A Federal Case; 17
This is a federal case a weekly show that takes up an issue of government and takes a good look in Washington D.C. I Manziel producer for the national educational radio network. Sure you are absolutely. Right but I was going to cut his throat a long time ago. One thing that he kept saying let me make one thing very clear. Over and over and over again. And they kept telling him to stop saying stop saying it and finally said Look. Stop telling me to stop saying it. I can't stop saying it I'm going to keep saying it and just don't bug me about it. The first man you just heard was talking about Richard Nixon sense of humor. He was Ralph to tolo Dano who has written a book about the president this year called Richard Nixon one man alone the second man was talking about the famous Nixon
phrase. I want to make one thing perfectly clear. Was Joe McGinniss. He has also written a book about the president called the selling of the president 1968. RAFT of Tola Dano has tried to write what he calls the definitive portrait of the man. McGuinness was writing about how the Nixon team used television during the election campaign. This is Ditto the second book on the president. He is a King Features columnist and he used to write for Newsweek. He is close to Mr. Nixon age and he has known him for 20 years. McGuinness on the other hand is in his middle twenties and this is his first book and he has only met the president briefly. Now McGuinness is book has been on the bestseller list for quite a while and reviewers have been calling it great ever since it appeared. But the toll of Donald's book hasn't been such a big seller and it was described curtly by one reviewer as a quote simply terrible book. How they have sold doesn't really matter. These men don't have a lot in common. Their
books are very different and the main reason you'll hear both of them in the same program is because each happened to pick Mr. Nixon to write a book about. It's not simply that their style is different or that their purpose differs. The biggest single distinction between these two authors is their political position. McGuinness is a young liberal Tola Dano is listed among the 25 most conservative prominent citizens in the country. You're going to get a chance to hear how their politics influences their view of Richard Nixon. You can get a feel for each other by listening to what they think about trying to be objective. First I'm talking to Ralph to tolo Dano then Joe McGinniss would you call your book on Nixon this year and objective book. Well now what's objective who know how can anybody be objective about anything. I did a very very critical book of Robert Kennedy a few years ago and everybody beat me over the head
because I want an objective and favorable book of Mr. Nixon they said it's not objective. I think I tried my very best to get a picture of the man as I see him and as I was saying but as I see him and I in the very fortunate position of having known him so long. And I do like him and because I like him this shows in my book if I come across something that I didn't like or know or might come across material that was not quite flattering I would use it anyway and I think I did in a few places. He gave me information I had. I justified it. There are a lot of things in this in your book which pretty clearly you know indicate that you you know that Nixon wasn't your man. I don't mean that you wouldn't have voted for Nixon. I didn't and you come out and you sort of hinted this in the book in ways you know prepare some fairly direct ways in and ways by saying things like even on the first
page the day had been gray and cold as so many recently had seemed to be when I was a weather report Yeah it was. And then you talk about him shifting his eyes and being worried about that. You know you come out and you're obviously kind of hostile to him. You think that's right. That's good that's what you want him to do. Well I think it's honest I think that any writer who pretends to be objective about his subject or situation is being dishonest. I don't even tell you why for God's sakes finally drop his pretense of objectivity which he had sustained for 60 in 64 and this year he goes right out and tells us he didn't like the kids. You know he like Mayor Daley he like Lyndon Johnson he didn't like the anti war. OK this is at least something to respect him for the honesty. Nobody's objective and the only dishonest reporter I think is the one who pretends to be kind of old fashioned argument going around that you know you should still hold up objectivity some kind of ideal but you don't believe it. I think it's a false god really. I think it's impossible. And. There's no such thing in the New York Times might pretend to treat things objectively on its news pages but they don't
at all. And I think I'd have much more respect for them or for any newspaper if they just if they were honest enough to admit that there's no such thing. OK here's one area in which they absolutely contradict each other. It's kind of funny. Also in effect a top down I was completely discounting the premise of the McGinniss book. Then a new TV image elected Richard Nixon. This time you'll hear McGuinness first and second. Do you really think that Nixon's use of TV made all that much difference. I really do I think without TV he would never even become the candidate I mean to really appreciate what TV did for Nixon you have to go back I think to November December of 1967 when he first decided seriously to run again and between then and the New Hampshire primary and certainly between then and the convention in Miami TV completely erased the old images of Tricky Dick and the old loser image and they presented us with a candidate who was at least a viable candidate to use that phrase and who we could either accept or reject on that basis. Joe McGinniss his book it was like came out this year also he said.
