No one had expected Vice President Richard Nixon to challenge the outcome of the 1960 presidential race. It was the greatest gamble of his long, embattled political career, but it eventually paid off. Everyone on the inside knew that Mayor Daley had stuffed the ballot box for Jack Kennedy in Chicago, but Nixon and his staff needed to prove it. So, in order to buy time, they formally challenged the results. The integrity of the Electoral College in question, the delegates refused to convene until the outcome of the historically close election was perfectly clear. Nixon used the agonizing weeks of the recount in Chicago to assemble a team of crack investigators to find out what had really happened.
The press was naturally on Senator John F. Kennedy’s side. They had become enamored with the young “bronzed warrior,” and were notoriously combative with the Vice President. But Nixon had a far more powerful ally, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Understanding that the course of the country was at stake, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover mobilized his considerable resources to aid Nixon in his crusade to snatch the presidency from Kennedy, someone Hoover considered a danger to the moral fabric of the United States. When Hoover’s boys revealed that ghosts had been voting for John F. Kennedy in Illinois, the contest was over. The reputation of the Kennedy clan had been tarnished forever, visions of the White House first dreamed by old Joe Kennedy vanished like the aging patriarch’s own ailing memory.
The first year of Richard Nixon’s presidential term was bold and decisive. Ever the champion of anti-communism, he played hard ball with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, a former major-league baseball prospect turned revolutionary. Continuing the plans he set into motion as Ike Eisenhower’s VP, President Nixon approved a swift coup in Cuba orchestrated by the CIA and aided by Anti-Castro Cuban refugees. Tipped off by his vast network of contacts, Castro narrowly escaped with his life, returning to exile in the vast brush of Latin America.
Big Business and the Mafia took control of Cuba like they never had before, and their grip on the tiny island was even tighter than it had been under President Batista in the 1950s. Havana was the bright glimmering jewel in their coffers—the Las Vegas of Latin America, the premiere vacation spot in the Western Hemisphere.
Back in Washington, President Nixon gloated like a king. His broad, mischievous smile signaled that America had taken to waging smarter, smaller, and more devious military actions. The cold war froze over, a sprawling tundra spanning between Washington and Moscow. President Nixon had found a cunning opponent in Premier Khrushchev, the man he had so calmly sparred with in the legendary “kitchen debates” of 1959. And if President Nixon could swat Castro like a fly, why couldn’t the Russian Bear take a swipe at any of his sovereign neighbors? Nikita Khrushchev had his sights set squarely on West Berlin, and “Perhaps the Wall will fall,” many began to think.
Meanwhile, the exiled Castro was rallying his forces with the help of some disaffected internationals, including a former U.S. marine turned communist defector named Lee Harvey Oswald. Their primary objective was simple: revenge. Their strategy: Kill Richard Nixon.
Recognizing an opportunity to exploit the aims of his enemy’s enemy, Senator Jack Kennedy and his brother Bobby set up a dummy corporation in Miami to run guns and money to the exiled Castro, who they knew was gunning for President Nixon. When Castro organized a plan to assassinate Nixon, the Kennedy brothers were among the first to find out about it. Lee Oswald, the young American defector, had volunteered to do the job. He was looking for a spot in history, and had been a pretty good marksman in the Marines.
Nixon was set to speak at an aeronautics conference in Chicago on Independence Day 1964. There he was slated to tout his plans for a space program to conquer the stars. His vision: the use of space rockets for strategic superiority over the Russians. With nuclear warheads pointed at Moscow and Beijing floating above the Earth’s atmosphere, Richard Nixon could conduct foreign policy like no other chief executive in history. The President’s reception in Chicago was expected to be tumultuous, with protestors filling the streets in unprecedented numbers. The beleaguered Secret Service reluctantly agreed to rely on Mayor Daley’s police force to supplement their protection of the President. But on the morning of July 4th 1964, the Chicago PD was mysteriously ordered to stand down. No one ever traced that order to Richard Daley’s office, but the stench always wafted in his direction.
When Nixon stepped out of the Drake Hotel and walked to his presidential limousine, he was supposed to have been greeted by a throng of Chicago’s finest. They weren’t there. The apartment building across from the Drake was supposed to have been searched prior to the President’s arrival. It never was. So when President Richard Milhous Nixon walked out of the hotel that fateful day, it was fairly easy for Lee Oswald to bullseye him with an old Italian-made rifle from World War II.
The first shot hit President Nixon in the heart. This was, however, his least vulnerable organ, and it took the headshot that quickly followed to kill the 35th President of the United States.
There were many protestors in the crowd that day, among them a 29-year-old leader of the Nation of Islam, a man the FBI had on file as a known communist. He had been born Malcolm Little, but after a stint in prison he cast aside his slave name in favor of the stark moniker Malcolm X. Over the years he had also cultivated a hatred for Richard Nixon, a man who knew to be a racist, a man who hid behind “states rights” as he stalled on Civil Rights. When Hoover found out that Malcolm X was in Chicago that day, he was almost ecstatic. Placing the blame on X for President Nixon’s death was Hoover’s chance to prove to America that the blacks could not be trusted with equal freedoms as whites. Within 24 hours, a rifle was planted in X’s hotel room, and within 48, FBI agents had found his prints on the weapon. When taken into custody, Malcolm X denied all wrongdoing. His declarations of innocence to the press were among the most incendiary and impassioned remarks ever captured on television camera. “The so-called assassination of Richard Nixon is actually an execution,” he said, “but one that I am not party to. The false accusations leveled at me are the real assassination. An assassination of Black America. And so I proclaim my innocence to you America, and declare your complicity.”
Very few Americans believed him, but among them were Jack and Bobby Kennedy. Indeed, their clandestine support of Castro’s efforts had allowed them to amass a great deal of evidence which implicated Oswald and exonerated Malcolm X. The Kennedys realized a potential for political gain, and a chance to wipe clean their tarnished reputation. Senator Kennedy lobbied the newly-sworn in President Henry Cabot Lodge, and demanded that he be allowed to spearhead a congressional committee to investigate the assassination of President Nixon. His purported aim, to establish any possibility of conspiracy. Washington and the nation we’re impressed and surprised that Richard Nixon’s old rival was leading the crusade to avenge the death of the man who had caused his fall from grace. By the time JFK and his team “uncovered” evidence that proved the guilt of Lee Harvey Oswald and the innocence of Malcolm X, America and her people had forgotten the past misdeeds of Jack Kennedy. He was swept into the White House in November of 1968, barely eight years since his disgraceful defeat in Chicago.
When Richard Milhous Nixon was killed, the guilt the nation felt was overwhelming. All the people who had ever wished that old Tricky Dick Nixon would just “drop dead,” suddenly felt responsible for letting their President die. We were all conspirators in the assassination of Richard Nixon. Perhaps this is why the Nixon Memorial is the most visited monument in Washington D.C. Perhaps when America looks up at the towering stone effigy of President Richard Nixon, his hands throwing two glorious “V for Victory” signs into the heavens, our guilt flies up with them.