A LION…A FOX
The Alternate Presidency of Richard M. Nixon
Published by Cat and Mouse Publishing, Inc.
Rochester, NY 14626
I want to dedicate this story to Biff Barnes, who helped me to mold this story and bring it to life.
When we explore history and certain historical incidents we often ask “what if”, and then are presented with all sorts of possibilities which become present themselves and cause us to make assumptions that lead to a new alternate history. This counterfactual brings into focus the question of what would have happened had Richard Nixon defeated John Kennedy in the election of 1960. This new reality… this new alternate story would reshape the course of the 60s, the history of our country and ultimately the world. We will come face to face with some uncomfortable truths about our country and the men who lead it. Many have speculated but none have transferred to an alternate reality until now an answer to this “what if”.
The Presidency of Richard M. Nixon occurred of course as a result of one of the closest elections in the history of our nation. The first man to be elected that was born in the 20th century and a man who was driven to succeed and never had the opportunity to taste defeat. Nixon’s life in this reality demonstrates what he was able to accomplish in a shorter time than he did in our original timeline. While his opponent John Kennedy would go on to have his own brilliant career, Nixon would become our thirty fifth president.
Richard Nixon was born on January 9, 1913, to Francis A. Nixon and Hannah Milhous Nixon in Yorba Linda, California. His mother was a Quaker, and his upbringing was marked by conservative Quaker observances of the time. Nixon had four brothers, Harold, Donald, Arthur and Edward. Nixon grew up to a family and in an area that he would later call the “forgotten Americans” or “silent majority.” His early life was marked by hardship, and he would later often quote a saying to describe his boyhood: “We were poor, but the glory of it was, we didn’t know it.” He grew though with an unshakable belief in America and all that was possible for everyone if he worked hard enough for it. The Nixon family moved to Whittier, California, in an area with many Quakers, where his father opened a grocery store and gas station. Richard’s younger brother Arthur died in 1925 after a short illness, and his older brother Harold, whom Richard admired, died of tuberculosis in 1933.
Much of his mother’s energy was expended on his sickly brothers. Richard grew up insecure, withdrawn and emotionally bottled-up, yet these trials spurred a fierce ambition. He was bestowed an interest in politics and seemed to almost become someone else when he was discussing issues of the day. He seemed driven at this age to impress his parents as he tried to make up for the loss of his two brothers from Tuberculosis. He was carrying them with him every day as he strove for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the halls of Whittier and beyond. Richard was offered a scholarship to Harvard, but his family lacked the money for him to attend. He instead lived at home and took up a scholarship to Whittier College. Nixon was a formidable debater, standout in collegiate drama productions, student body president, and was on the college baseball, football and track teams. While at Whittier, he lived at home and worked at his family’s store. While at Whittier he blossomed into a great leader and debater and as student body President he displayed leadership and rugged determination. He was instilled with the drive and almost ruthless determination to win. He believed that if you show me a good loser, I’ll show you a loser.
Nixon received a full scholarship to Duke University School of Law. At the time, the law school was new and sought to attract the top students by offering scholarships. Nixon was elected president of the Duke Bar Association and graduated third in his class in June 1937. Nixon later spoke about the influence of his alma mater, saying, “I always remember that whatever I have done in the past or may do in the future, Duke University is responsible in one way or another.
Nixon’s competitive instinct led him to develop debating tactics that would promote success. He learned early in his debating career that surprise could play an important role in winning. Relying on intensive preparation to protect himself, he sought out those arguments that his opponent would be unprepared for. He joined a law firm in Whittier where in 1938, while performing in a little theater production; he met Thelma “Pat” Ryan.
Pat was tender-hearted to an unusual degree, she had an understanding of other people’s feelings and needs which bordered on telepathy. Pat was compassionate and couldn’t bear to see others suffer. When she and Richard met he fell head over heals in love with her. Richard gives selflessly and became quickly devoted to Pat Ryan.
Nixon called her his “dearest heart” and his “Irish gypsy” in love letters that he wrote to Pat in their early days of courting and marriage. “Every day and every night I want to see you and be with you,” Nixon wrote in one letter. “Let’s go for a long ride Sunday; let’s go to the mountains weekends; let’s read books in front of fires; most of all, let’s really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours.” By contrast, Pat played it coy and cool. She started out one letter, by saying “social note — romantic?” She goes on: “In case I don’t see you before why don’t you come early Wednesday…and I’ll see if I can burn a hamburger for you.” She had a wonderful sense of humor and Richard Nixon loved it.
