Nixon: a lesson in rhetoric

notes on Nixon’s 1962 concession speech (CA gubernatorial race)

a lesson in saying what you don’t mean…

“I have no complaints about the press coverage. I will never complain about it.”
–He goes on to say a few minutes later: “Thank god for television and radio for keeping the newspapers honest,” implying that the newspaper coverage was biased, which seems like a complaint. Never say “never.”

“one last thing”
–He says this three times and “last point” once.

“You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore. This is my last press conference.”
–Wrong on both points, Dick.

a lesson in honesty:

“I would have liked to have won.”

“it is the people’s choice”

“I want newspapers–if they’re against a candidate, I want them to say it.”
–I imagine Nixon took the lesson “know thine enemy” to heart very early in his career.

a lesson in “mistakes were made”:

“The Cuban thing did not allow us to get [our message] through in the two critical weeks…”
–i.e. “not our fault”

“And I take responsibility for any mistakes [in the campaign].”
–He probably should’ve made note of this sentence and used it when it was actually called for 12 years later.

He also points out times that he said/did something good that the newspaper didn’t report or something bad (a “flub”) that the newspaper (the LA Times) did report.
–a) add this to the complaints about the press that he doesn’t have, and
–b) how fun to be able to say “I’m a really great guy, just nobody knows that because the press doesn’t tell you.”

Language Log has some comments on the 1962 NY Times transcript of the speech and links to the MP3, so you can hear the man himself.

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