Browsing Tag

elections

Bush v. Gore: The Coin

In general, I try to avoid coins issued by private mints. They tend to have very little numismatic value and can even be of dubious legality. In fact, they aren’t legally “coins” since they aren’t issued by a government. Instead, they are often marketed as “rounds.”

But when the private Washington Mint released this silver round in 2000 amidst the uncertainty over who won that year’s Presidential election, I jumped at the chance to buy it. For one thing, I’ve always been a sucker for political-themed exonumia – especially Hard Times Tokens.

For another, this unique two-headed coin with a bust of Al Gore on one side and George W. Bush on the other with each man named as the 43rd President of the United States really captures just how bizarre that entire period was. Between the retracted concessions, hanging chads, organized “riots,” court battles and hand recounts, it seemed like every day provided a new twist and turn as we tried to determine just who had actually won Florida – and therefore the election.

Apparently, the Washington Mint had already been working on an inauguration medallion and had prepared busts of both Gore and Bush. Not knowing which one they would get to use, and inspired by a Tonight Show sketch shortly after Election Day about ways to determine the winner, the Mint got the idea to make the two-headed coin. They even sent two coins on Nov. 13 to Jay Leno to use for a possible skit. Ultimately, after another month, Gore conceded following the Supreme Court’s decision stopping Florida’s recount.

I figured the coin was relevant now since this is the first time since 2000 where one major-party candidate challenged the outcome of a Presidential race. This time, however, enough states have certified their returns to give one candidate a clear majority in the Electoral College, and there have been multiple lawsuits filed in several states instead of just Florida. Those lawsuits aren’t going well, though, which probably explains why there haven’t been any two-headed Joe Biden/Donald Trump coins.

The Great Compromiser: Henry Clay Tokens (UPDATED)

It may not be in vogue anymore, but there have been several well-respected figures in American history who have lost a Presidential election as a major party nominee, only to come back and win the White House. Thomas Jefferson lost a razor-thin contest in 1796 and won four years later. Andrew Jackson prevailed in 1828, four years after he lost in a contingent election before the House of Representatives. Grover Cleveland attained his status as a trivia question by serving his two nonconsecutive terms between a losing effort in 1888. Heck, I wrote an entire book about how Richard Nixon survived losing the 1960 race to JFK only to prevail in 1968.

Of course, not everyone managed to pull off successful comebacks. Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan in 1896, 1900, and 1908 and he lost all three times. Democrats also trotted out Adlai Stevenson twice, losing two lopsided contests to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. Republican Thomas Dewey looked set to win in 1948, four years after he lost to FDR, only to famously not defeat Harry Truman. And, during the days when Presidential elections were more regional in nature, men like Charles Pinckney, George Clinton, John Jay, Rufus King and others found themselves on the short end of multiple general election ballots, although their level of interest or involvement varied.

Then there’s Henry Clay.

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Nice Review from the Massachusetts Law Review

Got a nice review for Nixon in New York from the Massachusetts Bar Review. Thanks and glad you enjoyed it!

“Li’s unvarnished look at the man is painstakingly researched and well-crafted. It is also a balanced and sympathetic appraisal of one of the central figures of the 20th century as he worked from an ignominious defeat to the most powerful position in the world. In addition to the political perspective, the inside look at the world of the Wall Street law firm in the 1960s is particularly compelling. Today, in the age of the megafirm, while political discourse is at an all-time low, Li’s story is a solid look at an equally divisive time and an undeniably polarizing figure. There are lessons to be learned.” 

“Am I Not a Woman & a Sister”: A Hard Times Token That Foreshadowed Even Harder Times Ahead. (UPDATED)

Andrew Jackson has been in the news a lot over these last few years.

First it was the Obama Administration’s decision in 2016 to replace Old Hickory on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman.

Then came the 2016 election, when Donald Trump openly and repeatedly praised Jackson and expressed admiration for the controversial ex-President in a way that hasn’t been in vogue in decades. Trump has also gone out of his way to associate himself with Jackson, drawing parallels with his predecessor’s populism, combative nature, political inexperience and anti-establishment attitude. Trump has Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office, has made a pilgrimage to the Hermitage and has even given Jackson credit for things that happened well after his death. Trump’s admiration for Jackson is such that his administration has refused to commit to replacing Jackson on the $20 with Tubman. 

And, like Jackson, Trump has had his problems with the country’s central bank.

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The 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.

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It was 50 Years Ago Today.

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.

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Anna Chennault (1925-2018) (BOOK EXCERPT)

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:

On October 31, [President Lyndon] Johnson stunned the country when he announced a bombing halt, as well as upcoming peace talks in Paris between the United States and both North and South Vietnam. The maneuver wasn’t completely out of the blue—Johnson had laid down his terms for a bombing halt in June. The breakthrough had come in early October when the North Vietnamese dropped its objection to South Vietnam’s participation in the proposed peace talks. Johnson now had his chance to end the war on his own terms and salvage his place in history in one fell swoop. There were still some significant hurdles to be cleared before there was any chance of an actual peace treaty, but the news buoyed his spirits considerably.

