Cases in American
Government 124A, Spring 2019
Tuesday and Thursday 11AM-12:15
Classroom Roberts South 103
Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 1-2 PM, Friday 11 am -
Kravis 232 Telephone:
Richard M. Nixon, the House
member representing Claremont, entered the national arena in 1947. He stayed
there until his death in 1994. Few political leaders have cast such a long
shadow: his 47 years of political activity covered more than one-fifth of U.S.
history. During those years, he left his mark on electoral strategy, foreign and
domestic policy, economics, governmental institutions and, of course, political
ethics. In this course, we shall see how he has shaped American politics through
the present day, His career will serve as a case study of how a political leader
gains, exercises, and loses power. It will also be a case study in the
complexity of political character. He started his career as an
anticommunist, and went on to negotiate with the People's Republic of China and
the Soviet Union. He made deeply prejudiced comments about Jews and
African Americans, yet saved Israel in 1973 and extended affirmative action.
He called himself a conservative but imposed peacetime wage-price
controls, and proposed a guaranteed wage and national health insurance.
And he was an intensely private man who bared his soul on tape.
Classes will include lecture
and discussion. Finish the readings before class because our discussions
will involve those readings. We shall also talk about Nixon's relationship
to current affairs, so you must read a good news source such as Politico, RealClearPolitics
or the New York
Our class blog is at https://gov124.blogspot.com/. I shall post videos,
graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this
material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience.
You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know
if you do not
get such an
invitation.) I strongly encourage you to use the blog in these
- To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss
them in class;
- To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or
- To post relevant news items or videos.
The following will make up your
4-page essays: 20% each
research paper: 25%
participation, blog: 15%
- The papers will
develop your research and writing skills, and test your comprehension of class
materials In grading your papers, I will
take account of the quality of your writing, applying the principles
of Strunk and
White’s Elements of
Style. If you object to this approach, do
not take this course, or anything else that I
paper will give you an opportunity to delve into
scholarly and primary sources. Students will make very brief -- and
PowerPoint-free -- oral presentations on their topics.
Class participation will hone your ability to think on
your feet, as I shall call on students at
random. If you often miss class or fail
to prepare, your grade will suffer. I shall use the cold calls to
judge how well you are keeping up with the
material. If you object to this approach, do not
take this course. I also expect you to post
relevant material to the blog.
addition to the required readings (below), I may also give
you handouts, emails, and web
links covering current events and basic factual
- Because constructive disagreement sharpens thinking,
deepens understanding, and reveals novel insights, I encourage and expect it.
All viewpoints are welcome here, and no ideas are immune from scrutiny
and debate. Your opinions will not affect your grade, as long as you can back
up what you say. See this statement: https://heterodoxacademy.org/teaching-heterodoxy-syllabus-language/
a courtesy to your fellow students, please arrive on time and refrain from
eating in class.
- Please do not use electronic devices (tablets,
laptops, smartphones) in class. Take notes the old-fashioned way, by
hand, on paper. Why?
suggests that it works better.
due dates. Plan your schedule accordingly. Do not plan on
- Plagiarism and
other forms of academic dishonesty hurt fellow students. Please
study our Statement of Academic Integrity, which reads in part:
"The faculty of Claremont
McKenna College is firmly committed to upholding the highest standards of
academic integrity. Each faculty member has the responsibility to report cases
of academic dishonesty to the Academic Standards Committee, which has the duty
of dealing with cases of alleged academic dishonesty."
who need accommodations for documented disabilities should contact Disability
Support Services. You may find more information here: https://www.cmc.edu/dean-of-students/disability-support-services
Schedule (subject to
change, with notice)
- Joan Hoff, Nixon Reconsidered (New
York: Basic Books, 1994).
- Christopher Matthews, Kennedy and Nixon:
The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America (New York: Touchstone, 1997).
- Michael Nelson, Resilient America:
Electing Nixon in 1968, Channeling Dissent, and Dividing Government
(Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2014).
- Douglas E. Schoen, The Nixon
Effect: How Richard Nixon's Presidency Fundamentally Changed American
Politics (New York: Encounter, 2016)
Jan 22, 24:
“I saw both greatness and
meanness in Nixon in such bewildering combination that, years later, peering out
of a hotel window at the White House which I had been forced to leave, I
muttered out loud: ‘Nixon was the weirdest man ever to live in the White
Jan 29, 31:
Young Men in a Hurry
- Hoff, introduction
- Schoen, introduction
- Matthews, introduction
"To test him, Day invited
students from all-female Scripps College to a coffee. They sat in a circle on
the floor, interrogating Nixon, who responded, to Day's great relief, by taking
each pointed question, complimenting the questioner, and tugging the women
toward his position without being confrontational." -- John A. Farrell,
Nixon: The Life.
