Thursday, August 30, 2012

Richard Nixon's acceptance speech, 1968 Republican Convention

This four-minute montage is from the 1995 Oliver Stone film, "Nixon" , with Sir Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon. Stone's film takes Nixon from his middle-class youth in a hardscrabble farm town backwater of Southern California to his heights as the most powerful man in America, to his ignominious fall.

On the eve of another Republican Convention speech in Florida tonight, this clip seamlessly incorporates footage of movie sound stage, actors, real people, and actual television coverage of the August 8, 1968 convention climax.

The 1968 Presidential race had some things in common with this one 42 years later. Both were divisive campaigns, both saw a country sharply divided and both featured a backdrop of a foreign war that had spun out of control.

But there were differences. The Republican Party had a broader ideological base in 1968. Nixon, defeated for President by John Kennedy in 1960, had managed to weave himself to a renomination eight years later by outmaneuvering his opponent on the right (Ronald Reagan, the governor of California) and his opponents on his left (Nelson Rockefeller of New York State and George Romney of Michigan.)

Romney was the father of Mitt Romney in case you hadn't heard.

Ironically there was an insurgent effort at the Miami convention to put George Romney on the ticket. Nixon squelched it, preferring a little-known hard-liner, Maryland governor Spiro Agrew, for his running mate.

Nixon successfully maneuvered his way to victory in the general election garnering about 42 percent of the vote against the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey and the hard-line demagogic segregationist George Wallace. Vice-President Humphrey was hampered by his inability to put distance between himself and Lyndon Johnson war policies in Vietnam. Nixon wove a together a "law and order" campaign that promised a secret plan to end the war with a get-tough approach to young demonstrators and minority activist groups.

The actual speech by "Tricky Dick" is not as interesting as this. I mainly remember August 1968 as the first time we had a color television set in the Noakes family home. I have to say the colors on the set were more interesting than the GOP speeches, at least in my Democratic household. :-)


  1. From the documentary "Nixon's the One", narrated by Dick Cavett.

  2. Nixon's greatest accomplishment would have been in 1975 - when he was finally forced to resign, he was about a year out from putting together a bill which would have created a single-payer health care system in America - he often said it was the one goal he wanted to complete, apart from ending Vietnam, in his second term.....

  3. Thanks Will. It seems to me we have been long jinxed as a nation on this whole comprehensive health-care issue, Will.

    FDR, Truman, LBJ, Nixon, et al, all tried but some faction in Congress or the AMA always prevented it from coming together---or, in Nixon's case--his Watergate crimes sucked all the oxagen out of the body politic.

    The funny thing about Watergate was that Nixon would have won without all the chicanery--his trip to China and the first SALT treaty with Moscow in early 1972 made him unbeatable.

    But the race was looking competitive in 1971 so his paranoid instincts took over; the rest is history, or what made history as it were.

  4. When you consider what came after him Nixon doesn't seem that bad to me anymore.
    His goals were a bit more laudable than the desire to totally control the whole world by virtue of full spectrum dominance and PNAC.

    No.... compared with just about every president since he has shown himself to be one of the less disreputable on the whole I think Doug. Come back Nixon all is forgiven.

  5. LOL! It's true, AA. Especially in terms of domestic policy, Nixon would be "A Man for All Seasons" these days.