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THE SECRET OF NIXON'S SURVIVAL

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"What starts the process, really, are the laughs and slights and snubs when you are a kid. Sometimes it's because you are poor or Irish or Jewish or Catholic or ugly or simply that you are skinny. But if you are reasonably intelligent and if your anger is deep enough and strong enough, you learn that you can change those attitudes by excellence and personal gut performance, while those who have everything are sitting on their butts.

"Once you learn that you've got to work harder than anybody else, it becomes a way of life as you move out of the alley and on your way. In your own mind, you have nothing to lose, so you take plenty of chances, and if you do your homework, many of them pay off. It is then you understand, for the first time, that you really have an advantage, because your competitors can't risk what they have already. It's a piece of cake until you get to the top. You find that you can't stop playing the game the way you've always played it, because it is part of you and you need it as much as an arm or a leg. So you are lean and mean and resourceful and you continue to walk on the edge of the precipice, because over the years, you have become fascinated by how close to the edge you can walk without losing your balance. This time it was different. This time we had something to lose."
Nixon had taken great risks in his first political campaigns. In his first race for Congress, in 1946, he boasted about being "a clean, forthright young American who had fought for his country in the stinking mud and jungles of the Solomons while his opponent had an easy job in Washington." He had never been under such duress. But Nixon won the congressional seat.

When he ran for the Senate against Helen Gahagan Douglas, Nixon played the Communist card. He referred to Douglas as the "Pink Lady" and a Communist. He distributed more than half a million pink fliers denouncing her. Douglas was not a Communist and was herself attacked by the Communist party. But Nixon got by with it and was elected to the Senate. It was for this campaign that he earned the nickname "Tricky Dick."

Bob Greene interviewed Nixon recently. He asked him if he had ever heard the insults that were hurled at him over the years. Nixon said that he had heard them. Greene asked if any of the attacks hurt his feelings.

Nixon replied: "If I had feelings, I probably wouldn't have survived.

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Tom Fitzpatrick