Dick Tuck, who was RICHARD MILHOUS NIXON's nemesis for decades, a brilliant tactician, and one of Senator Robert F. Kennedy's favorite political activists, has died at age 94. (Photos from Tucson Weekly). From the Tucson Sentinel, New York Times and Washington Post, obituaries of Democratic political prankster Dick Tuck:
Nixon's nemesis: Political prankster Dick Tuck dead at 94
America's court jester moves 'on to Chicago': Jan. 25, 1924-May 28, 2018
Dick Tuck, political hoaxer, in 1973. “Nixon was an admirer of mine,” Mr. Tuck said. Nixon was also one of his targets. CreditAssociated Press
By Robert D. McFadden
May 29, 2018
The New York Times
Dick Tuck, the Democrats’ prankster-at-large, who bedeviled Barry M. Goldwater, Richard M. Nixon and other Republicans with bad-news fortune cookies, a comely spy, a treacherous little old lady and other campaign-trail tomfoolery, died on Monday in Tucson. He was 94.
His death, at an assisted living facility, was confirmed by Lorraine Glicksman, a close friend.
Long retired as a Democratic National Committee consultant, strategist and advance man, Mr. Tuck was a king gremlin of political shenanigans, starting in California in the 1950s and needling G.O.P. rivals for decades. Dogged by Mr. Tuck most of his political life, Nixon can be heard on Oval Office tapes enviously praising Tuck exploits over his own team’s crude (and illegal) dirty tricks.
“Nixon was an admirer of mine,” Mr. Tuck said in a telephone interview for this obituary in 2013 from his home in Tucson. With unconcealed glee, he recalled many pranks and quoted Nixon on the tapes as saying: “Tuck did that and got away with it” and “Shows you what a master Dick Tuck was.”
On the morning after the first televised presidential debate between Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960, Mr. Tuck enlisted an elderly woman to sidle up to Nixon in Memphis. Wearing a big Nixon button, she hugged him and cooed as television cameras rolled: “That’s all right, son. Kennedy beat you last night, but don’t worry. You’ll get him next time!”
To connoisseurs of the dark arts of political tricksters, Mr. Tuck was a master of psychological jujitsu. By his own accounts, he shadowed and leapfrogged Republican campaigns, planted agents with surprises at whistle-stops, disrupted schedules, started nasty rumors and issued bogus press advisories. Democratic officials usually disavowed his activities, and Republican officials nearly always disputed his claims.
But pixilated things happened when Tuck operatives were around. Buses pulled out early. Trains made unscheduled stops. Placards in foreign languages bore miscreant messages. Newsletters hailed Democrats. At Republican rallies, bands struck up Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Happy Days Are Here Again,” Lyndon B. Johnson balloons floated up and fire chiefs — at least they wore fire chiefs’ helmets — underestimated crowd sizes for reporters.
Mr. Tuck said he executed no break-ins, illegal wiretaps, money launderings or felonious cover-ups of the kind that drove Nixon from the presidency in the Watergate scandal in 1974. While the seriousness of political sabotage is open to interpretation — one hellion’s dirty trick is another’s clever tactic — Mr. Tuck insisted that his own stunts were benign mischief.
He began hoodwinking Nixon as a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1950. While secretly backing Helen Gahagan Douglas for the United States Senate, he volunteered to work for the Republicans and made arrangements for a Nixon rally on campus. He hired an auditorium seating 2,000 people but neglected to publicize the event. Only 23 people showed up. When Nixon arrived, Mr. Tuck made a long-winded introduction and asked the candidate to speak on international monetary policy.
In 1958, when Edmund G. Brown, who was known as Pat, ran for governor of California, Mr. Tuck delivered a special treat at a Republican banquet given by Chinese supporters of his opponent, Senator William F. Knowland — fortune cookies with the message “Knowland for Premier of Formosa.”
In 1962, when Governor Brown ran for re-election against Nixon, who was trying to make a political comeback after his defeat in the 1960 presidential race, Mr. Tuck arranged for a stinger at a Nixon rally in Los Angeles’s Chinatown.
“In the Chinatown caper,” Mr. Tuck recalled, “a sign saying ‘Welcome Nixon’ also asked — in Chinese — ‘What about the huge loan?’ ” It referred to an unsecured $205,000 “loan” by Howard Hughes to Nixon’s brother Donald — a widely reported allegation of corruption. Mr. Tuck had wanted the sign to read “Hughes,” not “huge,” but it hardly mattered.
Nixon was outraged. “Once the phrase was translated for Nixon,” Mr. Tuck said, “he rushed over to the crowd, seized the sign and tore it up in front of the TV cameras. The message was simple: Do you want a guy like this running your state or nation?”
Dick TuckCreditVideo by Arizona Public Media
During Senator Goldwater’s 1964 presidential race, a Tuck agent, Moira O’Conner, 23, boarded the Goldwater campaign train in Washington posing as a journalist. Soon, copies of a spoof newsletter of misinformation, The Whistle-Stop, appeared on board, claiming that four staunch Republican Ohio newspapers had endorsed Johnson, and assuring travelers that fluoride — a Socialist plot to poison America, conspiracy theorists cried — had not been added to the train’s water supply.
