Saturday, March 25, 2006

Thinking about Nixon

In keeping with the lightning fast pace of the blogosphere, here's some musings about our 37th president.

1. I've always heard Nixon used as a master of apophasis (ad hominem attacks that are framed in a way that appears the speaker is trying to avoid them, e.g., "I think we should stick to the issues, not the undeniable fact that my opponent's father was a high ranking figure in organized crime and sold bathtub rum to schoolgirls," "I'm not even going to bring up that my opponent is a papist who takes orders from Rome," or "Let's avoid mentioning that the good senator is romantically linked to Rita Haysworth and instead focus on inflation") but all the examples are hypothetical. Does anyone know of a real quote where he does this? (My half-ass attempts: and

2. The Checker's Speech is a textbook example of all sorts of rhetorical devices (aposiopesis, when he got so choked up with emotion that he couldn't speak for a moment; straw man argument, defiantly announcing that he wouldn't give the dog up although none of his critics had ever suggested such a thing; emotional appeals, the millions of souls lost to communism during the Truman administration) but was the overall speech the truth?

Nixon had been accused of criminally mismanaging campaign funds (the more things change...) and he gave the speech to reveal his entire financial history. It occurred to me that I've read about the speech in many contexts but never if Nixon was innocent of the initial charges.

3. Have you noticed that now Republicans seem to hate Nixon more than Democrats do? After his death, people lined up to call him a statesman but now I hear him used as an example of evil ("He's as bad as Nixon"), and, more often than not, the speaker is conservative. Nixon was behind the founding of the National Endowment for the Arts and he did visit China but why did his old party turn on him?

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