Which may or may not have been solely about the Nixon campaign. He indicated anything other than what happened during the campaign was that an image of Nixon was projecting which wasn't a real man do you think that was true. Thinking back I don't know I don't think that they try to create a an image that wasn't real and they quote try to humanize him and well. Which I don't think was necessary and they try to make him more in the in the image of the standard politician I think that did him any good in fact I think a good lot of harm because at the beginning of the campaign he was acting in ways that weren't completely natural to him and towards the end he just threw this aside and was him self. And. You know the instant smile bit here he's a serious man and he's even if nobody tells you jokes or sits around drinking with. These two books and what the authors have to say about them are so different that it's not fair to play Want to guess the other. Now you'll hear Ralph to tolo Dano explaining why he
wrote his book and what he thinks of the president back in 1936 he wrote another book about Mr. Nixon. Why did you write this one. Well the one I didn't 56 was for one thing was a pretty slim little book and. I guess it was I didn't admit it at the time but it was pretty much a campaign biography. And this is much more in depth. And also there's a lot of that happened since 1956 but basically it's a question of approach. I try to do a fairly definitive book on Mr. Nixon and I put in all kinds of things that I wouldn't put in the first book. Like what. All personal conversations and. Say behind the scenes. Episodes and that kind of thing. Mostly he said it was a campaign biography how do you mean when he was doing a second vice president. Yes that came out. Oh in March of 56.
And I've been working on it. Since 55 but it was timed for the election and it was time to. Reach people and also to make sales too. I don't write just for fun. You've got you sitting here with a picture of yourself with President Nixon. You've known him a long time there right. That's right 20 years. It's 1949 when he was a congressman. How did you get to know. Well I was writing for Newsweek then and I was covering the his case which was the case that really projected him into the national picture. And I was also working on a book on his case and I came down to Washington made a point came out of Washington and spoke to him and he wasn't very outgoing and didn't tell me very much but said come back in the week came back in a week and he was just open everything up and I was a little surprised I said what you made me come back for and he said well I didn't know you were. And you know stuff that he just couldn't show anybody and he checked up on me and I think that's kind of an indication of that in your book your new book you
you have given more detail about the his case than I've ever read anyplace else and more unusual kind of details. I reach back and give you a copy of the book I wrote and I suppose a lot of misunderstanding about that case or at least it's a name that's familiar to people but they really don't have anything to hang on while it's a it's a long time ago after all this was convicted in 1950 and a lot of people have forgotten and new people have come up. And so it is a name but it was a very controversial case. Practically everybody at the beginning was convinced. Out to his was innocent. And after Mr. Nixon press the case. Investigated further and dug up evidence that broke down much about his story. It led to a trial and that again was a very very controversial trial it was a case that really shook up the country and there are people to this day have never forgiven Nixon for having.
