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.