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Bush and his predecessors

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While I waited in the lobby of the White House West Wing for an interview with Vice- President Bush, there was time for a little reflection. I had waited for vice-presidents before under similar circumstances, sometimes at the White House, sometimes in the Old Executive Office Building next door, or sometimes on planes or in hotels. And they were all different.

Richard Nixon was an activist vice-president, rushing around the United States, making the Democrats angry, and often making political remarks that did not seem to jibe with the approach of President Eisenhower.

Eisenhower clearly was unhappy on learning about Nixon and the secret slush fund from which he was benefitting. Some scholarly observers of those years now contend that Ike never forgave his vice-president for it and for the emotional appeal Nixon made in the Checkers speech. That performance evoked such a strong wave of public support that Ike was virtually unable to drop the young California congressman from the ticket.

Eisenhower came close to pushing Nixon aside for a different running mate in 1956. And he fell short of giving Nixon his all-out, active support in the 1960 campaign. This may have cost Nixon the election.

A few years later the talkative Hubert Humphrey was vice-president. He was so easy to interview. It was always fun to hear him hold forth endlessly on all sorts of subjects.

Then there was Spiro Agnew, the tall man with the serious mien and the sharply creased trousers. Nixon took him for his No. 2 man almost sight unseen. Nixon thought the Maryland governor would add geographical balance to the ticket. Also, Nixon liked the way Agnew had rebuked the black leaders in Baltimore for not doing more to try to quiet protests in the black community.

Agnew, as a vice-presidential candidate, soon was voicing some excessive views, calling Humphrey "squishy soft on communism" and making what was widely regarded as a racial slur.


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