It was 1952.
The GOP, out of the White House for twenty full years, had finished a rollicking national convention with a bang. After a dramatic showdown between the forces of D-Day hero General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the conservative Ohio Senator Robert Taft, Ike had won the day. Taft, always the gentleman, conceded, and the two rivals posed for pictures smiling together.
In a bow to the conservatives and with an eye to the future of the party, the 62-year old general selected the up-and-coming 39-year old California Senator Richard Nixon as his running mate. The convention roared its approval. Nixon had burst on to the national scene with his rock’em, sock’em first congressional campaign, upsetting liberal stalwart Congressman Jerry Vorhees in 1946. Within a mere two years he had become a household name - and liberal nemesis - thanks to his relentless investigation of FDR State Department aide Alger Hiss, Hiss the epitome of the Eastern Establishment fair-haired boy. Nixon, in a dramatic months long showdown, proved that the one-time star of Harvard Law, a former clerk to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and protege of all manner of eastern Establishment types, was in fact a Soviet spy. Outed, Hiss would go to prison. The Left would despise Nixon ever after, the hatred for Nixon increasing with his 1950 defeat of the liberal Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas for the US Senate.
So it was that the newly minted Eisenhower-Nixon ticket hit the campaign trail, facing off against a Democratic ticket of liberal icon and Illinois Governor Adlai Steveson and his running mate, Alabama Senator (and segregationist) John Sparkman. After twenty years of Roosevelt and Truman, the country was ripe for change. Eisenhower and Nixon pounded away at what they saw as the three major issues of the campaign: “Corruption, Communism and Korea” (the Korean War was then in full bloom). It was clear that “I Like Ike” was the rising sentiment washing over the country. And then.
And then, out of the blue, came the story. The New York Post, then a liberal paper owned by the left-wing Dorothy Schiff, the granddaughter of New York magnate Jacob Schiff, had a front page story screaming:
NIXON SECRET FUND
Secret Rich Men’s Trust Fund Keeps Nixon in Style Far Beyond His Salary
Nixon would recall later that the story was a “masterpiece of distortion.” It began:
“The existence of a ‘millionaire’s club’ devoted exclusively to the financial comfort of Senator Nixon, GOP Vice Presidential candidate, was revealed today.”
The truth was that Nixon, not a wealthy man, had a group of supporters who paid for the popular Senator’s political travel so that he would not have to have taxpayers pay for it to the tune of $18,000. Not a cent had gone to Nixon’s personal use. Long before the advent of today’s Federal Election Commission and the standard use of campaign funds for elected politicians of all stripes that do exactly the same thing, Nixon’s “secret fund” was hardly secret and not in the slightest unusual. In fact, Governor Stevenson had the same fund thing going, as it turned out. But the media didn’t care. It was Nixon they were after.
On came the cascade of headlines. What interests today is that this kind of “gotcha” story by a thoroughly left-centered media was, in the day, something new. Nixon, writing in his 1962 memoir Six Crises, notes that even he didn’t quite get the importance of what was happening to him. The Post, which he described as “the most partisan Democratic paper in the country” had “done an unusually neat smear job, but I did not expect anything to come of it. After all, I had come into this 1952 campaign well prepared, I thought, for any political smear that could be directed at me. After what my opponents had thrown at me in my campaigns for the House and Senate, and after the almost unbelievably vicious assaults I had survived during the Hiss case, I thought I had been through the worst.” He was, he later admitted ruefully, wrong. Big time.
The “fund” crisis morphed. Now there was a serious push inside the GOP for Ike to remove Nixon from the ticket. How could Eisenhower push the corruption issue, it was argued, if his own running mate had this secret millionaire’s fund? The famous upshot, of course, was Nixon’s decision to go on television and make his case, appealing to the fairness of the voters. It was an unprecedented decision. Smartly, after a full (and humiliating) recitation of his meager personal finances and a reference to his wife Pat’s “cloth coat” (as opposed to mink), Nixon said his family had received one gift they were going to keep: a little cocker spaniel an admirer had sent for his two small daughters. A spotted spaniel the Nixon girls had named “Checkers.” (The full speech can be found here courtesy of the Nixon Foundation.)
Then, Nixon asked his audience to wire the GOP National Committee to say whether he should stay on - or get off - the ticket. In an early demonstration of the power of television, the RNC - and Ike - were deluged with demands that Nixon be kept on the ticket. He was, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Why rehash this 64-year old piece of political minutia? Because it is the direct ancestor of the recent New York Times front page story - make that smear job - on Donald Trump titled:
Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private:
Interviews reveal unwelcome advances, a shrewd reliance on ambition, and unsettling workplace conduct over decades.
The Times story has now been discredited by one of the central figures in the story, ex-model and one-time Trump girlfriend Rowanne Brewer Lane, who says the Times “spun” the story and added, as reported here.
“He never made me feel like I was being demeaned in any way,” Rowanne Brewer Lane said Monday on Fox & Friends. “He never offended me in any way. He was very gracious. I saw him around all types of people, all types of women. He was very kind, thoughtful, generous, you know. He was a gentleman.”