FIRST ESSAY ASSIGNED JANUARY 31, DUE FEBRUARY
READ STRUNK AND WHITE
Feb 5, 7:
Kennedy v. Nixon
"And I can only say that I'm
very proud that President Eisenhower restored dignity and decency and, frankly,
good language to the conduct of the presidency of the United States. And I only
hope that, should I win this election, that I could approach President
Eisenhower in maintaining the dignity of the office; in seeing to it that
whenever any mother or father talks to his child, he can look at the man in the
White House and, whatever he may think of his policies, he will say: "Well,
there is a man who maintains the kind of standards personally that I would want
my child to follow." -- Richard
Nixon, debate with JFK, October 13, 1960.
Feb 12, 14:
"You won't have Nixon to kick
around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference..."
Richard Nixon, November 7, 1962
Feb 19, 21:
- Matthews, 15-19
- Nelson, ch. 1-2
"Nixon hates psychiatrists.
He's got this thing, apparently. They make him very very nervous. You
should have heard him on the phone when I told him I had one on the panel.
Did you hear him? If I've ever heard a guy's voice turn white, that
was it." -- Roger Ailes, organizing a TV panel for the 1968 campaign,
quoted in The Selling
of the President 1968.
Feb 26, 28:
The 1968 Election
some of our folks, including some of the old China Lobby, are going to
the [South] Vietnamese
embassy and saying, `Please notify the President [Thieu] that if he’ll hold out
till November the 2nd they could get a better deal.' Now, I’m reading their
hand, Everett. I don’t want to get this in the campaign. And they oughtn’t to be doing
this. This is treason." -- President Lyndon
Johnson to Senate GOP Leader Everett Dirksen, November 2, 1968
- Nelson, ch. 6-8
- Matthews. c. 20
SECOND ESSAY ASSIGNED FEBRUARY 28, DUE MARCH
15March 5, 7:
The Nixon White House
"The Jews have certain traits.
The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always
have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve
known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.”
-- Richard Nixon to Chuck Colson, February 13, 1972
14: The Domestic Presidency
"You know, the truth of the
matter is when you look at some of my policies, in a lot of ways Richard Nixon
was more liberal than I was. [He] started the E.P.A, you know, started a whole
lot of the regulatory state that has helped make our air and water clean."
Barack Obama, February 3, 2014.
21: Spring Break
- Hoff, ch 3-4
- Schoen, ch. 1
"Mr. Richardson recalls that
the first thing Mr. Nixon said when he entered the Oval Office to resign was a
reference to Leonid I. Brezhnev, the Soviet leader. `Brezhnev would never
understand it if I let Cox defy my instructions,' the President declared." --
NY Times, 4/12/76
April 2, 4:
A Wartime President
- Hoff, ch. 5-6.
- Schoen, ch. 2.
Richard Nixon: "[B]ecause
I look at the tide of history out there—South Vietnam probably can never even
survive anyway. I’m just being perfectly candid...."
Henry Kissinger: "...So we’ve
got to find some formula that holds the thing together a year or two, after
which—after a year, Mr. President, Vietnam will be a backwater. If we settle it,
say, this October, by January ’74 no one will give a damn." -- August
April 9, 11:
CREEP and the Parties
"I want the most, I want the
most comprehensive notes on all of those that have tried to do us in. Because
they didn't have to do it. They didn't have to do it. I mean, if the thing had
been a clo -- uh, they had a very close election everybody on the other
understand this game. But now they are doing this quite deliberately and they
are asking for it and they are going to get it.." -- Richard
Nixon to John Dean, September 15, 1972
RESEARCH PAPER DUE APRIL 12April 16,
"In his conduct of the office of President of
the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath
faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the
best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the
United States, and in violation of his consitutional duty to take care that the
laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the
administration of justice..." - First
article of impeachment, 1974
25: Downfall and Return
"[A]lways remember, others may
hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you
destroy yourself." -- Nixon
farewell remarks, August 9, 1974
May 2: Legacy
- Schoen, ch. 9-10
- Matthews, epilogue
- Hoff, conclusion
"Mr. Carter needed to be able
to point at Nixon and say, “I’m not him. He dirty, me clean. You hate him, like
me.” Carter’s presidency was given coherence and meaning by Nixon, Watergate,
and without it that presidency seemed formless." -- Peggy Noonan
- Schoen, ch. 7-8, and afterword
"Two thousand years ago, the
poet Sophocles wrote, `One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the
day has been.' There is still some time before the sun goes down, but even now,
I can look back and say that the day has indeed been splendid."
THIRD ESSAY DUE