Just Plain Dick: Richard Nixon’s Checkers Speech and the “Rocking, Socking” Election of 1952 by Kevin MattsonIt all started with some businessmen bankrolling Richard Nixon to become a salesman against socialization. But in this precursor to current campaign finance scandals, Nixon had some explaining to do to keep his place on Eisenhowers Republican ticket, so he took to the airwavess. In making his speech, Nixon left behind lines about a Republican cloth coat and a black and white cocker spaniel named Checkers. The speech saved and bolstered Nixons political career and set the tone for the 1952 campaign.
Just Plain Dick is political history and more. Its the story of a young man nearing a nervous breakdown and staging a political comeback. While the narrative focuses tightly, almost cinematically, on the 1952 election cycle-from the spring primary season to the summer conventions, and then to the allegations against Nixon through to the speech in September and finally the election in November-Mattson also provides a broad-stroke depiction of American politics and culture during the Cold War.
With publication scheduled during the 2012 election season, readers will see Nixons contribution to current campaign styles. Here is a story of phony populism, a hatred of elites (tagged eggheads back then), and emotionally charged appeals erasing a rational assessment of a politicians qualifications. An entertaining and suspenseful read, Just Plain Dick is ideal election context for political junkies and those fascinated with 1950s America.
Richard Nixon's Checkers Speech
On This Day: Richard Nixon Delivers “Checkers Speech”
R ichard M. N ixon. Your browser does not support the audio element. My Fellow Americans, I come before you tonight as a candidate for the Vice Presidency and as a man whose honesty and -- and integrity has been questioned. Now, the usual political thing to do when charges are made against you is to either ignore them or to deny them without giving details. I believe we've had enough of that in the United States, particularly with the present Administration in Washington, D. To me the office of the Vice Presidency of the United States is a great office, and I feel that the people have got to have confidence in the integrity of the men who run for that office and who might obtain it.
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It lasted thirty minutes and was to be forever identified by its reference to a cocker spaniel named Checkers. It was like nothing ever seen in American politics, set apart by its intimacy, its pathos, the apparent revelation of a private life from a public man, and its use of television. It is still a remarkable document. The set was simple: Nixon sat behind a desk, his hands loosely clasped over his notes, and Pat Nixon was several feet away in a chair that seemed too large for her. Looking earnestly into the camera, Nixon said:. My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight as a candidate for the Vice Presidency and as a man whose honesty and integrity have been questioned. Now, the usual political thing to do when charges are made against you is either to ignore them or deny them without giving details.
The first-ever nationally televised address both saved and scarred young Richard Nixon, opening a new communications era and upending conventional political imagery. Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of one of the 20th century's most significant public addresses -- Richard Nixon's much-praised, oft-scorned " Checkers Speech. At stake was Nixon's place as General Dwight Eisenhower's running-mate on the Republican national ticket. The audience was the largest ever assembled. Viewed through the prism of Nixon's roller-coaster career, the speech resonates today largely because of a single passage: the mention of Nixon's family dog, Checkers. Yet, a poll of leading communication scholars ranked the address as the sixth most important American speech of the 20th century -- close behind the soaring addresses of Martin Luther King, Jr. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.