Morning Joe | February 05, 2013
>>> every republican politician wants you to believe that richard nixon is, quote, experienced. they even want you to believe that he is actually been making decisions in the white house . but listen to the man who should know best, the president of the united states . a reporter recently asked president eisenhower this question about mr. nixon 's experience.
>> i just wondered if you could give us an example of a major idea of his that you've adopted in that role as decider and final -- if you give me a week, i might think of one. i don't remember.
>> okay. that's a political ad in the 1960 ad by president john f. kennedy attempting to point out the strained relationship between dwight eisenhower and richard nixon . with us now, the author of
dick: portrait of a strange political marriage." you can go back the two elections before, based on your writing in here. of course, 1952 . ike sent dewey, i guess, turnover get nixon off the ticket after the checkers speech , or before the checkers speech . and then in 1956 , he tried to get rid of him again. and then in 1960 went after him. and then according to your book in 1964 , ike didn't step forward and say, hey, maybe nixon is the guy. he said he's a two-time loser. what was with this relationship?
>> really complicated. obviously, and i think it started off with eisenhower as a five- star general and nixon was a lieutenant. the way he always regarded nixon was staff and never certainly won his trust. he thought nixon was loyal, he liked him well enough. he said once, i don't think dick is really presidential timber.
>> and you saw pictures in this book. i mean, images in this book of eisenhower playing bridge with the most powerful men in the world at the time up in camp david and nixon being sent off to walk around the trails by himself.
>> yeah, nixon -- eisenhower had three great hobbies. fly fishing and golf and bridge. nixon learned golf, kind of. but he wasn't -- and he really wasn't welcomed in ike 's inner circle .
>> and it haunted him. we always talked about nixon being an outsider and having this resentment against the east coast establishment. it really started here. all he wanted to dwous be accepted into this inner circle . even until the day he died, what a great scene in the nixon oval office . he finds out that ike 's died and breaks out in tears. not because of sadness. because, as you said he realized he never would be in that inner circle .
>> it was all over for him. and even the fact that he -- that eisenhower and nixon were family then. he was his father-in-law once removed .
>> and ike didn't even want that to happen. he was against the marriage.
>> he liked julie a lot. he basically thought david should have a career in law or medicine or something and was being derailed by this. they were teenagers. they were 18 years old when they got together. they got married when they were 20.
>> one final thing --
>> they were still married, happyfully married.
>> one final thing before i pass it over to the historian. it was tragic. it was shakespearean, richard nixon being forced to create his own farewell scene with ike . with ike moving his hand up and saluting nixon . he just made it up.
>> yes, there's a scene in the book, in nixon 's memoir, he talks about seeing ike at walter reed army hospital just before he died. and he says to eisenhower , sir, you led us to victory in europe and eisenhower raises his head and salutes nixon . and it was just a scene that couldn't have happened. it just wouldn't have happened, and then eisenhower died a day or two later. meant a lot to him.
>> talk about nixon 's own relationship with his father. this seems to be a replay to some extent of the distant father whom he's always trying to please and ultimately fails to.
>> i'm afraid to psycho analyze nixon .
>> the last american who would.
>> no, i mean, brody did it. nixon always spoke with great respect about his father. no question his father really was a tough guy and he was argumentative. he was a difficult person. and very different from nixon 's mother hannah, a quaker. and nixon 's father was not a quaker.
>> nixon did save ike later on that he was quoted tough son of a bitch .
>> and devious.
>> the devious thing. he said that to his -- he said that in his memoir "six crises." and he said, he had told the man he was working with, his collaborator, he's one of the most devious men i've ever known. then he realized, i can't say that so he changed it to many people think that he's one of the most devious and complex men they've ever met but in the best sense in both --
>> classic nixon .
>> did eisenhower like anything about nixon ?
>> sure he did. he appreciated his intelligence. he appreciated his loyalty. he did -- he did everything ike wanted him to do. he was a pretty good vice president. the only time he really displeased him, i think, was sort of a couple of times during his campaign. ike pretended to be displeased by his campaign. i think he was not unhappy --
>> he was embarrassed by his campaign. around his establishment figures. he was embarrassed by nixon 's campaign.