The news also lifted [Vice President and 1968 Democratic nominee for President] Humphrey’s fortunes. After Johnson’s announcement, Nixon’s lead vanished almost immediately and Humphrey was now in a dead heat with the GOP nominee. Nixon was irate and convinced that Johnson was trying to steal the election at the last minute in favor of his vice president. Nixon still had the bitter taste of 1962 in his mouth when a race he thought he was winning turned against him in the closing stages as a result of a piece of Democratic foreign policy that he had little respect for. Now he had an unwelcome sense of déjà vu. Luckily for him, however, he had prepared for something like this, and this time, he had an ace in the hole.

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The Last Press Conference (Part II) (BOOK EXCERPT)

“Now that Mr. Klein has made his statement, and now that all the members of the press are so delighted that I have lost, I’d like to make a statement of my own,” Nixon said, immediately putting the stunned reporters in attendance on notice. After asserting that he had “no complaints about the press coverage,” he then spent the next few minutes reeling off a laundry list of complaints, singling out the dominant Los Angeles newspaper, the LA Times, for treating him unfairly. Nixon angrily laid into all of the reporters present, complaining that they misrepresented him on the campaign trail and refused to accurately report what he had said. He asserted that his few flubs, including the one where he had said he was running for “governor of the United States,” had been blown out of proportion while reporters had given Brown a free ride. He also lectured them about how to do their jobs, maintaining that if they were going to back one candidate over the other, they should do it on the editorial pages rather than as part of their news coverage.

Nixon then launched into his concession speech. Except, rather than fall back on the usual vague platitudes that are standard components of almost all concession speeches, such as moving forward together and being grateful to God and family, Nixon launched into an attack on the man that had just defeated him by nearly 300,000 votes out of nearly 5.8 million cast.

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The Last Press Conference (Part I) (BOOK EXCERPT)

Richard Nixon was in a foul mood when he took to the stage inside the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton on the morning of November 7, 1962. Sometimes, it could be hard to tell how he was feeling. He was an enigma even to his friends and admirers, while his enemies—well, his enemies were so numerous and varied that, one day, he would have his own official “Enemies List” that consisted of hundreds of names yet still seemed incomplete. On this morning, though, his feelings were pretty obvious to anyone with a pulse. He was so furious that one could almost see the proverbial steam coming from his ears as feelings of bitterness and failure permeated from his pores.

Worse, he’d have to face perhaps his greatest enemy: the press. He had once been their darling, harnessing their approval and acclaim to facilitate a rapid rise through the Republican ranks to become one of the most famous politicians in the country. Now he considered the media to be an implacable foe that was largely responsible for his current predicament.

It was the day after the California gubernatorial election, and Nixon had just gotten humiliated at the polls. Only two years earlier, the two-term vice president had nearly fulfilled his lifelong ambition when he came within an eyelash of winning the presidency in one of the closest elections in American history. That race, against John F. Kennedy, had also been one of the most controversial, marred by accusations of voter fraud, ballot box stuffing, and Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago playing the part of Victor Frankenstein by resurrecting thousands of dead men to vote Democratic.

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Coverage of 2015 ABA Annual Meeting

Another ABA Annual Meeting is in the books. I only covered a few events this year (a far cry from last year). Here are the stories that came out of my coverage:

How can tensions between minorities and police be addressed? Reforms proposed.

Lawyers debate campaign financing, voter restrictions and other election issues.

Disruptive innovators try to convince skeptical attorneys of the need to collaborate.

What are the business costs of ignoring racial and gender diversity?

Meanwhile, the quote from the Tweet below caused quite a commotion.

Ted Cruz Announces 2016 Bid for Presidency

I have no idea whether or not Ted Cruz will be a credible Presidential candidate. Who knows anymore? Especially with this Republican Party.

All I know is that he’ll be entertaining to watch. He’s the first GOP candidate in recent memory that, when it comes to substantive issues, is essentially gaffe-proof. While other candidates might try and avoid taking extreme positions or saying controversial things that could be damaging in a general election, or be forced into doing all kinds of verbal jiu-jitsu to explain their voting records to Tea Partiers that don’t care about what it takes to get stuff done in Washington, Cruz (assuming he remains true to form) doesn’t care about any of that.

Even Rick Santorum, by virtue of the fact he was part of the GOP Senate leadership while in Washington, had some votes on his record that he struggled to explain to conservative voters (like his vote in favor of “No Child Left Behind”). Cruz won’t have to worry about that since he’s actively trying to be the ultra-conservative culture warrior who won’t be outflanked on the right by anyone. Talking Points Memo has argued that he will push the entire GOP field to the right – and maybe that’s his #1 goal. Whether it’s a winning strategy in the general election is another question.

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