Some of the language Nixon uses sounds unfamiliar today: In two of the notes, Nixon addresses Pat as “thee.” That’s a pronoun commonly used in Quaker circles to suggest a special closeness. So Nixon, who was raised a Quaker, was letting Pat know just how special she was to him. Nixon shows a literary bent as he recalls their encounter at a theater in Whittier during auditions for a play called The Dark Tower. “Somehow on Tuesday there was something electric in the usually almost stifling air in Whittier. And now I know. An Irish gypsy who radiates all that is happy and beautiful was there. She left behind her a note addressed to a struggling barrister who looks from a window and dreams. And in that note he found sunshine and flowers, and a great spirit which only great ladies can inspire,” Nixon wrote. “Someday let me see you again? In September? Maybe?”
He began practicing with Wingert and Bewley, as Nixon found the practice of law unexciting. He thought that it would gain him experience that would be valuable in a future political career. In 1939, he became a full partner in the firm.
Dick and Pat married at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California on June 21, 1940. She said that she had been attracted to the young Nixon because he “was going places, he was vital and ambitious … he was always doing things”. Later, referring to Richard Nixon, she said, “Oh but you just don’t realize how much fun he is! He’s just so much fun!” While Richard Nixon served in the Navy during World War II, Pat worked as a government economist living in San Francisco. In January 1942, they moved to Washington, where Richard Nixon took a job at the Office of Price Administration.
Nixon was eligible for an exemption from military service, both as a Quaker and through his job working for the OPA. However he did not seek one and was commissioned into the Navy in August 1942. Nixon returned to the United States with two service stars although he saw no combat and a citation of commendation, and became the administrative officer of the Alameda Naval Air Station. Nixon became an excellent poker player and during his service in the military amassed a tidy little bankroll of around $7,000 playing poker. He would later credit these poker winnings as helping to fund his first election bid in 1946. In October 1945, he was promoted to lieutenant commander. He was discharged in January 1946.
His path was chosen many years earlier, as a career in politics was always his seeming goal. When he returned home after the war, he immediately began his quest for a political career. First in the House of Representatives and then the U S Senate. The young Nixon at age thirty-nine has become the second youngest Vice President in history. His youth however was no stumbling block to success for he quickly became an important appendage to the Eisenhower administration. His eight years of service provided him with many of the prerequisites for executive success. During his time as Vice President he was often called upon by Eisenhower to take larger roles than typically had been performed by Vice Presidents of years gone by.
So by 1960 the young Vice President was set to face off against an even younger Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts for the Presidency. The campaign was contentious and filled with furry, debates and mountains of advertising in selling us the 35th President of the United States nothing was spared.
This story sets out to show an inside look at what happened before, during and after the campaign and election. It shows how the Nixon Presidency would have been different in many ways from a Kennedy administration and while similarities are stark the differences may have been as well.
It was indeed President Nixon who was our greatest offering of a Machiavellian chief executive. As such we are asked, was he as Machiavelli stated in the Prince more a Lion or a Fox? The book is a project that has been researched exhaustively for over two years and has as much accuracy as possible in order to present accurate historical scenarios. What is altered and even what is fiction is just enough to flavor the boiling stew. I have long been a fan of Theodore White and his Making of a President series of novels and I must credit much of what I learned about the inside workings of the 1960 Presidential campaign to him. As for the balance of my research I used the public domain papers of the Kennedy and Nixon libraries as well as papers that are available in the national archive.
As we begin our journey to examine the Nixon Presidency we must first look back. Back to the beginnings of the complex American figure and follow his path to immortality. Of course the work is fiction on my part, but its opinion based on research, plotting of timelines and the personalities of those involved almost all are real. It’s also a story of struggle, passion, ambition, greed and power. We see the complex inner workings of Richard Nixon as a man, politician and leader of the free world. We have a front row seat to his darker side and his involvement with certain elements that heretofore would have been un thought of. Finally we come face to face with the power structure that rules our nation and to some extent our world.
Nixon is a man whose complex personality and intellectual proclivity defies description. His drive to succeed often surpasses his desire for virtue in his seeking of success for himself and his country. Nixon surrounds himself with a team of people whom he trusts to love and live for an America with the same passion as he does. Through this story we seek an answer to the question of whether he is more a lion or a fox.