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Just Plain Dick: Richard Nixon's Checkers Speech and the "Rocking, Socking" Election of 1952 Hardcover – September 18, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160819812X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608198122
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,079,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Eighteen years after his death and 38 years after his resignation from the presidency in the midst of the Watergate scandal, Nixon remains an object of fascination. Mattson chronicles one of the seminal episodes in Nixon’s political career, the 1952 presidential election, in which Nixon’s now famous “Checkers” speech, delivered on national television, saved his spot as vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket. Mattson employs some gimmicks that should make professional historians cringe. In particular, he details supposed thoughts Nixon had in critical moments, which cannot possibly be verified. Still, the portrait of Nixon offered by Mattson is familiar and credible. Nixon is brilliant, insecure, resentful against imagined enemies, and manipulative, as he showed when defending himself against charges of accepting questionable campaign “gifts,” including the puppy, Checkers. This is an uneven but informative examination of a defining political campaign for both Nixon and the nation. --Jay Freeman

Review

“Mattson’s excellent book is a timely companion to the current election season.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Mattson’s portrait of a crusading, emotional Nixon on the verge of victory colors in all the campaign’s background details, including relevant pop culture detours and digressions, from Hedda Hopper and Lucille Ball to the hole in Adlai Stevenson’s shoe.” —Publishers Weekly

“Mattson’s book will appeal to historians, politicians, politics buffs, and those interested in the impact of television on the electorate.” —Library Journal

“Mattson, the author of six fine books on politics and intellectual history, contends that the speech transformed not only the 1952 election but also American political culture... Eisenhower and Nixon’s 1952 campaign was an important contributor to unfortunate development[s for which] we are still paying the price... today.” —Boston Globe

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stephen T. Hopkins VINE VOICE on February 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Richard Nixon was a fascinating and complex person, and reading about him can be interesting whether you supported his politics or not. Kevin Mattson's book, Just Plain Dick: Richard Nixon's Checkers Speech and the "Rocking, Socking" Election of 1952, presents a glimpse into one pivotal time period in Nixon's life, and through that key time, allows readers to think about Nixon in what might be new ways. I've read a lot about Nixon, and found this short book to skim the surface and not quite delve into the complexity of the character and personality. Most general readers will find this book quick to read and for those less familiar with the Checkers speech and the campaign of 1952, there's a cogent presentation of this time and selected key events.

Rating: Three-star (It's ok)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DaLaoHu on September 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
I don't have much to add beyond what other reviewers have commented upon except to add this: when you get to the end of chapter four and before beginning chapter five, make sure you google the speech and watch the entire version. This is important. You must see it yourself; you will be amazed. I am an admitted Nixon hater from way back (though fortunately not that far back) and I was totally blown away. It really is a powerful performance, and puts the entire book -- indeed, Nixon's entire career -- into a new perspective.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Bostock on January 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Matson may be a history professor, but he's not much of a historian. He imposes his own speculation on what Nixon might have been thinking at various points in the 1952 campaign, twists the historical record to make the facts fit his thesis, and draws conclusions that are simply unsupported by any objective reading of the actual events. He claims to have written this book like a novel, and at least he's partially right on that count - it is much more a work of fiction than history but it lacks the narrative power of even a mediocre novel.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
There's been a lot of talk during this presidential campaign of 2012 about how nasty the attacks have been and how this seems to be the most pointed and personal negative campaign ever.

Nonsense. The 2012 campaign has been negative, yes, but rarely personal, and hardly unprecedented. A case in point is the 1952 campaign that is described in part by Just Plain Dick: Richard Nixon's Checkers Speech and the "Rocking, Socking" Election of 1952.

During that campaign, Richard Nixon, the Republican running mate of Dwight Eisenhower, repeatedly insinuated that the Democratic presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson, was a communist. Nixon especially seemed to enjoy questioning Stevenson's masculinity, calling him "fey" in public and "Adelaide" in private.

Author Kevin Mattson tells an entertaining story of Nixon's campaign, sometimes too entertaining. Mattson speculates about what Nixon was thinking, and actually "quotes" Nixon's thoughts. He bases his speculations of Nixon's thoughts on Nixon's memoirs and papers, and given Nixon's tenuous relationship with truth-telling, those might not be the most reliable sources.

Though sixty years old, the 1952 campaign is still relevant to today's politics. Nixon and Stevenson were both caught up in campaign finance controversies. The relatively small amounts (Nixon was accused of having an $18,000 secret fund) seem comical now, but the principal is the same - how does a candidate who is not incredibly wealthy fund a campaign without taking money from some people who will expect something in return?

Watching the Checkers Speech that Nixon gave to explain the fund and clear his name, you have to shake your head and wonder if people really bought his hokey act.
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