President Richard M. Nixon: Vice-President to Eisenhower
About the President Richard M. Nixon, his time as vice-president to Eisenhower and its lead up to his own election campaign.
On the Way to the White House: Nixon proved himself to be an unusually active Vice-President. With Ike intent on remaining above politics, it was up to the Vice-President to serve as the Republicans's politician-in-chief. Nixon also sat in on Cabinet meetings, though he usually listened in silence while others conducted the business of Government. At one Cabinet meeting Nixon surprised his colleagues by pulling a mechanical drummer out of his pocket. He quickly wound up the toy, set it down on the long table, and let it march around for a few moments as the most powerful men in America looked on in stunned silence. Finally, Nixon got to the moral of his demonstration: "We've got to drum up support for Republican candidates."
In 1956, when Ike ran for reelection, he wanted to drop Nixon from the national ticket. He called the Vice-President in for a tense Oval Office meeting, and offered Nixon any post in the Cabinet (except Secretary of State) if he would voluntarily step down. Nixon refused, and with his strong support from conservatives and Republican professionals, Ike could not have purged him without a fight. The general reluctantly accepted Nixon as his running mate once again, but he continued to snub the Vice-President both socially and politically. Nixon was considered so unimportant in the White House scheme of things that there were parts of the building that he had never even seen until President Lyndon Johnson invited him there one day and took him around. Not even Eisenhower's heart attack and stroke--which brought Nixon so close to the Presidency--could persuade Ike to take his Vice-President seriously. In 1960, Ike was asked at a press conference, "What major decisions of your Administration has the Vice-President participated in?" Ike's flip response was: "If you give me a week, I might think of one."
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