Dick Nixon Knows a Sore Loser When He Sees One
“You didn’t see me whining after I lost the rigged 1960 election, did you?” asks the ghost of the 37th president.
Vin Scully has a wonderful phrase:
Losing feels worse than winning feels good.
In Chicago, the corpse of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow voted against us in ’60. That’s no longer a matter of speculation. Take that with Johnson’s record of fraud in Texas — where he came from 20,000 votes back in the ’48 Senate primary to beat a former governor by 87 votes (ask Robert Caro, not me) — and there’s Nixon carved up, spit out, screwed.
Twice vice president of the United States, Ike’s right hand on foreign policy. Sat in the chair during his illness, but beaten by 113,000 votes for a trussed-up invalid whose primary Senate accomplishment was twiddling his thumbs on our civil rights bill.
But 12 hours after the polls closed, I sent Senator Kennedy a telegram, congratulating him on his victory and sending my best wishes as he prepared to lead the country.
I don’t just know how it feels to lose a close one; I stood head and shoulders above the competition, went to all 50 states, worked my butt off without an old man to write checks or make calls on my behalf. And I still lost. They all but lowered me into the grave.
The grave is ready for Donald Trump, too. The church is booked, the parson is paid, the hole is dug. He’s going to lose. But as I can tell you, the grave isn’t absolute. If he held his tongue, accepted the result, and worked the levers, he could rise up and fight again.
That’s like wishing for God to come to Wrigley Field, of course. Then again, look at what’s happening with the Cubs this year.
I’ve kept quiet on the question of Trump conceding his loss because there is no question. It’s absurd. He has to do it. As the clock ticks down, you don’t sit cross-legged on the 50-yard line and yell for the marshals to apprehend the Redskins by holy writ. You leave and tape yourself up for next week. Look like you’ve got something left, even if you’re shot.
Yes, to deny any election result is to attack basic American principles. It invites a constitutional crisis and tears the country apart. Look at Florida in 2000; the process was short and basically peaceful, but it poisoned a generation. For Trump to suggest a challenge means he doesn’t give a damn where the country is going or where it’s been.
It’s also dumb politics.
My God, have you ever seen something so crippled, inadequate, ham-fisted, desperate, and stupid as what Trump is trying to pull? People will put up with a sore loser in golf as long as he pays the greens fee, but to raise a stink in politics is weak, weak, weak.
We won in ’60, but they stole it from us. And despite all I’ve done in my public life — to confirm America as the essential power, a leader among nations, the keystone in a lasting architecture of peace — it’s me who’s called “tricky,” the little bastard who got too big for his britches and had to be put down.
Above all I’m a patriot. And I try, as the Quakers say, to “proceed as the way opens.” But I didn’t roll over in ’60. Hell, I didn’t even use the word “concede.” I acknowledged Senator Kennedy while refusing to discourage the efforts of dedicated party members in no way connected to us — if you follow me — to investigate and independently certify the result.
If a concerned citizen takes it upon himself to hire lawyers and snoop around City Hall, it has nothing to do with me. I have no capacity to call him off. I might even congratulate him in spirit for his civic interest while gently reprimanding his fervor.
If you follow me.
This is the political thing. The action of a man looking out for the country and himself. A man who knows how the game is played.
Trump, of course, couldn’t play both sides of a question if he had four arms and a mouth on his back. Raising hell about the results doesn’t just screw us; it destroys him.
Whatever Trump wants in the future — money, a television network, another run for office — his main concern shouldn’t be the Birchers and nuts who put him here. Because who else have they got? Sarah Palin? David Duke? That dumb blonde from Saturday Night Live? For the foreseeable future, Trump is their best hope.
No, Trump’s concern should be the people who hate Clinton more than they love him. The fellow whose first choice was Ted Cruz, for example, yet couldn’t stand that he spoke the words “vote your conscience” on national television. Play to him. Take anything Clinton serves up and bat it back with 10 times the force. With jokes.
Because Clinton isn’t half the politician Jack Kennedy was. A large portion of her win will be votes against Trump, people who’ll jump ship the first chance they get. John Kasich or Mitt Romney would have beaten her had they been allowed to get that far. Clinton is weak, boxed in, running on another man’s legacy, with the knives sharper than ever. I can’t see how she’ll hold or even expand the majority in four years.
Exploiting that will take calculation. A quick study, someone who takes the long view.
Not Trump, then. But they’re coming — a man or woman who’s smarter and more subtle, who will submit to politics over ego.
I don’t mean myself. I’ve long since been concerned with matters more important than what the Lackawanna Lincoln Club thinks of me, and most of Trump’s people won’t give me the time of day. I don’t care. My disputes with him are clear, as are my problems with Mrs. Clinton.
Trump should keep his mouth shut, eat the loss, and watch his back for someone who can hold the Birchers alongside the Clinton-haters and angry poor. Run again, or otherwise squeeze them for every penny while not wearing “sore loser” around his neck. Because the next one will learn from his mistakes. Trump doesn’t stand a chance.
Whatever damage Trump does now, the next guy will be worse.
Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images/National Archives & Records Administration/Foreign Policy illustration