Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008

Richard M. Nixon

Correction appended Aug. 28, 2008

During the 1952 campaign, Nixon jeopardized the presidential candidacy of Dwight Eisenhower by promptly embroiling himself in scandal. "Tricky Dick," as a newspaper dubbed the Vice Presidential candidate, was accused of maintaining an illegal slush fund stocked by wealthy businessmen. In a televised address, later known as the "Checkers" speech, he decried the allegations — his wife didn't even have a mink coat, he pointed out — and said the only gift he'd ever taken was an adorable spotted dog named Checkers. "The kids, like all kids, love the dog," he growled, "and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it." Nixon stayed on the ticket, and he and Eisenhower went on to win the election. Nixon rode out two terms as Vice President with minimal impact, with the exception of two infamous trips abroad: During a tour of Latin America, people spat on his cavalcade, and in 1959 he engaged in the controversial and heated "kitchen debate" in Moscow with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Other than those standouts, he filled his office inconsequentially. As Eisenhower himself put it when asked about Nixon's contributions, "If you give me a week, I might think of one."

By Tiffany Sharples

The original version of this story described the "kitchen debate" as "foul-mouthed." While Nixon and Khrushchev's conversation in the Kremlin during his visit to Moscow were, according to William Taubman, marked by expletives, the audiotape of the "kitchen debate" exchange that followed — and was preserved on video — contains no obscenities, according to historian William Taubman.