Saturday, September 15, 2007

I Blame Checkers

George W. Bush would not be president if it weren't for Dick Cheney. Cheney would not be co-president if it weren't for Richard Nixon, and his attempt to enact the Unitary Executive Theory, which Cheney loves and fully supports. Nixon would not have been president if it weren't for his "Law & Order" campaign, made popular because of the civil turmoil caused by a war in which our involvement was escalated by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Kennedy and Johnson would not have made it to the White House if they hadn;t defeated then-Vice President Richard Nixon. Nixon would not have been vice president if it hadn't been for a speech he gave, on Sept 23, 1952, about 55 years ago, in which he uttered the famous words, "And our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it 'Checkers.' And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it." And now, George W. Bush is president. I blame Checkers.

In 1952, charges of corruption were being levied against Nixon. The Republican Party was in a pickle. Do they dump Nixon, or try to beat Adlai Stevenson with him? Eisenhower told Nixon that if he couldn't prove he was "clean as a hound's tooth", he was off the ticket. Nixon decided to take his case to the people. He arranged air time following the immensely popular Milton Berle Show. He hadn't even told his staff whether he was going to defend himself or resign from the ticket. He surprised everyone by giving a detailed financial account of himself, including how much his house cost. And then he brought up the dog.

One other thing I probably should tell you, because if I don't they'll probably be saying this about me, too. We did get something, a gift, after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore, saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted. And our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it "Checkers." And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it.

Nixon ended his speech with a direct appeal to the voters:

And now, finally, I know that you wonder whether or not I am going to stay on the Republican ticket or resign. Let me say this: I don't believe that I ought to quit, because I am not a quitter. And, incidentally, Pat's not a quitter. After all, her name was Patricia Ryan and she was born on St. Patrick's day, and you know the Irish never quit.

But the decision, my friends, is not mine. I would do nothing that would harm the possibilities of Dwight Eisenhower to become President of the United States. And for that reason I am submitting to the Republican National Committee tonight through this television broadcast the decision which it is theirs to make. Let them decide whether my position on the ticket will help or hurt. And I am going to ask you to help them decide. Wire and write the Republican National Committee whether you think I should stay on or whether I should get off. And whatever their decision is, I will abide by it.

After the speech, Nixon thought he had totally blown it and would soon be off the ticket. But when he got back to the hotel, the phones were going crazy with pro-Nixon calls. He had saved his candidacy, and went on to become vice president. Then he lost to Kennedy and Johnson. Then he got elected in 1968 and influenced Dick Cheney. Then Cheney convinced Bush to select him as his running mate after Bush asked Cheney to help him find one. Then Cheney helped George W. Bush get into the White House, where even today, he is widely seen as being the President of the United States. I blame Checkers.

You can see the entire text of the speech that Nixon gave (also known as the "Cloth Coat Speech", because of a reference to the "respectable cloth coat" his wife, Pat, wore, instead of a mink coat), including the video of it, here.

1 comment:

Red-Beard said...

Fascinating account, it all makes perfect sense to me now! It was the Nixon's dog! To keep from using the parlance of the texting/chat room crowd - I'll say that this post brought a smile to my face.