Expletive deleted: the words of a phrasemaker

Rupert Cornwell
Sunday 24 April 1994 00:02

NO AMERICAN political career this century - perhaps no politician anywhere - has seen the triumphs and disasters that have attended Richard Milhous Nixon. During the greatest of those disasters, Watergate, his biographer, Stephen Ambrose, wrote that Nixon was 'heroic, admirable and inspiring, while simultaneously being dishonour- able, despicable, and a horrible example'.

As President, Nixon was arrogant yet excruciatingly shy, incapable of small talk. But he was a phrasemaker. Some he intended, others he did not. This brief selection helps capture the complexity of the man:

If the American people understood the real character of Alger Hiss, they would boil him in oil. - 17 November 1948, as California Congressman Richard Nixon was first making a national name by leading the House committee that investigated Hiss, a former State Department official and alleged Communist.

Pat (Nixon) doesn't have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat. And I always tell her that she'd look good in anything . . . Regardless of what happens, I will continue this fight to drive the crooks and the Communists and those who defend them out of Washington. - 23 September 1952, from the celebrated 'Checkers' speech. Nixon's mawkish but partisan television appearance saved his No 2 spot on the Republican presidental ticket behind Dwight Eisenhower, after allegations that he was profiting from a secret slush fund.

Courage - or putting it more accurately, lack of fear - is a result of discipline. By an act of will, a man refuses to think of the reasons for fear, and so concentrates entirely on winning the battle. - From Six Crises, written after his defeat by John Kennedy in the 1960 Presidental election.

This is my last press conference . . . You won't have Nixon to kick around any more. - 6 November 1962, to reporters, after he had been defeated by Pat Brown for the Governorship of California.

If a vocal minority, however fervent its cause, prevails over reason, this nation has no future as a free society . . . And so tonight to you the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support. - 3 November 1969, as President, attacking opponents of the Vietnam war, who were staging huge demonstrations that autumn.

North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that - In a 1969 speech.

If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation . . . acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world. - His 1970 TV speech announcing the US strike into Cambodia.

Nixon said he had achieved 'Peace with honour: not surrender, not begging.' He talked of the 'historic year of 1972', in which he had given the world 'a chance for peace for a generation' - 29 October 1972, in a briefing for his surrogate speakers.

There will be no whitewash at the White House - 17 April 1973, on Watergate.

I want you all to stonewall it. - 1973 presidential transcript on Watergate.

(Expletive deleted) of course I am not dumb and I will never forget when I heard about this (adjective deleted) forced entry and bugging. I thought: what in hell is all this? What is the matter with these people? Are they crazy? I thought they were nuts] A prank] But it wasn't] It wasn't very funny. I think our Democratic friends know that too. They know what hell it was. They don't think we'd be involved in such. - 28 February 1973, while talking about the break-in at Watergate.

I welcome this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. - 18 November 1973 to newspaper editors, defending himself against charges that he had evaded income taxes by taking unlawful deductions for his vice-Presidential papers. The row was a spin-off of the Watergate scandal.

The easy way is the status quo. The other way is the right way. It is a way which recognises that continuous war in this area is not a solution for Israel's survival and, above all, it is not right. - 17 June 1974, to the Knesset, urging Israel make peace with its Arab neighbours on his penultimate foreign trip before leaving office.

Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself. - 9 August 1974, at a valedictory meeting with his White House staff three hours before formally resigning the Presidency.

I screwed up on on Watergate and I paid the price. Mea culpa. But let's get on to my achievements. You'll be here in the year 2000 and we'll see how I'm regarded then. - 30 November 1978, to the Oxford Union, during a trip to Britain and France that marked his return to the international scene.

Without large-scale outside aid, Russia may turn to a new despotism, which could be a far more dangerous threat to peace and freedom than the old Soviet totalitarianism. 11 March 1992, at a Washington conference urging more generous American support for Boris Yeltsin. His remarks produced a change in Bush Administration policy almost overnight.

(Photograph omitted)

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