What we have here in the Trump story is but the latest episode in a quadrennial effort by the liberal media to smear GOP presidential and/or vice presidential nominees when not smearing GOP judicial appointees or other prominent conservatives. Other examples?
Nixon’s 1968 running mate and Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew. The media firestorm? The new vice-presidential nominee was heard calling a longtime Japanese American reporter for the Baltimore Sun, whom Agnew had known for years, the “Fat Jap.” “Jap” - a staple of American culture long before WWII when it was employed by every liberal icon of the day from Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman to the New York Times - was now abruptly an early example of political correctness. Agnew, whose reputation as a moderate Republican had been hailed in his upset of a segregationist Democrat for governor two years earlier, was now suddenly assailed as a bigot. The controversy raged until an apology was forthcoming. Agnew gritted his teeth, but he did it. Nixon won anyway.
Then there was Reagan’s 1987 nomination of Judge Douglas Ginsburg to replace the defeated nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. The “scandal”? It was revealed that as a young law professor Ginsburg had smoked pot. The “controversy” forced Ginsburg to withdraw. Five years later when it was revealed that Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton had smoked pot but “didn’t inhale”? Knowing chuckles all around, with Clinton going on to win the election.
And speaking of Clinton? To this day Justice Clarence Thomas and the allegation that, among other things, he remarked that “there was a pubic hair” on his Coke can to staffer Anita Hill constituted sexual harassment is a staple of liberal folklore, including the recent HBO movie on the subject. There is no HBO movie about Bill Clinton and his relationships with several women who have accused him of everything from rape (Juanita Broaddrick) to groping (Kathleen Willey) to exposing himself (Paula Jones.)
Not to be forgotten are “controversies” over Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter Bristol in the 2008 campaign. So over-the-top was the Palin coverage that the Los Angeles Times felt compelled to take note during that year’s Republican National Convention, writing a story headed:
Media on the defensive over Palin coverage
TV networks and newspapers deny bias claims and say the GOP invited reporting on her family.
The story began:
“NEW YORK — News executives Thursday tried to shake off the excoriations of the media emanating from the Republican National Convention, defending their coverage of GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin as responsible and evenhanded.
While top television network officials and newspaper editors largely dismissed the critiques as partisan rhetoric, some fretted that charges of media bias had reached a new and disturbing level.
….Speaker after speaker pounded the media Wednesday night, accusing news organizations of slanted and sexist coverage in their reporting about the 44-year-old Alaska governor and her family.”
By the fall, the New York Times was writing a front page story alleging GOP nominee Senator John McCain had a lobbyist mistress (the lobbyist later got a denial in the paper - after the election of course.)
And in the 2012 campaign there was that front page Washington Post story about soon-to-be GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s prep school days headlined:
Mitt Romney’s prep school classmates recall pranks, but also troubling incidents.
The article painted Romney as a gay-basher. This “troubling” hit-job of a story than received this jewel of a hit-job follow-up:
Romney hair-cutting prank: School leaders say similar incidents today would bring punishment
“Many of today’s principals would be likely to throw the book at a student who pinned down a classmate and clipped his hair, as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did as a high school senior in 1965.
Romney was not disciplined at the time. If such an attack happened in the public schools of 2012, it would probably lead to suspension and might also be referred for expulsion, a number of local school leaders said following a Washington Post report of the incident involving Romney.
A call to police would probably also be in order because it would be considered an assault, said Alan Goodwin, principal of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda.”
Got all that? Not was it implied that Romney was a gay-basher in the first story but the follow-up insisted that had Romney done the same thing today he would have been suspended if not “referred for expulsion” with “a call to police” being “in order”. In other words? Meet Mitt Romney, the gay basher who should have gone to prison he was such a disreputable juvenile.
One could go on - and on - with examples of media hit jobs like this targeting GOP luminaries. (Does the name “Dan Quayle” ring a bell?)
Now, it’s Donald Trump’s turn. There on the front page of the Times was that story that has now been rebutted by one of its prime subjects. Meanwhile, as Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich have pointed out, the Times can’t find space for interviews with Bill Clinton’s hanging out on the jet of a convicted pedophile who fills his plane with young women. Not to mention there is mysteriously no extensive investigation into allegations that Hillary Clinton was an enabler of rape and sexual abuse, as accused by women with names like Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleeen Willey and Paula Jones. Indeed, MSNBC’s brusquely dismissed Broaddrick by saying her story was “discredited.” By whom? Mitchell did not say.
That this business of the liberal media hit job has been going on for decades is no secret. But it’s worth recalling that when one reads this latest hit job - this one from New York Times on Donald Trump - it is worth recalling that over sixty years ago the topic was a young Senator Richard Nixon and the “scandal” of a “secret fund.” Which is another way of saying that if Donald Trump didn’t exist and any one of his 16 GOP opponents this year had won the nomination - that person too would be on the receiving end of a liberal media hit job tailored to that person.
The more things change, as they say, the more things stay the same. The difference now is that there is a conservative media on the field to challenge. Thank God for that.