Exploiting a Heart Attack
Last week, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman quoted Adlai Stevenson as warning of “Nixonland” – “a land of slander and scare.” Ironically, a vivid example of scare tactics came from Stevenson’s own lips at the end of the 1956 campaign. Crudely exploiting President Eisenhower’s heart attack, he tried to frighten voters with the prospect that Vice President Nixon would soon succeed him. “And distasteful as this matter is, I must say bluntly that every piece of scientific evidence we have, every lesson of history and experience, indicates that a Republican victory tomorrow would mean that Richard M. Nixon would probably be President of this country within the next four years.” Lest anybody miss the point, he added: “I recoil at the prospect of Mr. Nixon as custodian of this nation’s future, as guardian of the hydrogen bomb…”
Of course, Richard Nixon did become president twelve years later, and undertook landmark arms talks with the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower lived to watch his inauguration on television. Stevenson did not. He had died in 1965 – of a heart attack.