Ms. O’Conner was caught and put off the train at Parkersburg, W.Va. But the story splashed across the country. “The Spy on the Goldwater Train,” a front-page headline blared in The New York Times, with a picture of the willowy culprit in a trench coat. “Girl Tossed Out Into the Cold for Issuing Satirical Tracts.”
Richard Gregory Tuck was born in Hayden, Ariz., on Jan. 25, 1924, one of five sons of Frank and Mary (Sweeney) Tuck. His father managed mines for Kennecott Copper. Dick attended schools in Prairie du Chien, Wis.; San Jose, Calif.; and Los Angeles. He joined the Marines in World War II and disarmed unexploded bombs in the South Pacific.
In 1944, he married Faith Eversfield. They had a son, Gregory, and were divorced in 1958. In 1989, he married Joyce Daly, who died in 1995. His son, who lives in Australia, survives him.
After the war, Mr. Tuck studied political science at Santa Barbara. In the early 1950s, he worked in state and local campaigns for California Democrats. He was a press aide in Adlai E. Stevenson’s losing race against President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, and joined the Kennedy bandwagon that defeated Nixon in 1960.
During Nixon’s race for governor of California against Mr. Brown in 1962, Mr. Tuck, who often gave differing versions of his exploits, was widely but wrongly credited with waving a train out of a station in San Luis Obispo as Nixon spoke to a crowd from the rear platform. Mr. Tuck said he wore a conductor’s cap and waved to the engineer, but the train stayed put. The incident became a Trivial Pursuit question.
In 1966, Mr. Tuck made his only run for elective office, a California Senate seat. He announced his candidacy in a Glendale cemetery, saying no one — not even the dead — should be deprived of voting rights. On election night, as he fell hopelessly behind, he quipped, “Just wait till the dead vote comes in.”
Mr. Tuck was a press aide in Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and was near him when he was fatally shot by an assassin in Los Angeles. The eventual Democratic nominee, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, lost to Nixon. Mr. Tuck later worked for Senator George S. McGovern, the South Dakota Democrat, who was trounced by Nixon in 1972.
At many Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Mr. Tuck published Reliable Source, bulletins on “back-room wheelings and dealings,” with commentaries by pundits.
In 1980, while working as a political editor for The National Lampoon, he obtained copies of 12 hours of Watergate tapes. While transcripts of the tapes held by the National Archives had long been available, the actual recordings had not been nationally broadcast.
Excerpts from the Tuck copies were played by the television and radio networks, however, and for the first time America heard Nixon and his aides scheming to mislead Watergate investigators and humiliate the president’s political enemies.
“Dick Tuck did that to me,” Nixon said on a 1972 recording, referring to one of the times Mr. Tuck embarrassed him. “Let’s get out what Dick Tuck did.”
Dick Tuck, Democratic prankster who targeted Nixon, dies at 94
Dick Tuck, a political hoaxer with Democratic Party election campaigns, in 1973. (AP)
By Tom Hamburger
May 30 at 11:17 AM
The Washington Post
Dick Tuck, an impish Democratic Party operative whose practical jokes and pranks helped define modern election combat and who was the political hobgoblin of Richard M. Nixon for decades, died May 28 at an assisted-living center in Tucson. He was 94.
A friend, Randi Dorman, confirmed the death but said she did not know the immediate cause.
Mr. Tuck made his name tweaking national Republican candidates, but he also directed more than half a dozen successful state and local races for Democrats. He managed the 1967 campaign of one of the first African American men to be elected mayor of a major U.S. city, Richard G. Hatcher of Gary, Ind., and was an advance man for presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy during the 1968 primary campaign.
Mostly, Mr. Tuck was remembered for his singular ability to hector and haunt Nixon, a Republican whose earliest political tactics included questioning his opponents’ loyalty to the United States.
Their paths first crossed in 1950, when Rep. Nixon (R-Calif.) was running for an open Senate seat against a liberal Democratic opponent, Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas. Nixon tried to smear Douglas as a communist sympathizer.
At the time, Mr. Tuck was a World War II veteran studying political science on the G.I. Bill at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He also was working part time for the Douglas campaign. One of Mr. Tuck’s teachers unwittingly asked Mr. Tuck to work as an advance man for Nixon’s upcoming campaign visit to the campus.
Mr. Tuck called him “an absent-minded professor who knew I was in politics and forgot the rest.”
Hardly believing his luck, Mr. Tuck arranged for the unsuspecting GOP candidate to speak in one of the largest auditoriums available at a time when he knew few people would be on campus. He introduced Nixon to the sparse audience with a long-winded speech, then called Mr. Nixon to the microphone, saying the candidate would speak about a topic “all Californians care about, the International Monetary Fund.”
A flustered Nixon delivered a disjointed speech. As he stepped down from the podium, Nixon demanded the name of the young man who organized the dismal event. “Dick Tuck, you’ve done your last advance,” Nixon snapped.
It would not be the last clash between the two men.
In 1956, as Nixon awaited his party’s celebratory renomination as vice president, Mr. Tuck arranged for the garbage trucks servicing the Republican nominating convention in San Francisco to drive by the Cow Palace convention center bearing large signs reading “Dump Nixon.”
