Happy Birthday to Richard M. Nixon. He would be 102.
Nixon fought to be vice president, unlike many of his predecessors.
By the time that Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to run for president, Nixon had made a name for himself as being a dogged foe Communism, a friend to California’s monied class and an utterly ruthless campaigner. He seemed exactly the sort of young, vital politician that the Eisenhower campaign needed to balance off the ticket. Then two months after the Republican convention, the New York Post ran an article about an illegal slush fund for Nixon set up by some of his wealthy supporters. The allegation just about derailed his career. Eisenhower even suggested that he resign. That, however, wasn’t Nixon’s style.
On September 23, 1952, Nixon delivered this “Checkers” speech on national television – an absolute masterpiece of shameless political manipulation. After a detailed rundown on his finances, Nixon admitted that he had in fact received a present from his supporters – a beloved, and adorable, dog named Checkers. Many were appalled by the speech. Journalist Walter Lippmann called it "the most demeaning experience my country has ever had to bear.” Yet Nixon’s plea resonated. 160,000 Americans flooded White House switchboard in support of Nixon. Weeks later, the Eisenhower/Nixon ticket was swept into office.
While Nixon proved to be an able, active and informed vice president, his openly partisan style was also highly polarizing. Hoping for a smooth reelection, Eisenhower considered dropping him from the ticket. The president hoped that he could persuade his underling to leave voluntarily and even offered him the position of Secretary of Defense. Nixon, however, knew that such a career move would be seen as a demotion and declined the offer. Finally on April 16, after weeks of uncertainty, Nixon decided to force his boss’s hand. Summoning some serious brass balls, he walked into the Oval Office in front of his staff and announced, "Mr. President, I would be honored to continue as vice president under you." Nixon stayed on the ticket.