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Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady : Richard Nixon vs Helen Gahagan Douglas-Sexual Politics and the Red Scare, 1950 Hardcover – January 20, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

America in the 1950s may seem like a halcyon time, but Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady, a lively account of the 1950 race for the Senate in California, shows just how raucous and divided the nation was as it entered the decade. Two prominent members of Congress, a former actress and ardent liberal, Helen Gahagan Douglas, and future president Richard M. Nixon, waged a vicious and often dirty fight in the election. The entire nation paid attention as Nixon smeared Douglas as a Communist, claiming she was "pink right down to her underwear." Greg Mitchell provides a well-written account of the race that would forever define Nixon in the minds of many.

From Library Journal

Replacing the mellow elder-statesman Nixon of recent books (e.g., Monica Crowley, Nixon Off the Record, LJ 10/1/96), Mitchell (The Campaign of the Century, LJ 4/1/92) again offers us the unscrupulous "tricky Dick." Mitchell makes a strong case that the 1950 California senatorial campaign was one of the dirtiest in history. Nixon's opponent, Helen Gahagan Douglas, was doomed as a liberal and a woman in a political time unfriendly to both. Nixon was aided by friendly newspaper editors, the deft use of television, skill in splitting the electorate by class and gender, and venal ploys such as anti-Semitic allusions to Douglas's husband, actor Melvyn Douglas. Douglas survived her defeat and became a respected speaker for women's issues until her death in 1980. This evocative political morality tale is strongly recommended for public libraries.?Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (January 20, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679416218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679416210
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,189,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By James B. Delong on November 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Two weeks before election day in 1950, the Republican Senatorial candidate in California--Richard M. Nixon--accused the Democratic Senatorial candidate in California--Helen Gahagan Douglas--of being the conduit through which the decisions made by Josef Stalin in the Kremlin flowed to the United States Congress:
"This action by Mrs. Douglas," Nixon explained, "... came just two weeks after [U.S. Communist Party leader] William Z. Foster transmitted his instructions from the Kremlin to the Communist national committee.... [Thus] this [Communist] demand found its way into the Congress" (Mitchell (1998), p. 209).
Later on Nixon campaign manager Murray Chotiner would try to erase--or perhaps forget his role in?--history, claiming that the Nixon campaign of 1950 "had never accused Douglas of 'sympathizing' or 'being in league with' the Communists." Nixon himself claimed that he "never questioned her patriotism" and that he had been smeared by her. Nixon biographers like Jonathan Aitken would refer to Nixon's relatively clean hands in the 1950 Senate campaign.
But the most important thing was that Nixon won the 1950 California Senate race. Because he won the 1950 California Senate race he went on to become Vice President in 1953, and President in 1969. But perhaps more important, the way he won the 1950 Senate race--the fact that his tactics then worked--warped American politics for nearly half a century.
How was it warped? Into a pattern of "lie whenever you can" and "demonize your political opponents." Thus later on Nixon speechwriter William Safire would paint a picture of a President Nixon threatened by:
...a lynch mob, no cause or ideology involved, only an orgy of generalized hate....
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Paul Brooks VINE VOICE on February 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Don't by put off by the inflammatory title of this book. Some potential readers may assume this is just another left leaning author taking a swipe at Nixon. In fact it is a well-researched look at a 1950's senatorial race between two individuals from diametrically opposite ends of the political spectrum.

In truth Nixon did used almost every "trick" in the playbook to win the election and consequently further his political career. The author lays it out chapter and verse.

A bibliography, notes and an index make this a most useful volume for general readers and students interested in Richard Nixon's rise to power.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 24, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book enormously, extremely well-researched, clear and well-written, entertaining, scrupulous in detail and true to the mark. There's a lot of new "dirt" on Nixon but what is perhaps most valuable is the portrait of Helen Douglas as one of the most remarkable (though flawed) women of the century. Also a powerful depiction of the Red Scare in Hollywood....Really, a must read!
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you needed more proof that Richard Nixon was a crook and a crumb, this books lays it out. Mitchell spins a great tale of campaign anecdotes and informative history about California politics that tells it like it is, and keeps you turning pages. Also some great background on how the anti-communist paranoids destroyed lives in Hollywood and elsewhere. If this had been published before 1968, Nixon would have never been elected.
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By El Gringo on July 26, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Question: What American politician wrote: "Tomorrow is the election. On one side is decency and hope for America; on the other is demagoguery, corruption and buying of the electorate wholesale."

Answer: Herbert Hoover (R) writing to a friend about the 1950 election. (p 241).

Of course, a Democrat would, and probably did think or say the very same thing about the same election. In fact, almost every American politician, newspaper reporter, and voter on every side of every election for the past 240 years has thought something similar. That is why I have to shrug at the claim that this is one of the dirtiest elections ever. The use of scare labels; stereotyping a principled and nuanced voting record; the loutishness of certain supporters--we've seen it all before from both sides.

Although the book is ostensibly about the California senate election of 1950 between Richard Nixon (R) and Helen Gahagan Douglas(D) the principals spend a lot of time off stage as the author discusses the Hollywood ten, the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and Joseph McCarthy. Although interesting it goes far beyond just providing context. It space that could have actually been devoted to dissecting the election.

For example, Douglas was abandoned by the big. California Democratic Money; was not endorsed by the vacating Democratic senator nor her primary opponent; and got only a last-minute positive mention from Harry Truman. Hollywood was divided and the state press was almost wholly in the tank for Nixon. Both Joe Louis and JFK supported Nixon. The author fails to explain why this was the case. It is hard to attribute just to crude Red baiting and anti-communist hysteria.

Also largely missing is the ordinary voter.
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