>> stop hitting on --
>> sort of the rough edge of it all. but you know, he benefited from what he claimed to dislike.
>> a nice little contrast what happened then and what's happening with the tea party . establishment republicans may not like the tea party but probably like mark halperin , controlling the house.
>> there's no doubt those themes are pretty comparable. incumbent vice president to be an anti-establishment figure. but that was nixon 's sensibility a lot more than eisenhower .
>> and the party was very different then. my gosh it was different. no tea party . there were outliers, but very few of them. william jenner and joe mccarthy . but that wasn't the party then. the party was stable people.
>> but eisenhower had to resent nixon some, did he not, for his work on the un-american activities? he saw what had happened to the general that had hired him in world war ii .
>> ike was fine with that. he was fine with that because he actually had followed the alger hiss case and he thought nixon did a good job and did it fairly.
>> you talked to a lot of people able to closely explore their relationship.
>> i talked to almost 70 people. i was surprised to find some of them around. they were terrific. all of them were.
>> okay. so one -- explain things this way. quote, there were times when i would find nixon literally close to tears after a session at the white house during which eisenhower humiliated him. another one, and this is a confidante and doctor, i guess, psychiatrist. eisenhower was always telling nixon to straighten his tie. this is like me talking to my daughter. pull back your shoulders. or speak up or shut up.
>> i didn't talk to those two people.
>> let's be fair in a sense if we can, to ike and that even eisenhower 's only son -- one of his sons said his father was not an easy man to know.
>> and eisenhower 's wife talked to the grandson david and david said, you think he has any inner life of his own? she said, wouldn't you think? she had no idea.
>> but speaking of mamie , i thought it fascinating. pat nixon came across as a tortured woman here where early on, before the checkers speech she turns to her husband and said, why are we still hanging around here? let's just go. and then there's that cold scene after checkers went well and mamie and pat are driving away, and said something and pat turned and shot her a very cold statement. but in the end, mamie had a very warm relationship of the nixons. in fact, a big supporter during their darkest days.
>> very much so. right to the end. the nixons were really good to mamie . they'd have her turnover the white house . they really were good to her. she was very fond of them. she was particularly fond of julie . when david and julie announced their engagement it was mamie who stepped forward and said i'm all for this.
>> fascinating reading your book that eisenhower seems to be this funny kansas optimist and kind to all people but as you say, nixon was the man. remarkable with small gestures, whether it was reaching out to mamie or whether it was reaching out to ted kennedy 's son. and he was going through the problems that he was going through. a lot of small gestures that nixon was wonderful with, with people. but he never really got the acknowledgment for that.
>> no, also surprised. i always heard he was pretty good on civil rights . the republicans didn't like it. but he was terrific on civil rights . for a long period, he was very close to martin luther king jr . jackie robinson was a friend. he was the sort of point man on the 1957 civil rights bill and he could speak up right after brown versus board of ed.
>> eisenhower was no civil rights champion. he didn't appreciate nixon going out supporting nixon 's civil rights .
>> he didn't think it would help him in the south. ike did not like that supreme court decision. he thought that it was -- things should stay as they were. it would disrupt the society to have this -- ike understood the constitution. yeah, so there was no --
>> but he was made uncomfortable by it.
>> he was.
>> i thought it was fascinating because even lbj when he was running the senate got angry because he thought nixon was too far out there on civil rights and said nixon was running the propaganda arm of making the civil rights bill more than it was.
>> johnson was playing all sides of that point. mark can tell you he was running for president. on the other hand, didn't want to offend the southerns like dick russell . they wanted a bill but there was a clause in the bill about voting rights which he did not want and it got through in a slightly weaker version than the republicans wanted but a stronger version than johnson and sam abram wanted.
>> i want to say, one of the great things about this is you realize that another tragedy of richard nixon 's is that john kennedy represented the handsome, glamorous next generation which he didn't feel he belonged to and also didn't feel like he belonged to the older generation.
>> he was a tweener.
>> the book " ike & dick." you can read an excerpt on our blog. jeffrey frank , thank you so much.