Cases in American Political Leadership:  

Richard Nixon 

CMC Government 124A, Spring 2019
Tuesday and Thursday 11AM-12:15 PM  

Classroom Roberts South 103 

Office Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 1-2 PM, Friday 11 am - noon,  

and by appointment


J.J. Pitney

Office: Kravis 232    Telephone:  909/607-4224 



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 Times


Our class blog is at  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 ways:

The following will make up your course grade:  Details Required Books
  • Schedule (subject to change, with notice) 

  • Jan 22, 24: Introduction

    “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 House.’" -- H.R. Haldeman
     Jan 29, 31: Young Men in a Hurry

    "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, Richard Nixon: The Life.

    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:  Wilderness

    "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:  Comeback

    "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

    "Or 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
    March 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
    March 12, 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." --President Barack Obama, February 3, 2014.
    March 19, 21:  Spring Break

    March 26, 28:   Diplomacy

    "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

    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 3, 1972
    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 side would 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
    April 16, 18:  Downfall

    "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

    April 23, 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
    April 30, May 2:  Legacy

    "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
    May 7:  Reconsiderations

    "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."