• U.S.


6 minute read

Vice President Richard Nixon had a tough and unwanted assignment: he had to defend the Administration and the President against Adlai Stevenson’s criticism, and, in passing, he had to reprove Joe McCarthy and take account of McCarthy’s gutter tactics. Nixon handled the assignment with dignity and dispatch. He and the President had agreed in advance, he said, “that this issue is too important to answer in kind with a rip-roaring political tirade before a cheering partisan audience.”

Charge No. 1. The Vice President spoke without a prepared text, from nine penciled sheets of notes on yellow, lined paper. He sat alone at a desk in a Washington studio, talking calmly and persuasively in measured, simple language to a radio and television audience estimated at 10 million.

First, Nixon answered Stevenson’s charge that the “new look” in U.S. military and foreign policy is sapping the strength of the armed forces in the interests of economy. His answer was the record of Truman: “We found that in seven years of the Truman-Acheson policy 600 million people had been lost to the Communists and not a single Russian soldier had been lost in combat. We found . . . that we were still involved in war in Korea, that it cost us 125,000 American boys as casualties . . . We found that we inherited a budget . . . which . . . would have added 40 billion dollars to the national debt.”

Having judged the Truman policy a failure, said the Vice President, Eisenhower & Co. looked to the Kremlin for clues on which to base the new look. “Rather than let the Communists nibble us to death all over the world in little wars,” the Government decided to rely “on our massive mobile retaliatory power, which we could use in our discretion against the major sources of aggression at times and places that we chose.”

What were the results of that policy? The Vice President ticked them off: “First, the Korean war has been brought to an end. And second, two American divisions have been brought home . . . Third, our budget is approaching a balance, and this means that controls have been ended, that taxes can be reduced and that inflation has been stopped. And fourth—and this is vitally important—we have finally seized the ideological offensive from the Communists all over the world. The President [and] Secretary Dulles . . . have finally placed the responsibility where it belongs—on the Communists—for blockading the road to peace.”

Charge No. 2. Answering Stevenson’s second charge—that the Eisenhower Administration has not handled the Communist-at-home issue properly—Nixon again compared past and present. “This Administration,” he said, “recognizes the danger of Communist infiltration . . . We don’t agree with Mr. Truman in kissing off that danger by calling it a ‘red herring.’ Nor do we agree with Mr. Stevenson, referring as he did to the investigations of that danger as ‘chasing phantoms’ . . . We know . . . that men like Alger Hiss and Harry White turned over secret papers to the Communists . . . We know that our atomic experts said that the Russians got the secret of the atomic bomb three to five years before they would have gotten it because of the help they received from Communist spies right here in the U.S.”

As a consequence, the Administration formulated a twofold program: “First, we make just as sure as we can that we don’t put the Communists on the payroll in the first place. And second, under a new security risk program, we recognize . . . that we should remove from the payroll those of doubtful loyalty.” For illustration, Nixon gave a breakdown of the file record on more than 2,400 employees separated from the Government under the risk program: 422 subversives, 198 sexual perverts. 611 convictions for felonies or misdemeanors, and 1,424 with records indicating “untrustworthiness, drunkenness, mental instability or possible exposure to blackmail.”

Methods & McCarthy. Nixon turned to methods as employed by McCarthy. He did not name his man, but there could be no misunderstanding his meaning: “The President, this Administration, the responsible leadership of the Republican Party insist . . . that whether in the executive branch of the Government or in the legislative branch . . . the procedures for dealing with the threat of Communism . . . must be fair and they must be proper.” But some Red-hunters feel that Communists deserve to be shot like rats. “Well. I’ll agree; they’re a bunch of rats, but just remember this. When you go out to shoot rats, you have to shoot straight, because when you shoot wildly, it not only means that the rats may get away more easily, you make it easier on the rat, but you might hit someone else who’s trying to shoot rats, too. And so we’ve got to be fair . . . And when through carelessness, you lump the innocent and the guilty together, what you do is to give the guilty a chance to pull the cloak of innocence around themselves.”

Certain Republican rat-shooters, said Nixon, have not followed the principle of fairness. “Men who have in the past done effective work exposing Communists in this country have, by reckless talk and questionable methods, made themselves the issue . . . And when they’ve done this, you see, they not only have diverted attention from the danger of Communism, diverted it … to themselves, but also they have allowed those whose primary objective is to defeat the Eisenhower Administration to divert attention . . . to these individuals who follow these methods.”

Charge No. 3. In answering Stevenson’s third charge—that Dwight Eisenhower lacks leadership—Nixon came close to anger. “President Eisenhower is not only the unquestioned leader of the Republican Party, but he has the confidence and he has the support of the great majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike . . . It’s true that President Eisenhower does not engage in personal vituperation and vulgar name-calling and promiscuous letter writing in asserting his leadership, and I say, ‘Thank God that he doesn’t’ . . .

“I’ve seen him make some great decisions during this past year,” said the Vice President with great feeling. “I have never seen him mean; I have never seen him rash; I have never seen him impulsive . . . His only test was the one that he said he was going to use all through the campaign: what is good for America . . . I think we are lucky to have this man as President of the U.S. . . . Let’s quit fighting among ourselves about an issue that all Americans should be united on. Let’s join together and get behind our President in making the American dream come true.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com