Dick Tuck

“Dick Tuck” is a legend based on the antics of a man named Dick Tuck who worked for Democratic Party on election campaigns in the United States. The other Tricky Dick, Richard Nixon, was up to his own mischief, but more noteworthy here are the stunts that Dick Tuck pulled to derail Nixon’s campaigns for senator, governor and president.

I say that “Dick Tuck” is a legend because the stories of many of Dick Tuck’s tricks have been exaggerated and embellished over the years (often with Tuck’s help), and some that never happened or that were perpetrated by others have been attributed to him.

Among the “Dick Tuck” performances:

  • During one of Nixon’s “whistle-stop” train tours, at a stop in San Luis Obispo, California, Tuck dressed up in a brakeman’s uniform and signalled the engineer to start moving the train in the middle of Nixon’s speech.
  • After the Nixon/Kennedy television debate, Tuck coached an grandmotherly woman to go up to Nixon in front of the press with a Nixon campaign button on, and give him a hug, saying “That’s all right, Mr. Nixon. Kennedy beat you last night, but don’t worry, you’ll get him next time!”
  • At an appearance Nixon made in the Chinatown of Los Angeles, Tuck had a banner made that read “Welcome Nixon” in English, but in Chinese “What about the Hughes loan?” (referring to a potential scandal involving a loan that Howard Hughes had made to Nixon’s brother). None of the Nixon representatives could read Chinese, so the banner stayed as a backdrop to the photo-op. (Fortune cookies in the meal that followed also included the Chinese question).
  • Before he became well-known to Nixon’s campaign team, Tuck once took charge of organizing a rally for Nixon at a large venue, but he carefully failed to publicize it. Nixon ended up speaking to a mostly-empty auditorium. Introducing the candidate, Tuck said, “Richard Nixon will now tell us about the World Monetary Fund,” which of course, was not the subject Nixon was planning to address.
  • Tuck hired a number of very pregnant women to carry signs at Nixon rallies that bore the Nixon campaign slogan “Nixon’s the One.”
  • Tuck would masquerade as a fire marshall, tallying up the number of people in the audience at Nixon’s indoor rallies. When members of the press asked for his numbers, he gave the lowest plausible figure.

Some folks suspect that the Watergate scandal arose because the Republicans were feeling out-gunned by the Dick Tuck tactics of the opposition. Nixon created his own “dirty tricks” squad for his campaigns, which was more mean-spirited but less successful than Tuck. “Shows what a master Dick Tuck is,” said the prez.

“We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy,” Nixon said. “They’re using any means. We are going to use any means. Is that clear?”

Among the means Nixon’s dirty tricks crew used:

  • Pat Buchanan, who was then working for Nixon, arranged for a gay liberation group to donate money to the competing campaign of Republican Pete McCloskey (this in 1972, when gay lib was much less politically acceptable than today), then leaked news of the donation to the Manchester Union-Leader just before the New Hampshire primary.
  • The Nixon campaign sent out letters on stationery stolen from the Democratic campaign of Edmund Muskie that accused Muskie’s Democratic rivals Hubert Humphrey and Henry Jackson of sexual improprieties.
  • Those tricky dicksters sent out formal invitations to various Ambassadors from African governments to dinners that Muskie was supposedly holding. Muskie of course knew nothing of it.
  • Outdoing perhaps the “Nixon’s the One” prank of Tuck’s, Nixon’s crew hired a woman to run along a hotel corridor where Muskie was staying, butt naked, yelling “I love Muskie!”
  • Still desperate to get Muskie, they forged another letter from him that used the misspelled slur “Cannocks” to refer to French Canadians. Don’t know if all of this amounted to much, but Muskie did go from front-runner to also-ran after New Hampshire…
  • In another campaign, postcards from a non-existant “Communist League of Negro Women” were sent to conservative white voters in California urging them to vote for Nixon’s opponent. “We are with her 100%,” the cards read.

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On This Day in SniggleryJuly 20, 1969: Neil Armstrong walks on the moon. Sure he does. (See our Cryptozoölgy page for lunar speculations)