Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character

By Fawn M. Brodie | Go to book overview
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XVIII

Nixon among the Giants

Dwight Eisenhower was that rarest of men, an authentic hero ... one of the giants of our time.

RICHARD NIXON, 1969 1

RICHARD NIXON first saw Dwight Eisenhower in a tickertape parade in New York City shortly before V-E Day in 1945. "Maybe I just think it was that way," he told Robert Coughlan eight years later. "I was about 30 stories up—but I have this picture that there he came, with his arms outstretched and his face up to the sky, and that even from where I was I could feel the impact of his personality." In his memoirs he recalled that Eisenhower's arms were raised high over his head in the gesture that soon became his trademark. 2 Nixon adopted the gesture for his own, and as president employed it in parades. But he used it as a weapon as well and it became for many in the nation a detested gesture, a salute that had somehow become defiled. At San Jose, California, on October 29, 1970, facing a hostile antiwar crowd, he stood upright in his limousine with his arms outstretched and his fingers moving in the Eisenhower salute, and said to an aide, "That's what they hate to see." Students hurled rocks and bottles at him. 3

When Eisenhower died in 1969, Nixon called him a giant and a hero, "probably more loved by more people in more parts of the world than any president America has ever had ... truly the first citizen of the world ... a moral authority without parallel in America and the world." 4 "This patently good man," Robert Donovan wrote, "made the phrase 'father image' fashionable," and "that image in the election made him impregnable." 5

Nixon had fantasies of being counted among the giants of history. He used the word "giant" frequently—to describe Chiang Kai-shek, Charles de Gaulle, personal friends like J. Edgar Hoo

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