More of tonight’s gems that I am assured are staples:
“It isn’t just the crowds we get, it’s what I call their E.Q. or Enthusiasm Quotient.”
“There isn’t anything I can say bad about Hubert that his fellow Democrats haven’t already said.”
“I say to you that when the capital of the nation has become the crime capital of the world, when bus drivers in Washington, D.C. have to use scrip and carry guns from fear of robbery, when there have been riots in 300 cities, and the President of the United States can’t go to any city without fear of a demonstration, when a second-rate little country like North Korea can kidnap one of our ships on the high seas . . . then it’s time for the quiet people, the Forgotten People, to stand up and demand a change!”
“I pledge to restore America as a first-rate military power able to deal with the Soviet Union effectively.”
“We must not lose at the conference table what our boys have died to win in Vietnam.”
“People accuse me of not talking about issues. Well, I had my staff count up all the issues I’ve made statements on, and it came to 167 issues. Of course, Hubert’s been on both sides of every question, so he has twice as many.”
“I know these seem like bad times, but now I’m going to say something that may surprise you. As a student of history and one who has traveled all over this world, I would pick the United States in 1968 as the best time and place to live in.”
There were some extra reassurances for this $1000-a-plate audience. (“You have succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of most Americans. You who are participating in this dinner are the luckiest people in the world. You are participating in the great events of your time. Because we’re going to win in November, don’t you worry about that!”) But the rest was an Old-Macdonald’s-Farm recitation of all the places he’s been campaigning so far, a lengthening list that newsmen fear may eventually take over The Speech.
I had the feeling that, had I not been taking notes, I would have been left with no clear memory of what he said; only an impression of confidence. I turned to a waiter as the only other person in the room who hadn’t heard this before. What did he think of Nixon’s speech? “That guy,” he said contemptuously, heaving a full tray to his shoulder. “He’s such a schmuck he doesn’t know what schmuck means.” Clearly not one of the quiet or forgotten men Nixon had in mind.
As I left, Nixon was standing with arms up in his peculiar limp-wristed “V” sign, colored spotlights were raking the audience, and the band was playing, “This Could Be the Start of Something Big.”
The publicity is right, this is the only campaign that’s ever run on time; I nearly missed the 9:40 a.m. bus which left Nixon’s Park Avenue headquarters on the microsecond.
Today we go to Philadelphia on big chartered campaign jets, “The Tricia” and “The Julie,” with staff, Secret Service, and press corps aboard. (“The David”—named, of course, for Julie’s fiancé David Eisenhower—will join us for a Midwestern swing next week. Having that painted on a plane seems a big strain on a 20-year-old’s engagement.) After a ticker tape parade and a state-wide television show, the entire entourage stays overnight at a Marriott Motor Hotel before starting a bus tour of one Cardinal and nine shopping centers. Zeroing in, as he seems to be, on that down-the-middle group of white Americans bounded on one side by flour-sack dresses and by Volkswagens on the other (the flour sacks were for Kennedy, the Volkswagens for Eugene), Nixon spends a lot of time in shopping centers of the suburbs. The Cardinal is just scheduled as an early morning courtesy call. He’s a Democrat.
One reward of being late was getting on the staff bus. (Staff not specifically assigned to dealing with press people are not supposed to fraternize.) My seat mate, Ed McDaniels, a quiet forceful man who heads the Capitol Recording Company in Washington, a firm specializing in the radio and television electronic needs of political campaigns, had been with Nixon in 1960, and assured me that the candidate hadn’t changed at all. “Cuba was an issue then,” he explained, “but of course Mr. Nixon couldn’t say anything, because he might have given away the invasion we were planning. That’s the big difference: Kennedy had Nixon in a tough spot because he was Vice President, and now Nixon has Humphrey over the same barrel.”