been one week since I left for Japan, and though there's much more to say, my mind simply balks at the prospect of trying to say it. Luckily, with Republicans crawling over Illinois, and Trump deciding he couldn't face the righteous wrath of Chicagoans, this column — which I wrote last month, but never posted —is of the moment.

     Waiting for the results from Iowa Monday, I found myself thinking of Pat Nixon's coat.
     If you recall, Pat Nixon was the tightly-wound wife of Richard Nixon, and her coat...well, I should probably just tell the story,.
     In 1952 Nixon was a senator from California—he was famed as a red-baiting hatchet man; think Ted Cruz, but with friends—running for vice president on the Republican ticket with Dwight D. Eisenhower. As the election neared, controversy grew over a fund that paid Nixon's considerable political expenses, trying to cover the state of California, his airplane tickets and Christmas cards and such. The fund had $18,000 in it, about $200,000 in today's dollars, a third more than Nixon received as an annual salary for being a United States senator.
     A pittance in today's world of SuperPacs.
     But enough to raise questions whether Nixon was ethical enough to stay on the ticket. The Republican National Committee bought a half hour of television time and Nixon took to live airwaves, shamelessly pleading for support from viewers, touting his middle class lifestyle:
     "We lived rather modestly," he said. "For four years we lived in an apartment in Park Fairfax, in Alexandria, Virginia. The rent was $80 a month."
     As for his wife.
     "Pat doesn't have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat."
     The famous ending shifted attention from the thousands businessmen were contributing to underwrite his political career to a particular gift.

One other thing I probably should tell you because if we don't they'll probably be saying this about me too, we did get something—a gift—after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was?     It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl—Tricia, the 6-year-old—named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it.
    The speech was genius  and it worked. The gullible public, choked up over a dog, wrote in to the Republican National Committee by the millions demanding that Nixon to be kept on the ticket, and he was. 
    When Nixon ran for president in 1960, he kept pushing his humble roots. Pat was never to appear in a fur, and he forbade Cadillacs from carrying him in motorcades.
     That was not a qualm for John F. Kennedy. He loved Cadillacs. He loved being rich, and had his own private plane, The Caroline, named for his daughter. Kennedy joked that his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, had instructed him not to buy one more vote than necessary. "I'm not paying for a landslide," he had his father saying.
     Nixon lost to Kennedy, and while I don't want to paint a straight line between then and now, let's just say that if Donald Trump's victory in Iowa shows anything, it shows that our aversion to wealth has worn off.  For decades, Trump represented the worst gold-plated excesses of the super-wealthy, its shallowness and lack of serious intent. And now he won the Iowa caucus as a Republican. You wonder what Richard Nixon would make of this. He would be amazed. I sure am.


  1. Richard Nixon having been the first presidential candidate who lit a flaming desire in my breast to move to Canada, I am amazed as well, astounded at the thought that he could appear to be head and shoulders above any successor. That Reagan and Bush II were worse Presidents than Nixon I do not doubt, but Trump makes him look like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln rolled into one. After all, Richard Nixon did do some good things and quite probably President Trump would throw a few scraps to the masses to maintain his popularity a la Blago and his free bus rides for seniors, but the main thrust of his presidency would certainly take us back way past the Vietnam era to the imperialism of the Spanish American war and past that to the gilded age of robber barons doling out dimes to beggars.


    1. Ike certainly wasn't crazy about him.

    2. In 1960, Ike was asked what had Nixon done while he was VP.
      Ike replied: "If you give me a week, I'll think of something"

  2. Nixon was sleazy but smart. And,in general, people knew where he stood, although he fooled everybody by going to China. What is unnerving about Trump, particularly to the GOP big wigs now trying to derail his train, is his unpredictability. If he, God forbid, did become President he would probably, like Nixon, surround himself with crooks, although it's difficult to envision who his Henry Kissinger might be.

    Funniest story of the week was Carson kissing up to the great man and calling him "cerebral." And trump returning the favor by saying that Carson, a creationist who thinks the Federal government runs the schools, knows a lot about education.

    Tom Evans

  3. That is one cute photo atop this page; made me smile.


    1. Nixon seems not so bad these days.

      Go check out Shimkus' official fb. He's being eaten alive there and rightfully so.

  4. As usual of bullies, Trump tries to play the victim of yesterday's blowback.

    He shouldn't worry about the protesters. It's his followers who will destroy his candidacy, with their emotions fed by Trump's racist insults and taunts, including punching out protesters or suggesting they be taken away on stretchers. Recently, we've seen a follower sucker punch a protester; how long before someone fires a gun into the crowd?

    Trump: "Will no one rid me of these meddlesome thugs?"

  5. You hate Trump because he laughs at you and your buddies in the leftist press while the people LOVE him! And you know what save you lies about Trump nothing you will ever say will dissuade us from voting for whomever we want to, its still an American right for now.

    I used to buy a Sun Times everyday and read Neil Steinberg and buy ads in the paper and buy advertised items. Im on a two year boycott. Here's why. I have no problem Steinberg being the hard lefty columunist as long as there's balance. But if its going to be nonstop anti American propoganda I'll go with yahoo for my news. Sorry Sun Times your days are limited and your online content is a joke. Prepare for another bankruptcy.

    1. "the people LOVE him!"

      I'm a people and I think Trump is an opportunistic, misogynist, bigoted, tasteless thug. That is the opposite of love.

      "And you know what save you lies about Trump "

      If I have decoded your less than literate response properly I think you are trying to accuse Mr. Steinberg of lying about Trump, I reread the article and there isn't remotely a mistruth in it regarding Trump. What do you think constitutes a lie about Trump in this article? I am curious.

  6. I guess he told us. But bankruptcy's not really all that bad. Trump knows.


  7. As much as I loathed and was disgusted by Richard Nixon throughout his political career, I have to say that this "slush fund" stuff was a lot of hooey. So some rich folks picked up the tab for his travels and whatever. So what?


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