Put the algae his in the pokey for having exposed the fact that there was an espionage espionage ring in the State Department. I think a lot of the anti Nixon feeling stems from his gaze. You said the president was very careful before he talked to you about this case. What kind of man is he to talk to. Well from a newspaper man's point of view it is terrific because well as I said I've known him since 40 now and I at that time I lived in New York. I was transferred down here by Newsweek in order to cover him. And I realized very very quickly that he was one of the best informed men in Washington. Particularly after became vice president. Best thing for me was it was wonderful because I go and see him and talk to him for an hour and walk out with six exclusives and it wasn't just me other reporters who
talked to him got a great deal out of the background he had better knowledge he had of what was going on behind the scenes the White House and various departments and international affairs which is his big field. But as somebody talked to well he's not he's not the kind of man that goes into chit chat. Are you going to see him and immediately he gets down to the business at hand. He's not well as I've always said about him is he's an introvert and extrovert professional and do most politicians and a lot of them are going to see him not literally but figuratively figuratively slap you on the back and they're very buddy buddy and Mr Nixon is not like that he's just interested in what's on the agenda. I don't mean that he's cold I don't mean that he's unfeeling or anything but I think it reflects his major interest which
is politics in the broad sense. In your book you say that Richard Nixon was of a loner. And then you wrote that even friends who were called in and he actually caught fire that term private. You were really referring to Mr. Nixon then in 1946 I think he's been a loner all along not that he hasn't got friends and not that he doesn't trust people but for one thing his method of operating here a problem comes up and you read all the position papers he will talk to the experts in the field and then he goes off by himself in the sense of roots not what's a bad word but really. Goes over the whole thing and and then arrives at his own conclusions. We did that during his case time when everybody was after him to drop it and went off to a slow fire. It was parents of Gottingen York Pennsylvania right up to the east
and he spent a whole day there just sitting and thinking and thinking and deciding what to do and finally came to a conclusion to move ahead and he did and that's that's his message now doesn't go to your pa. He sits in the Lincoln Room and thinks things through. But he is a loner in that sense he's a loner also and that is I don't think there's anybody who's really gotten all the way through to Mr. Nixon and I don't say that in any pejorative sense but I've known other people like that he's this kind of man. What do you think is the major thing this book says to the people who read it about the president. I mean is there a major thing that maybe a terrible cleared out well I don't know or may just saying well let me let me answer it this way and I'm not really ducking the question. I wrote the book because. After the election there was still a lot of
the anti Nixon sentiment floating around and a lot of myths about him. And what I try to do is you know write it schelm. As he as he is. And to show that he is not tricky he's not somebody with overwhelming ambition and ruthlessly brushes everything aside in order to to get to high office. But a man who's very knowledgeable. One of the most brilliant people I've known in the political field and. To show what his policies were what he'd been through how he'd risen to. His position and perhaps to give somebody an idea of what he might be would you say the people who came to see some flaw in Nixon like opportunism or something or something I can really have a lack of
inside themselves and they're trying to label him simply as a reactionary or a liberal or something of that sort. Well you take the last thing first I think in a sense the Nixon image or the Nixon and has been present both the left and the right. Each one is trying to mold him into a preconceived idea of what if you see today that many conservatives were very unhappy with him. Many liberals are surprised that he is not what they thought he would be. Certainly he's not he's not an opportunist and his whole political career has been an opportunist. He's got every every man seizes an opportunity when it's there but the point is does he seize the opportunity in violation of principle and certainly at the time just to start at the very beginning at the time when he decided to push his investigation. 90 percent of the press was
against him. Most of the members of the investigating committee wanted to drop it off. He was warned repeatedly that this could absolutely end this career. And I think. It could be good if you were an opportunist. I think his Vietnam policy would be completely different. He's taking a tremendous risk there I think it's. Stan I mean economy would be different. I don't think he's an opportunist unless you want to frighten anybody off. In your book I thought that you maybe you made a number of points that the newspaper columnists have begun to make recently. I'm like you. You called your your book A man alone and indeed a lot of people have now begun to say that Nixon seems to be a loner and that he does seem to make decisions by himself and they say this somewhat favorably I think they sound a little surprised. You know their example you say that the president never wanted to be a
