The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad

By Walter Lafeber | Go to book overview

18
Coming to Terms with History:
The Nixon-Kissinger Years
(1969-1976)

OF OUTHOUSES AND COWBOYS

Richard Nixon, most so-called experts concluded in the early 1960s, was politically dead. After losing the races for the presidency in 1960 and the California governorship in 1962, he angrily told reporters that they would not "have Nixon to kick around anymore." But private law practice did not calm this most restless and fascinating of post-1945 politicians. By 1968, he was back at the top of the political heap. His determination was never in doubt. While attending Whittier College, he decided to win a contest to find the largest outdoor wooden toilet to throw into the flames of the annual bonfire rally. The all-time champion had been a three-holer, but Nixon had somehow located a four‐ holer and hauled it to the rally. "Picture the systematic intensity that went into this achievement," biographer Garry Wills suggests. 1

The young Nixon also played a fair, if risky, game of poker. In the navy during World War II, he won thousands of dollars, which helped him launch his political career as a California congressman. In 1950, he won election to the Senate. After serving as Dwight Eisenhower's vice-president ( 1953-1961) and spending the 1960s on the "rubber chicken circuit," speaking at endless Republican dinners for local candidates, Nixon was the best known and most owed of the party's can

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