Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

39
CHOICES,
CRITICAL AND OTHERWISE
1973-1979

NELSON ROCKEFELLER WAS a wonderful example of a statesman, which is not the same thing as being a politician. Throughout his life, he consciously improved his breadth of knowledge and his grasp of the nuances present in important issues. That Nelson Rockefeller failed to win the Republican nomination for president in 1960 was a tragic loss for the nation. I believe that Rockefeller might well have beaten Kennedy.

Had that been the case, we might have avoided the Cuban missile crisis and the exacerbated tensions of the cold war. The unfortunate war in Vietnam (had it even taken place) would have taken a different course; furthermore, we would not have alienated our European allies by excluding them from Soviet-American negotiations. The 1960s might have been a greatly improved decade had Nelson been in the White House, but he was not. Nelson had lost his chance because of complications in his personal life. 1

Nelson attempted to gain the nomination again in 1964 against Goldwater and in 1968 against Nixon. Nixon had not been particularly popular as Eisenhower's vice president, but when Ike was out with a heart attack, Nixon had performed well. That positive performance gave Nixon the advantage.

In about 1973, Nelson, still governor of New York, organized a Commission on the Role of the Modern State in a Changing World to consider the policies that New York should adopt for the future. President Nixon learned

____________________
1
He lost the nomination, as I have mentioned, largely because he was divorced. In subsequent elections, he faced the additional onus of having remarried. It may be useful for the Republican Party to learn from the Democrats and give more emphasis to their candidates' leadership qualities and less to their personal lives.

-514-

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