NIXON, Richard M. Autograph note signed ("R") probably as Vice President, [to John F. Kennedy], n.p., [ca. 1960]. 24 words in pencil, on an oblong card (3 x 4 15/16 in.) with "Hon. Richard M. Nixon" typed in the center.
NIXON'S FRIENDLY NOTE TO RIVAL JOHN F. KENNEDY
An rare autograph note written by Nixon to his political rival Kennedy in which he refers to the days when the two men served together on the House Education and Labor Committee. Senator Kennedy's current seat upon the Labor and Public Welfare Committee leads Nixon to write: "Jack- I wish I were sitting with you on the Labor hearings. I'm sure we could come up with something better than in 1947!" Nixon apparently started the note on the back of the card and completed four words before changing his mind and striking it out.
In the late fifties, Vice-President Nixon and Senator Kennedy occupied offices 361 and 362, facing each other across the corridor. By this time, their opposition to each other was well established. In their early encounters, however, Nixon and Kennedy saw themselves "as political opponents but not political rivals" according to Nixon's recollection (quoted in Anthony Summers, The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon, New York, 2000, p.201). Nixon further defined their early relationship as being "like a pair of unmatched bookends," distinguished more by their backgrounds than by their politics. Ted Sorenson recollects: "Nixon and Kennedy had entered Congress together and were friendly... [Nixon] would occasionally look in on our office and in 1955 sent a basket of fruit to welcome the Senator's return to convalescence." (Ted Sorenson, Kennedy, New York, 1965, p.55). Kennedy, at the bidding of his conservative father, had even gone so far as to donate $1,000 to Nixon in 1950 to unseat Senator Helen Hahagan Douglas. Nixon admitted to the donation in his memoirs; it was an occasion which Kennedy later called "the biggest damnfool mistake."
Cordiality, though, eventually gave way to animosity despite Nixon's admiration for Kennedy's political gifts, to the point in the 1960 presidential election when "love would be replaced by disillusion and resentment--and something as close to hatred as is possible in one who has once loved" (Summers, p.202). Nixon grossly underestimated Kennedy's potential, as his advisor Pat Hillings recalled: "We just didn't think Kennedy was a heavyweight. We didn't think he would work that hard" (quoted in Summers, p.203).