Monday, February 22, 2010

President Nixon's Dogs

Today is the REAL birthday of President George Washington, but since I already told you about his dogs, I have randomly picked another president with dogs to talk about.  And the president I picked was Richard Nixon.  Mom is not a big fan of Mr. Nixon.  She says he was not a good or honorable president like Mr. Washington was.  But I don't care about that stuff.  All I care about is the fact that he had some dogs.

The first important dog that Mr. Nixon had was a black-and-white cocker spaniel named Checkers.  I had a lot of trouble finding a photo of Checkers, but finally I found one that I think must be him, even though it was not labelled.  Anyway, Mr. Nixon made a very famous speech in which he mentioned Checkers, and even today this speech is called the "Checkers speech."

At the time Mr. Nixon gave the speech, he was not the president.  He was just a senator from California.  The date of the speech was September 23, 1952.  Mom was 5 months old at the time, so she doesn't really remember the speech, although it's possible that she heard it, since her family had a television.  Here's a picture of Senator Nixon giving the Checkers speech:

Anyway, the reason for the Checkers speech was so that Senator Nixon could explain that he wasn't being a bad guy.  This was not the speech where he said "I am not a crook."  That speech was made a long time later.  But when Mr. Nixon was running for the Senate, a lot of people helped raise money for his campaign.  And then after he got in the Senate, they kept raising money to pay for him to travel to Washington and for postage and stuff like that.  And also a supporter of his who bred cocker spaniels had given his daughters a puppy.

Then Senator Nixon got nominated to run for vice-president with Mr. Eisenhower, who was running for president.  But people said Mr. Nixon was doing bad and sneaky things because he had this money that was being raised for him to use, even though it was not really against the law to raise this money.  So Mr. Nixon went on TV and told everybody that he was not doing anything wrong, and that he wasn't rich like some people who were running for office, which was why he needed the money, and most important, he said that even if he had to give all the money back, he would not give back his dog, Checkers, because his daughters Julie and Tricia loved that dog a whole bunch.

About 60 million people listened to the Checkers speech, and some of them even cried because they knew what it meant to love a dog, and so they told the Republican National Committee that Mr. Nixon was a nice guy with a heart of gold, and that he should run for vice-president, which he did, and he won.  And the speech was important in history because it was one of the first times a politician had used TV to talk to a lot of people.  And because Mr. Nixon talked about Checkers in a way that made everybody feel sorry for him, whenever any politician did that kind of thing in the future, it was called a "Checkers speech."

Checkers died in 1964, and he got buried on Long Island in the Bide-a-Wee Pet Cemetery.  Here's a photo of his grave.  There were some rumors for a while that Checkers would be dug up and buried at the Nixon Library in California, but these rumors were false.  So Checkers is still there on Long Island, and all the rest of his family are buried in California.

Anyway, so after Mr. Nixon was the vice-president for two terms, he ran for president, but he lost to John F. Kennedy.  Then he tried to be the governor of California, but he lost that race, too.  After that, he said he was going to stay out of politics.

But he didn't stay out of politics.  Instead, he ran for president again in 1968, and this time he won.  When the Nixons moved into the White House, they had two dogs.  One of these dogs was a poodle named Vicky, and the other was a Yorkie named Pasha.  Vicky and Pasha were playmates for the Nixon girls, who were getting pretty much grown up by this time.  Then the White House staff gave Mr. Nixon an Irish setter named King Timahoe, so after that there were three First Dogs.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Timahoe is the name of a town in Ireland, so that's where the Irish setter's name came from.

These dogs were all well-behaved, and so they sometimes got to hang out in the Oval Office and such places while meetings were going on.  President Nixon kept some doggy treats in his office, just in case one of the dogs got hungry.  King Timahoe used to greet visitors by offering his paw to shake.

But President Nixon didn't usually like to be seen in public with the dogs because he sometimes got tangled up in the leashes, and he did not want some photographer taking his picture just when he was in a silly-looking position.

In 1972, Mr. Nixon ran for president again, and a ton of people voted for him, so he got elected.  But then there was this great big scandal called Watergate, and that's when Mr. Nixon said "I am not a crook."  But more and more people started to think that he really was a crook, so the Congress was going to throw him out of office.  But to save them the trouble, Mr. Nixon resigned as president.  Then he and Mrs. Nixon and the three dogs went back to California, where they all eventually got old and died.

And that's the story of the Nixon dogs, who were really all much better behaved than their dad.

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