Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character

By Fawn M. Brodie | Go to book overview
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XXV

On the Throwing of Rocks

The greatest cowardice of all is intellectual cowardice ... those who have it are afraid to hear the facts, are afraid to listen to the truth.

NIXON, IN LIMA, PERU, 1958 1

To SPIT ON A MAN OR WOMAN is a special act of defilement. To hurl stones can be an act of murder. Stones were flung at Nixon by students at San Marcos University in Lima in 1958, one grazing his throat, and in Caracas, Venezuela, the vice-president and his wife were covered with spit when they walked out from under a balcony leaving the airport. En route to the city center, his motorcade was stopped by roadblocks, and the windows of the car in which he was riding were smashed by stones as big as grapefruit. Later Nixon said he had never been in such danger in his life. 2

An alarmed Eisenhower ordered a thousand troops, an aircraft carrier, a missile cruiser, and six destroyers into the area for a rescue, if it became necessary. When Nixon returned to Washington, Ike met him at the airport, along with the entire cabinet and a cheering crowd of eight thousand. 3

In Six Crises Nixon relates that he had not wanted to make the trip, and had agreed only at the insistence of Eisenhower, who wanted him to attend the inauguration of Arturo Frondizi, the newly elected president of Argentina. Nixon warned newspapermen that the trip, widened to include seven other countries, would be dull. Instead it turned into a trial of fortitude, a kind of medieval ordeal, from which he emerged for the first time in his life a hero, showered with bouquets and telegrams, cheered by throngs in the streets, embraced by the nation's father, and his bravery displayed in photographs in the press of the Western world.

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