George H.W. Bush passed away on Friday at the age of 94. The former Representative, UN Ambassador, RNC Chair, China Envoy, CIA Director, Vice President and President owed a lot to President Richard Nixon. After Bush’s unsuccessful 1970 campaign for U.S. Senate, Nixon made sure Bush stayed in the political arena by appointing him UN Ambassador and then RNC Chair. Perhaps Nixon was well-disposed to the future President due to an important, but somewhat understated role that Bush played in Nixon’s 1968 comeback.
CBS Sunday Morning ran a story this weekend about Richard Nixon’s 1968 comeback. I thought it was a good piece that summarized what was at stake, both in Nixon’s life and in 1968. It was nice seeing all those video clips and interviews with people like Pat Buchanan and Dwight Chapin - people that were extraordinarily helpful to me when I was writing my book. It helped bring to life what had, otherwise, mainly existed to me in the form of papers, emails, and phone calls.
One thing that disappointed me about that story was that it didn’t mention his law firm career at all. After all, interviewees Buchanan and Chapin were both employed by Nixon Mudge, while campaign manager John Mitchell (mentioned near the end) had come to the firm via merger. Until that happened, Nixon and Mitchell had barely even known one another - indeed, Mitchell had a stronger relationship with Nixon’s longtime rival in the GOP, Nelson Rockefeller.
The firm played an important role in shaping the strategy that Nixon would implement in 1968. Messages were tested and trial balloons were floated inside the walls of the Nixon Mudge offices. The decision to provoke a confrontation with Lyndon Johnson, the process of re-making Nixon into a TV-ready candidate, the strategy to win the nomination - all of these were formulated by Nixon and his law firm-based staff.
In a sense, that was what motivated me to write Nixon in New York: How Wall Street Helped Richard Nixon Win the White House in the first place. I wanted to write about a pivotal but under-reported time in Nixon’s life. I think I succeeded in that respect. Hopefully, in time, more people will read it and learn about this important stage in the development of one of the most consequential politicians of the modern era.
On November 5, 1968, Richard Nixon completed his remarkable comeback from political oblivion and was elected President of the United States (okay, his victory wasn’t confirmed until early the following morning, but still…).
When I was writing my book, I deliberately aimed for 2018 as a release date since it would mark the 50th anniversary of Nixon’s victory. Indeed, the 50th anniversary had been the main driving point behind the entire project. This book had started out as a proposed Q&A with former Nixon aide and Mudge Rose managing partner Tom Evans to mark the 50th anniversary of his joining the firm in 1963.
From Nixon in New York:
In 1968, Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey in one of the closest presidential races in American history (third-party candidate George Wallace, governor of Alabama, turned in a strong third-place showing that contributed to the closeness of the race). Nixon won a clear majority in the Electoral College but defeated Humphrey by less than 1 percent in the popular vote. Much like in 1960, a few close states could have swung the election in the other direction. In this case, had Humphrey won Ohio, Illinois, and California (he lost all three by less than 3 percent), he would have won the presidency.
Nixon’s victory, which wasn’t confirmed until the following morning, was a tremendous accomplishment for both the candidate and his campaign manager. For Nixon, it was the culmination of an incredible comeback that seemed like a pipe dream after that fateful morning in 1962 when he behaved like a sore loser. For Mitchell, it was confirmation that he was one of the smartest, savviest lawyers in the country. The two men shared a moment right after the networks declared Nixon the winner. “Well, John, we had better get down to Florida and get this thing planned out,” Nixon said, putting his hand on his campaign manager’s shoulder. “Mr. President,” Mitchell responded, eyes welling up with tears. “I think I’d better go up and be with Martha.” As Nixon would later reflect, this was the first time anyone would ever call him “Mr. President.”
Pretty cool for this Tulane Law alum to see his book in the stacks at Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University.
After losing the California governor’s race in 1962, Nixon announced the end of his political career, and he accepted a partnership in a prestigious New York City law firm. He became a valuable rainmaker for the firm, and he used his position to reconstitute his political base with wealthy contributors, a deep and talented campaign staff, and enhanced international experience. This culminated in his victory in the 1968 presidential campaign. The assistant managing editor of the American Bar Association’s trade journal, Li provides an excellent, straightforward narrative of how this transpired. The author places these transformational years within a quick survey of Nixon’s prior political career and a brief overview of his two administrations. The consistency of Nixon’s talents and flaws is evident in each phase of his career. The final chapter treats former colleagues and legal issues of the firm during Nixon’s presidency. The epilogue touches on recent presidential players’ engagements with prestigious law firms. Although this focused and manageable account relies more on interviews and printed sources than on extensive archival research, it deserves consideration in competition with John Farrell’s or Evan Thomas’s recent, massive Nixon biographies.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. — CHOICE
I was a guest on ABA Journal's "Modern Law Library" podcast to talk "Nixon in New York." It was a blast - albeit weird being on the other side of an interview, for once. Thanks to my distinguished colleague, Lee Rawles, for speaking with me.
On Thursday, former New York mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani announced he would be joining President Donald Trump's legal team. Giuliani, like Trump, a twice-divorced former Democrat who had, previously, advocated on behalf of abortion rights, gun control, and gay rights, had once been a summer associate at Nixon Mudge. And like the firm namesake, Giuliani had tried to join a law firm in preparation for making a run for Presidency in 2008. In this latest excerpt from Nixon in New York: How Wall Street Helped Richard Nixon Win the White House, read all about how it didn't work out so well for him.
Scooter Libby now has at least three things in common with Richard Nixon. They're both Republicans. They both worked at the Mudge Rose firm. And as of Friday, they've both received Presidential pardons.
Anna Chennault passed away on March 30, 2018 at the age of 94. The Chinese-born journalist and political power broker played a major role in Richard Nixon's 1968 Presidential campaign. Read an excerpt about her and Nixon from my upcoming book: Nixon in New York: How Wall Street Helped Richard Nixon Win the White House.
Richard Nixon had decided to leave California and move to New York after his devastating loss in the 1962 gubernatorial election. But what would he do once he got to the Big Apple? Read another excerpt from my upcoming book, Nixon in New York: How Wall Street Helped Richard Nixon Win the White House.
An excerpt from my upcoming book, Nixon in New York: How Wall Street Helped Richard Nixon Win the White House. This section marks one of the most famous concession speeches in American politics - and one that, by all rights, should have ended Nixon's political career once and for all. Of course, things didn't exactly work out that way...