I knew I had done nothing wrong and had nothing to hide.
— RICHARD NIXON
You don't have to be phony if you're honest.
— PAT NIXON, ON "THE FUND GRISIS" 1
THE FUND CRISIS was the most scarifying episode in Nixon's life until Watergate, an ordeal that saw him triumph over near political ruin, but which left him cynical, soured, and obsessively suspicious of political friendships. He learned his lesson, he said, that "in politics most people are your friends only as long as you can do something for them or something to them." 2 The fund crisis was also, in James Barber's phrase, "an agony of self‐ definition." 3 To resist the clamors for his resignation coming from the men he had thought to be his best friends in the party, he was forced to ask himself, "Am I taking money illegally?" "Am I cheating on my income tax?" "Am I a liar?" Had he done what Earl Warren refused to do—had he hocked his soul?
It was not until years later that he admitted that he had felt "like a little boy caught with jam on his face." 4 His instinct for survival and his skill at denial were not seen again in so dramatic a fashion until Watergate. The very success of 1952 made his denials of twenty years later predictable, although the differences between the crises were many, chief among them being that the problem in the "fund crisis" was ethical and not legal.
Nixon's "Checkers speech" of September 23, 1952, watched by fifty-eight million people on television, the largest audience up to that time, convinced most Americans, including many cynical journalists, that he was a man wronged. It did not quite convince Eisenhower, who likened Nixon to Gen. George Patton, who, he said, had made a mistake and been forgiven. 5 Democrats who