The morning after Vice President Nixon debated Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in the 1960 presidential campaign, Mr. Tuck put a Nixon button on a woman who walked up to the candidate as cameras rolled. While offering a hug, she exclaimed: “Don’t worry, son. He beat you last night, but you’ll do better next time.”
Nixon lost the race.
Mr. Tuck’s best-remembered prank took place during Nixon’s visit to the Chinatown section of Los Angeles during his 1962 bid for California governor. Mr. Tuck was working for the Democratic incumbent, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Sr.
At the time, Nixon faced questions about a $205,000 loan his brother, Donald, had received from Howard Hughes, the billionaire industrialist and defense contractor.
Mr. Tuck distributed signs to the crowd that said “Welcome Nixon!” over a row of Mandarin characters. Nixon smiled broadly at first as he looked over the sign-waving crowd. But when he was told that the Chinese script on the signs read, “What about the Hughes loan?” Nixon grabbed one of the placards and tore it up as the TV cameras rolled.
Mr. Tuck was delighted. “Exposing the real Nixon was always my goal,” he said later, taking pleasure in exposing the candidate’s temper. “The message was simple: Do you want a guy like this running your state or nation?”
Mr. Tuck’s tactics were later mimicked, admired — and distorted — by political operatives from both parties, including Watergate conspirators who eventually went to jail. Subsequent generations of Republicans credited Mr. Tuck with providing vital lessons.
“Tuck was a genius,” said Gary Maloney, a GOP research consultant who worked on Reagan and Bush campaigns under political operative Lee Atwater, a fan of Mr. Tuck. “He showed a wicked sense of humor at a time when Republicans were generally dour and white bread. I think we acquired humor in part because of Tuck’s example.”
Maloney and others said that Mr. Tuck led campaign strategists to hone skills in research, track the words of opposition candidates, and look for opportunities for political theater that could sway votes.
For example, Republican operatives in 1997 organized what appeared to be a demonstration at the U.S. Supreme Court as justices deliberated whether to consider a sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton. Half a dozen GOP activists wearing raincoats waved picket signs reading “flashers for Clinton.” When they opened their raincoats, they revealed “friend of the court briefs.”
During the Watergate scandal, Mr. Tuck was cited by Nixon and his advisers as an inspiration — and an excuse. Nixon’s White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, said the president’s 1972 reelection campaign had hired Donald Segretti’s much-criticized “dirty tricks” team to adopt “a Dick Tuck sensibility” to counter attacks from Democrats.
On the White House tapes preserved at the National Archives, Nixon can be heard complaining to Haldeman about public criticism of tactics employed by Segretti, whose tricks included forging campaign correspondence alleging sexual affairs and other misdeeds by leading Democrats.
Nearly a decade after his resignation, Nixon remained bitter about Mr. Tuck and what he saw as a double standard applied by the press to Democratic and Republican political tricks. In a 1983 interview, the former president spoke ruefully of Mr. Tuck and the acclaim he received.
“The media being, shall we say, not particularly in my corner, just called that fun and games,” Nixon said. “And then when Segretti, our so-called ‘dirty tricks man,’ whom I frankly had never had the opportunity of even meeting — when he tried to practice some of these things on our Democratic opponents, they became high crimes and misdemeanors.”
To Mr. Tuck, his satirical missives were not nearly so complicated. “I’ve made a lot of candidates look foolish,” he once said, “usually with a lot of help from the candidates themselves.”
Richard Gregory Tuck was born in Hayden, Ariz., on Jan. 25, 1924, and was one of four sons of a copper company executive. He enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18, not long after the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941, and served in a bomb-disposal unit.
Mr. Tuck’s first marriage, to Faith Eversfield, ended in divorce. He was married to Joyce Daly from 1989 until her death in 1995. Survivors include a son from his first marriage, Gregory Tuck, who lives in Australia.
Short of stature, with an owl-like face, Mr. Tuck was described by some as having the look, and often the demeanor, of a leprechaun. His wit, perpetually rumpled suits and sense of fun — not to mention his habit of holding news conferences in bars — drew journalists to his side.
Hunter S. Thompson, the irreverent “gonzo” journalist for Rolling Stone and other publications, became a close friend. For years, they lived near each other in Colorado, and Thompson quoted Mr. Tuck in books such as “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72.”
Mr. Tuck liked politicians and their strategists, and he looked forward to political conventions, attending nearly every one of both political parties through 1992. At the quadrennial conventions, he often published an informal newspaper called the Reliable Source, which he once tried to introduce as a satirical weekly in Washington.
As the decades passed, Mr. Tuck told reporters that the lighthearted fun he had known in the 1950s and 1960s had ebbed out of politics. He blamed it in part on the domination of professional advertising with its hard-nosed and polarizing messages that, he said, ushered in an era of distrust.
There was a time, he mused decades later, when he could sneak onto Nixon’s 1960 campaign plane with a personal press pass and a tape recorder. “It was a simpler world then,” he once wrote, “and nobody suspected a guy carrying a bowling bag.”