Of course, Donald Trump makes almost anyone look classy by comparison, including that drunk who threw up on your lap on the subway. (He apologized.)
On November 7, 1962, Richard Nixon made his official concession statement after losing the election for Governor of California to incumbent Pat Brown, Jerry Brown’s father. Nixon had barely lost the U.S. Presidency in one of the closest election ever two years earlier, and earning the governor’s seat in the Golden State was supposed to be the beginning of his comeback. The loss was devastating, but Nixon made it more so with a bitter, graceless, self-pitying concession speech that became part of his legacy. It was a long, extemporaneous, rambling mess. Read the whole thing, by all means, or watch the video, because it really is remarkable. Here are some highlights:
Good morning, gentlemen…. now that all the members of the press are so delighted that I have lost, I’d like to make a statement of my own….I congratulate Governor Brown…I believe Governor Brown has a heart, even though he believes I do not. I believe he is a good American, even though he feels I am not.
And therefore, I wish him well because he is the Governor of the first state. He won and I want this state to be led with courage, I want it to be led decisively and I want it to be led, certainly, with the assurance that the man who lost the campaign never during the course of the campaign raised a personal consideration against his opponent — never allowed any words indicating that his opponent was motivated by lack of heart or lack of patriotism to pass his lips. I am proud of the fact that I defended my opponent’s patriotism. You gentlemen didn’t report it, but I am proud that I did that. I am proud also that I defended the fact that he was a man of good motives, a man that I disagreed with very strongly, but a man of good motives. I want that — for once, gentlemen, I would appreciate if you would write what I say, in that respect. I think it’s very important what you write it — in the lead — in the lead.
…Now, above everything else I want to express my appreciation to our volunteer workers.
It was a magnificent group. Five hundred thousand dollars was spend, according to Newsweek Magazine, to get out the vote on election day. They had a right to do that if they could get the money. We didn’t have that kind of money. But believe me, we had wonderful spirit.
And our 100,000 volunteer workers I was proud of…. I only wish they could have gotten out a few more votes in the key precincts, but because they didn’t Mr. Brown has won and I have lost the election…I have no hard feelings against anybody, against my opponent, and least of all the people of California. We got our message through as well as we could. The Cuban thing [The Cuban Missile Crisis] did not enable us to get it through in the two critical weeks that we wanted to, but nevertheless we got it through and it is the people’s choice.
They have chosen Mr. Brown. They have chosen his leadership, and I can only hope that that leadership will now become more decisive, that it will move California ahead and, so that America can move ahead — economically, morally and spiritually — so that we can have character and self-reliance in this country …
One last thing. At the outset, I said a couple of things with regard to the press that I noticed some of you looked a little irritated about. And my philosophy with respect to the press has really never gotten through. And I want to get it through….And as I leave the press, all I can say is this: For 16 years, ever since the Hiss case, you’ve had a lot of- a lot of fun- that you’ve had an opportunity to attack me and I think I’ve given as good as I’ve taken. It was carried right up to the last day.
I made a talk on television, a talk in which I made a flub — one of the few that I make, not because I’m so good on television but because I’ve done it a long time. I made a flub in which I said I was running for governor of the United States. The Los Angeles Times dutifully reported that. Mr. Brown the last day made a flub — a flub, incidentally, to the great credit of television that was reported — I don’t say this bitterly — in which he said “I hope everybody wins. You vote the straight Democratic ticket, including Senator Kuchel.” I was glad to hear him say it, because I was for Kuchel all the way. The Los Angeles TImes did not report it.
I think that it’s time that our great newspaper have at least the same objectivity, the same fullness of coverage, that television has. And I can only say thank God for television and radio for keeping the newspapers a little more honest….
I leave you gentlemen now and you now write it. You will interpret it. That’s your right. But as I leave you I want you to know- just think how much you’re going to be missing.
You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference…Thank you, gentlemen, and good day.
Now, in contrast, here is Donald Trump’s statement last night after being shellacked by Sen. Ted Cruz in a major primary Trump was once supposed to have won. He didn’t deliver it in person—he didn’t have the courage or respect for his supporters—which is just the first of many ways in which it is ethically inferior to Nixon’s disgraceful rant. Another is that it was delivered via Twitter, which would have been like Nixon tying his to a rock and throwing it through a window at the LA Times in 1962:
Trump’s mess has one virtue over Nixon’s speech. It is shorter. Incredibly, it is even less organized and coherent than Richard Nixon at his worst. While Nixon took unseemly sideswipes at Brown that were considered at the time to be unforgivable breaches of the political etiquette, defying the tradition of civil and gracious concession speeches, Trump begins by calling his opponent a nasty schoolyard-style name….several steps down the evolutionary scale.
If Trump’s statement were a creature on that scale on the way to Homo Sapiens, it would be a newt.
Incredibly, Trump is more whiny than Richard Nixon, whose false exit from the political scene (after all, he was elected President just six years later) has defined whiny concession speeches ever since. He also engages in wild and unsubstantiated accusations—naturally, for these are his weapons of choice–and takes no responsibility for his own defeat. This is especially telling, because Trump’s loss was the direct result of his metaphorically shooting himself in the foot, the head, the butt and the face over the past two weeks with crude attacks on Cruz’s wife, an alliance with the National Enquirer, a frighteningly unhinged interview with the Washington Post editors, his reliance on the most incompetet, repulsive and ridiculous array of spokespersons in the history of politics, his demonstration of absolute ignorance and negligence regarding the issue of abortion, and a Wisconsin talk radio performance that exposed his act as the shallow bluster that it is.
Any American who would honestly say that they could point to Trump’s statement last night as an example of how they would want their children to accept a tough setback in life is an unfit parent and an ethically inert human being. Nixon’s pathetic concession statement sent him into exile for years, but because of the intellectual and character deficits of his supporters, Trump’s far worse display will barely slow him down.
Think about that.