Nation: Nuclear Numbers Game

The life-or-death question of how the U.S. would come out in a thermonuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union has a nagging habit of cropping up shortly before Election Day. In 1960, the Democrats' misleading charges of a "missile gap" served to confuse and alarm voters. This year it was Richard Nixon who sought a last-minute advantage. "The present state of our defenses is too close to peril point," Nixon charged in a radio speech, "and our future prospects are in some respects downright alarming. We have a gravely serious security gap."

The statistics that Nixon used, matched against figures marshaled by...

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