Stevenson and Nixon
This is a man of many masks, who can say they have seen his real face?
— ADLAI STEVENSON ON NIXON, 1956 1
THERE WAS NEVER ANYONE quite like Adlai Stevenson in Richard Nixon's life. A major foe in the elections of 1952, 1954, and 1956, in his attacks on Nixon he etched a demonic image that left the younger man permanently scarred. Voorhis and Helen Douglas as opponents facing the Nixon onslaughts had been little more than walking wounded. Although Eisenhower and not Nixon was Stevenson's major opponent, he found the general difficult to assault. When hecklers shouted "I like Ike" in one Democratic rally, Stevenson replied, "Well, I like him too, but I would ask you fellows to listen a minute." 2 Against Nixon, however, Stevenson was scathingly contemptuous, pertinaciously moral. He was the first major candidate to define for the nation the nature of Nixon's political ethics, to describe his corrupting influence on Eisenhower, and to dare to speculate openly what would happen to the nation if the general died in office. His 1952 slogan, "Better to lose the election than to mislead the people," and his attacks on "lies, half-truths, circuses and demagoguery," were directed against Nixon and McCarthy, not against Dwight D. Disenhower. Of McCarthy he said,
The pillorying of the innocent has caused the wise to stammer and the timid to retreat. I would shudder for this country if I thought that we too must surrender to the sinister figure of the Inquisition, of the great accuser.3
Nixon he said was "the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, and then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation."