Richard M. Nixon: Politician, President, Administrator

By Leon Friedman; William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview

Discussant: John Herbers

Thank you very much. The events of today bring back old memories of those days and make one want to say a lot of things. I don't have a lot of time, so I will concentrate my remarks solely on Nixon's so-called Southern Strategy.

During that period, Nixon certainly--I covered a lot of his campaign speeches--seemed to be trying to make every concession he could to southern segregationists without losing his strong base of support in the Northeast and other parts of the country.

The one thing I really want to take strong exception to in Mr. Moore's paper is his reasoning that the Southern Strategy failed because the Southern schools were desegregated during the Nixon term. It is true the schools were desegregated during that period more than in any other. During the Nixon period, I covered the Civil Rights Office of HEW and the general enforcement of civil rights law. School desegregation seemed to be in the news more than anything else. And what was driving school desegregation was not the Nixon Administration, but the courts. The Supreme Court was telling the Civil Rights Office of HEW almost every day that you have to bus children if necessary to achieve desegregation.

What happened under Nixon was that he, or at least his White House people, seemed to be making every effort to slow down that process and to carry out Nixon's promise to Strom Thurmond (that he as president would oppose busing).

Opposition to busing was a consistent position with Nixon, and it is a very popular position. Busing was the code word used by politicians, and almost everyone else in those days, for desegregation. Yet in many areas busing was necessary to carry out integration of the schools.

The problem with the Moore paper is that it does not go into that at all. It assumes that desegregation was done by the Nixon White House, but in fact it was done almost entirely by the courts' putting pressure on the Office of Civil Rights and by the courts' carrying out their own decisions, which were very strong at the time. The matter had been pending since 1954 (the year the Supreme Court declared separate school systems for the races violated the Constitution). The courts wanted things done, and they wanted them done immediately. Their commands happened to fall during Nixon's term. The results had nothing to do with the way the Nixon people enforced the law. That's the way it was. I think the record will bear this out.

Nixon did a lot, an awful lot, for the poor and for blacks in other ways. One was expansion of food stamps, which took place in his term through his initiatives. Some of his speeches calling for an expansion of the food stamp program sounded as if they might have been delivered by Lyndon Johnson. They were very strong in stating that hungry people ought to be fed by giving them more food stamps. This brought the biggest food stamp expansion of all. There was

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