The Contender: Richard Nixon: The Congress Years, 1946 to 1952

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9780684850641: The Contender: Richard Nixon: The Congress Years, 1946 to 1952

At long last the true Richard Nixon can be revealed. The man known as "Tricky Dick," who is seen today as the greatest villain in the history of American politics, actually began his amazing career as a principled campaigner and a scrupulously honest member of Congress.

Sadly, the first real reassessment of Richard Nixon's early career -- his Congress years -- had to wait until after his death in 1994. Only then was Pulitzer Prize-nominee Irwin F. Gellman able to get the documentary access of which previous Nixon biographers could only dream. Gellman became the first historian to have complete and unfettered access to (among other sources) the 1946, 1948, and 1950 campaign files in the National Archives; papers from the executive sessions of HUAC; and every document dated through July 1952 in the Nixon Library & Birthplace. All told, Gellman scoured millions of pages in dozens of collections, the vast majority of which have never before been used.

Gellman's research revealed that much of the work done on Nixon was not only based on incomplete information but was wrong. The legend of "Tricky Dick" was little more than a series of myths. For example: The "Committee of 100" did not buy Nixon his 1946 upset of Jerry Voorhis. Nixon did not unfairly smear Helen Gahagan Douglas. There was no secret funding of his Senate race in 1950. Nixon did not out-McCarthy McCarthy on HUAC. And finally, Nixon was true to Earl Warren at the 1952 convention -- there was no secret deal made for the vice presidency. As Gellman irrefutably shows, each of these myths has been built on guesswork or faulty sources.

Who then was the real Richard Nixon? Other historians have given us ominous hints and vague charges of financial and moral misconduct. Gellman shows otherwise, and the proof is in the details. In 1946 Nixon used his own meager savings in a shoestring campaign. In 1950, operating with a budget in the low six-figures -- high for the time, but many times lower than other estimates -- he reaped the benefits of his opponent's bruising primary. And the Red bashing? On HUAC Nixon was a moderate who won universal praise for his even-handedness. Behind the scenes he cautioned McCarthy against his excesses.

Even during the incredible success of Nixon's Congress years there are occasional lapses of judgment. But, as Gellman shows, it was innocence and energy -- not deceit -- that made a fresh-faced Richard Nixon the victor against great odds in contest after contest. Here are the triumphs of the early years of a young man that we can unabashedly admire. Here is the rise of Richard Nixon, from nobody to vice president, that makes all previous biographies obsolete. Here is the Nixon that history will now remember.

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About the Author:

Irwin F. Gellman is an independent scholar and the author of five books on American presidents. He lives in Parkesburg, PA.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A meticulously researched revisionist account (the first volume of a projected three) of Richard Nixon's public career, from a Putitzer-winning author (Secret Affairs, not reviewed). After Nixons resignation from the presidency in 1974, it was popular to argue that the character flaws that emerged in the Watergate crisis were evident in his first political campaigns and his tenure as a congressman and senator. Not so, contends Gellman (Modern American History/Chapman Coll.). Basing his conclusions on Nixon's recently declassified personal papers, Gellman concludes that the popular image of Nixon as a ruthless liar and conniver who rose to national prominence through irresponsible Red-baiting is actually a myth. Instead, Gellman argues, Nixon was ``a success story in a troubled era, one who steered a sensible anticommunist course against the excess of McCarthy and other extreme right-wingers.'' Charges, still widely believed, that Nixon smeared Jerry Voorhis in his 1946 congressional campaign and Helen Gahagan Douglas in his 1950 Senate campaign are false, Gellman asserts, born of partisanship and unfairness. Instead, both campaigns were divisive but ``hard-fought and deeply emotional'' on both sides. Gellman traces Nixon's involvement in the Hiss-Chambers case, which first brought him national prominence, his rapid rise in the national GOP organization as a senator who focused on the issues of communism and the Korean War, and the 1952 nominating convention in which he suddenly emerged as a dark horse vice-presidential candidate. Arguing that Nixon's nomination was the culmination of several political forces, including the high profile Nixon earned in the Hiss case, Gellman counters the widespread notion that Nixon manipulated his way to the 1952 nomination. Nixon had no managers, he points out, and Dwight Eisenhower had expressed interest in capturing the vote of young people with a youthful running mate. The 39-year-old Nixon seemed to fit the billhe was ``young, patriotic, articulate, and dependable,'' and in Ike's view became the logical choice for the ticket. A substantial contribution to Nixon scholarship. -- Copyright 1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Book Description Free Press, New York, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. First Printing.. 590 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. Like New. UNITED STATES PRESIDENTS. The first real assessment of Richard Nixon's early career -- his years in Congress. Gellman's research revealed that much of the work done on Nixon was not only based on incomplete information but was wrong. "Gellman has explored the record thoroughly and fairly, and he has given an unmatched understanding of that Nixon." -- Stanley I. Kutler, Editor of Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes (Key Words: Richard M. Nixon, United States President, Irwin F. Gellman, Congressmen, Politicans, Stephen Zetterber, Earl Warren, Henry Wallace, Harry Truman, Charles Voorhis, Thomas J. Parnell, Robert Taft, Republicans, Drew Pearson, Joseph McCarthy, Karl Mundt, William Knowland, J. Edgar Hoover, Alger Hiss, Democrats Eisenhower, Espionage, Laurence Duggan, Murray Chotiner, Whittaker Chambers, Dean Acheson). book. Bookseller Inventory # 88039X1

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