great king Louds King take that approach and indeed he is taking a low key approach in this has been commented upon favorably. I think that they appreciate the contrast with President Johnson. One thing is different you say that Mr. Nixon wanted to establish a dialogue with a real American majority and now the critics are saying that he has reached out to that majority but in a sense has sacrificed any hope of winning over at different groups like the blacks or certain segment of the young that kind of thing that he and that he is in fact hardened the sand against him. What do you think about that particular criticism which doesn't bear out what you said you look. Well certain amount of dissent against him which could not be won over no matter what he did. I think if he had compromised on various things given in the positions he's taken in order to win over the dissenting voices he would
not have won them over and he would have lost the country. I think he has a style he has begun establishing a dialogue with with the majority which was represented for quite a while his talk about the silent majority has gotten a lot of that silent majority to start talking a little bit. What kind of president do you think he will be remembered as. I can ask you to indulge in a great putting. Well I'd be very happy with my crystal ball is a little cloudy today. I don't know I think that it will depend on what happens in the next year. I think in the next year if you can if you can and or at least so limit the Vietnam War that it's not a major factor in American thinking and then and then the government then he'll be able to move on to other things and then we'll really know. I think there's another factor and that is that. And I sense he's been preparing for this coming year. He's got about 20 task forces working on
all kinds of problems and they are beginning to report to him on the basis of these reports. I think you'll begin to get a very detailed idea of what the next program is beyond generalities. And then after that I think it's like it depends on what's going on in the world what's going on in our economy how well he handles it how whether he's got a Republican Congress that will do as he asks rather than the present Congress which Republican and Democratic alike has thought of him. I mean just on crime he's got a whole bunch of bills up there that just sitting in the House Judiciary Committee and looks at that never get out. I think it's it's a complex of these factors. He's a great believer in luck and if he's lucky i think he will come out as a good and perhaps a very important
president among the top let's say 10 or 12 if he's unlucky in my way here but who is being you know president of everybody until fairly recently just broke off. Why do you say. He's a pretty practical man an astute man and luck plays a tremendous part in anything and man's career in the country's history. But you know if you zig when you should zag you know or maybe you made it and he realizes he has McGuinness on his book and his impressions of Nixon first he explains his pretense for getting into the Nixon camp in the first place. The protests couldn't have the less false. So I went to them in June of 1968 message I'd like to write a book about the way you're using advertising in your campaign and they said fine. Now what could be more straightforward than that I don't know. I could have gone in under
false pretenses or I could have switched to a false pretense once I started. They actually offered me a job at one point they said hey listen forget this book idea and work for us and if I have been a real snake you know I would've taken the job because my God. Think of the things I could have found out then why do you think Humphrey people turned you down they were smart. Yeah but why weren't people smart why didn't they realize you were naturally going to do an exposé home for people who were actually Doyle Dane Bernbach people who this was an established and very efficient and very creative agency in New York and they knew you know these weren't dumb people had oil they burned back then Nixon's people weren't dumb either but they might have been a little naive. It was the first national campaign for any of the advertising people and it wasn't an established agency it was a team that Nixon built himself. And they were all new to national politics and they probably just didn't understand how what they were going to be doing would look to an outsider. OK so now you've written a book on how one candidate used television. And now you're on the air the president getting a lot of talk show yourself to promote the book that
you now know a lot more about how to promote something that even you when you read the book. I might in fact I'm writing an article for New York magazine which is going to be called the selling of the selling of the president which is about all the radio tv I'm doing in this process. It's kind of nice. But you said that you were a great admirer of nonfiction novels at one point but your favorite. I don't know I think the best reporting that's been done recently has been they be what Nora Miller did at the Pentagon the armies of the night that's kind of cliche answer but I really believe it I think that's just a just a masterpiece. McGuinness talks next about the power of the TV public relations man to sell anybody. You know they took a man who had been discarded in 1960 and really stepped on in 1962 and suddenly you know give him a fresh coat of paint and here he was again. And now he's the president. So it's not just could they sell anybody. I think they did. Yeah but I'm still not so convinced about that fresh coat of paint. Mostly because as you very well point out you know a lot of the advertising campaign spots were cliche ridden they were striving to present an image of Nixon which was which was a little different from his
