Whatever Happened to Nixonian Civility?
Republicans used to shun personal attacks
resident Richard Nixon wanted to get rid of his vice president. The vice president wasSpiro Agnew. Nixon thought Agnew did not know enough about foreign policy, thatAgnew upstaged Nixon himself, and that he threatened the re-election of Republicans because of his personal attacks on Democrats during the 1970 elections.Those were the good old days. Agnew’s strategies are now winners in 2010 electionsacross the United States. This is what the good old days were like. Nixon said about AgnewHis style isn't the problem. It's the content of what he says. He's got to be more positive.He must avoid all personal attacks on people; he can take on Congress as a unit, not asindividuals." Nixon wanted to stay out of partisan politics in the mid-term elections and concentrate on foreign policy. He had wanted Agnew to campaign in House and Senate races.During the 1970 campaigns, Agnew called for law and order, a theme that did not catchon at the time, but he continued pushing it. As a result, his impact on the polls became less andless. Nixon became concerned about Agnew’s ineffectiveness and jumped into the political battles like he was “running for sheriff,” in the words of former Attorney General John Mitchell.
Agnew as Attack Dog
Nixon did want Agnew to strike at the media to “soften” them up so they would accepthis foreign policies, primarily in China and Vietnam. Agnew did that by calling those whocriticized Nixon’s polices, "pusillanimous pussyfooters," "nattering nabobs of negativism,"“hysterical hypochondriacs of history,” and "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterizethemselves as intellectuals." White House speechwriters Pat Buchanan and William Safirethought of these phrases. Agnew became a joke in the national press. Buchanan is an enormouslyinfluential political commentator today.When Agnew described Nixon’s diplomatic efforts with China as “Ping PongDiplomacy,” that appears to have been the end. Nixon said Agnew was "a bull in the . . .diplomatic China shop." Nixon said to an advisor It is beyond my understanding. Twice Agnew has proposed that he go to China! Now hetells the world it's a bad idea for me to go! What am I going to do about him? Nixon thought he might get rid of Agnew by appointing Agnew head of the BicentennialCommittee, but Agnew refused the post, saying that in that job everyone would have an opinion,