past image and raced a lot of those doubts that people had and maybe to achieve this but surely it also turned off a lot of people because of the cliche of the people and I think that it turned off for the people who would have been turned off by Nixon anyway. The people that they were making this pitch to was were the people who make Mayberry RFD a top rated TV show. And these people don't recognize a cliche as being a cliché. To them it's it's a very effective presentation. OK let me ask you about this quote Marshall McLuhan a couple plays in your book and you also have a whole section of his McLuhan isms in the appendix that the Nixon publicity people paid attention to. And one of McLuhan's maxims is that is that you've got to be cool. Television is a cool medium and that people do well on television if they don't come on too strong. Right. All right so. You know I really wonder about that I'm not sure rather whether that's really true or not there are example a lot of examples you can point to of extremely effective people on television who really sock it to look and you don't come on very quietly. A good example in this town is Martin a groundskeeper who has a
rather standard sort of presentation he's not of really good news casters it's quiet and soothing about the bad news he's praising and yet he's extremely popular. Well there's exceptions to every every rule but I think if you were to take that political candidates let's take the candidates from 1968 and evaluate them by those standards. And Humphrey was a very hot television personality I think was was destroyed by TV. On the other hand you have Gene McCarthy who when he first began to campaign in New Hampshire put people to sleep simply because he was too cool. But you put that cool personality in front of the magnifying glass and the amplifier the TV medium is and suddenly McCarthy's on Face the Nation and Meet the Press and people say my God this guy is really got something to say. Ed Muskie my God there's another one. You know where has mostly been before or since that campaign. He came out of nowhere he's gone back to nowhere really in terms of taking a stand on issues. But simply because he stood up there and looked and talked and acted like Abraham Lincoln we all come away say my God there must be there is something we should think about for 72
strictly a TV image. Yeah but I'm not so sure that it's defined in terms of whether you're you're cool or you're Or you're hot I mean when you say Humphreys hot I just totally reject that I think Humphrey is going to be any talks too long. Well this is what it means in these terms too intense too high and high pitched high pressure. That's what McLuhan means by the word hot I think as well as I can understand McLuhan which I admit is not terribly well. But what about let's talk about the Kennedys. Are they really cool personalities. I think so I think in those terms definitely. I mean one of the things that McLuhan talks about is that the TV personality the image should be projected in an incomplete sense so the viewer has to contribute something to it to fill it out. I think Robert Kennedy was very good at this the way he stammered and stuttered in front of the TV camera. It drew the viewer into him made it an intimate involvement. OK next an image builders had you negate your book kind of an insensitivity to both Nixon and of the people who would be watching Nixon commercials and stuff. Do you think that a candidate for some office his real personality comes through
them and therefore maybe some of his sensitivity is not going to do very well. Well I don't know. You know Nixon in many ways was not a typical example because the Nixon image that we saw on TV I think had really very little to do with the real man and it was such a totally contrived and totally artificial thing that it's really difficult to see to evaluate the degree to which Sarah he would help or hurt somebody like Nixon This was this was really a creation of three or four men who said Nixon's personality stinks we admit this now how do we overcome the problem. And they did it simply through a series of technical devices. Did you ever meet him. I met him briefly. You know I actually I met him first before I began working on a book I met him once when I was doing this paper column in Philadelphia and talked with him for a few minutes and he was introduced to me then by my publisher as a great American and my publisher is now ambassador to England Walter Annenberg. So. What's your own conclusion now about what's about the future or the future
elections. I mean is this is the style that it's been is that because of you. Yeah I think you know television is so powerful and politicians are becoming so aware of the power that I think we're going to see more and more TV campaigning and less of this reality. If nothing else you've just had a good demonstration of how different your impressions of a politician can be depending on your political bias. In a sense though the most important thing the toal O'Donnell said was how Mr. Nixon will be judged. He's not sure in spite of his affection for the man that President Nixon will be considered a great president. Too many ifs and too much luck are needed and what McGuinness was saying was from now on we're going to have political leaders who think about their image and who have to make themselves look good on TV regardless of whether they have any moral purpose or not. It may be that you find the messages of both these authors pretty depressing.
- A Federal Case
- Episode Number
- Producing Organization
- National Educational Radio Network
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- "A Federal Case" is a weekly program produced by the National Educational Radio Network which examines current political topics in the United States and Washington, D.C. Each episode features interviews with experts, members of the public, and lawmakers concerning a specific issue of government.
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Producing Organization: National Educational Radio Network
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-38-17 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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